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The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order Hardcover – 28 Jun 1999

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 354 pages
  • Publisher: The Free Press; First Printing edition (28 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068484530X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684845302
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,052,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Over the past half-century, the United States and other economically advanced countries have gradually made the shift into what has been called an "information society," the "information age," or the "postindustrial era." Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lark TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
While another great literary work, well written in plain english, setting the findings of recent research and intellectual trends in context with earlier anglo-saxon, or classical liberal and early conservative, conclusions/thinking this is again a deeply flawed piece of work.

As with every other book Fukuyama has written there's a positively Conservative bias, while ranging across sociological, political and economic thought Marx, Weber or anyone from those schools are thought are highly conspicious by their abscence, while Smith, Hobbes, Locke and Burke, the iconoclised and hero worshiped thinkers of classical liberalism and early conservativism are totall lionised and praised at length.

The book's essential premise is that the transition to an information age and economy, were all depends upon knowledge, has been a drastic and disruptive change to society, something on a par with the industrial revolution at its convention shattering height.

To be honest I'm deeply unsure about some of the first principles of this argument, for instance while some nations are experiencing a transition to an information age and knowledge and skills based economies others are experiencing transitions to industrial economies and still others are stranded in agrarianism, its just how the global carve up of nations into factory, farm and financial districts/sectors is going.

