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The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Length: 620 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Review

Praise for Fukuyama:

'Fukuyama remains as prominent as ever

(FT)

Elegant, honest