Fukuyama then proceeds to examine arguments about the production and destruction of social capital, whether or not present societies are expending social captial without producing more and other cultural contradictions of capitalism which other theorists suggest threaten its existence.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
A good primer in modern sociology without the politics 9 July 1999
By Marty Spiller ( - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Great Disruption is a wonderfully apolitical look at the rather disconcerting changes that have taken place in the social structure of western civilization during the last third of the twentieth century. Francis Fukuyama does this by examining the recent changes in social norms and values in western civilization as a whole, including the course they have taken in other countries, as well as in the United States. He lucidly examines the underlying causes for these changes, and compares them with those observed in other cultures as well as those that have taken place due to earlier social disruptions throughout the history of Western civilization. It is of special interest to those of us who grew up in the times prior to the disruption, when social norms tended to support individual happiness by stressing the more communitarian aspects of culture such as family, religion, and reciprocal employer/employee relations. For many of us, the world has become a cold, lonley place.
Fukuyama does NOT take sides in the culture war except insofar as to acknowledge changes that have come about, or are in the process of taking place. He does make judgments about the adaptability of some of the changes and their likelihood of remaining in their present form over the long haul. It is of particular interest to note that he does not attribute the various disruptions in social norms to politics per se, but rather to natural reactions of individuals to the changes in their environment wrought by the new technologies that have come to dominate western culture. These include the wide dissemination of information, increases in longevity and the shift from a society based on manual labor to one based on intellect. The politics on either side, from the feminists and the sexual liberationists on the left to the religionists on the right were not seminal in either creating or delaying these changes, and in fact, Fukuyama seems to be arguing that human nature will be the final arbiter of the form that social norms will finally take. In short, neither side will ultimately win the culture war, but then, neither side will lose either. The left will be happy to learn that the liberation of women is a natural phenomena and cannot be reversed. The right will be happy to learn that Fukuyama sees no clear, realistic alternative to traditional families (nuclear or extended), and that over time the rather devastating changes in family structure wrought by the change in status of women will certainly be modified, (as indeed is slowly happening now) not because of political arguments, but because human nature, the key to all social interaction, will demand it.
The first half of the book reads more easily than the second half because it deals with actual real life societal changes and their causes. The second half deals more heavily with socioeconomic theory and is a good deal more work, but rewarding if you have the will to stick it out. My major criticism with the book is that it does not deal at all with timeline other than to hint that the disruptions will be ironed out within a number of generations. It would have been cold comfort for Czarist loyalists to know that the Soviet experiment would eventually fail, but that it would take three generations and millions of political deaths for it to happen, and another several generations for Russian citizens to rebuild enough social capital to rejoin the rest of the world.
66 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Fukuyama Disproves Himself -- Ideology trumps facts 4 Sept. 2000
By John B. Carpenter - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued by his "The End of History." I thought his "Trust" was a brilliant book and used it extensively in my masters thesis and doctoral dissertation. I only hope this latest book is a disruption in an ongoing chain of good books. In the end, "The Great Disruption" is a down right silly book. It has a lot of usefull data but Fukuyama's humanistic ideology clouds it all. All his empirical data and any real understanding of history undermine his polly-anna conclusion: that things just have to get better because people are ultimately good. Fukuyama proves that the moral consensus -- the social capital -- of the earlier era has been wiped away. That crime has sky-rocketed and that the apparent drops in recent crime rates are only the result of high incarceration rates and lower percentages of younger men. Then he turns around and wants us to believe that disfunctional behaviour has dropped because people are naturally gregarious and have a natural inclination to rebuild social capital. He doesn't bother to deal with societies -- like Ethiopia -- that have never been able to build up enough social capital. He doesn't really look any further back in history past about 1950. His generalizations about the 19th century merely show how little he has taken into account the big picture of history. He thinks (based on his ideology of human goodness) that things just have to get better. If he had studied Pitirim Sorokin for a really big picture of history, he would know better. People can come to a similar optimistic conclusion as does Fukuyama but they will need to be much better grounded in history if they are going to make generalizations about long-term historical cycles. For that, I would recommend Robert W. Fogel's "The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism." Fogel, a Nobel prize winner, has all the optimism of Fukuyama but with the history to back it up.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Seeing the big picture 1 Feb. 2000
By Todd Winer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an important book for readers who are interested in how our cultural landscape has shifted in the last three decades and what the future holds for us. Mr. Fukuyama is the premiere writer in American today when it comes to articulating the big picture and offering unique and provocative viewpoints. "The Great Disruption" is further evidence of that fact. Many Americans fail to appreicate the incredible social changes that have taken place since 1960 and Fukuyama pinpoints the prime culprit - a radical change in gender relations. Changes in the economy and the government are big enough but when you're talking about the way that families are raised and how men and women relate to each other - social mores that have lasted for thousands of years - you're talking about a seismic social shift. This revolution, which Fukuyama traces to the birth control pill, has led to serious social issues - teen pregancy, single-parent families, crime, low trust in government, and more. This is not a completely unique thesis but Fukuyama explains it in far more depth than any other recent author. Furthermore, Fukuyama reports that this "Great Dispruption" is mellowing and he uses the encouraging statistical data of the last five years as evidence. The author sites mankind's fundamental need for order as the catalyst for this social pause. What he leaves out, however, is a vision of what our country will look like ten or twenty years from now because of this development. Will these statistic trends level off? Will they reverse themselves? And if so, completely? Or is this just the eye of a storm waiting to churn again? This, I suppose, is left to the intellect of the reader. Nevertheless, this book is a must-read.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Must read 15 Aug. 1999
By Arnold Kling - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Here are a couple of excerpts from an essay I posted on this book. Contact me if you would like to hear more.
I was re-reading Francis Fukuyama's "The Great Disruption" on the airplane the other day, when the pilot came on to the speaker to announce that we were headed into "turbulence" near our Denver destination. (The next day, the storms to which he referred were the lead headline in the local newspaper.) He requested that all passengers return immediately to their seats and fasten their safety belts.
I glanced in the direction of the bathrooms, expecting to see people retreat unhappily from the queues to their seats. Instead, nobody moved from the aisle. On the contrary, additional people stood up and joined the lines. The pilot repeated his warning, this time more sternly, and still the queue for the lavatory did not diminish.
What I observed was a classic illustration of a central thesis of Fukuyama's new book. I was witnessing the dramatic breakdown of hierarchical authority that has taken place since the mid-1960s. . .
if after reading "The Great Disruption" you do not find yourself bringing it up in conversation with your friends, then you need to make some new friends who have more intellectual curiosity.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Nothing new here 22 Nov. 2001
By Christopher A. Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
Fukiyama's End of History was a bit overwritten, but it contained some original and provocative ideas which he convincingly defended. The book caught my attention to the degree that I've bought Fukiyama's subsequent books: Trust, and now The Great Disruption.
Trust, Fukiyama's middle book, explored some of the links between what he calls "spontaneous sociability", circles of trust, and productivity. Not exactly the sweeping scope of End of History, but he did promote some new ideas.
The Great Disruption, in many ways, reads like "Trust Lite". This time around Fukiyama focuses on the relationships between rules, social order, and economic growth. He offers some empirical data (and nifty line charts) on statistics like crime, out of wedlock births, poverty, etc. There is some good information here, but I reached the end of the book without having acquired any new ideas or concepts.
The book's conclusion is strange. First, he puts in a plug for his End of History theme: that liberal democracy is the only viable alternative for the advancement of society. He then goes on to contradict his Hegelian theory of historical directionality by concluding that history in the "social and moral sphere" is not in fact directional in nature, but is cyclical. Finally, he concludes that the future of mankind depends on the "upward direction of the arrow of History", contradicting his previous point and again promoting his idea of the "directionality". Huh??
In the end, Fukiyama runs us around in circles (280 pages worth) without reaching any real conclusions at all. There wasn't really enough material here for a book, and as I read Disruption I felt that I was just getting bits and pieces that he'd forgotten to include in his previous two releases. This is recycled material. Not recommended.
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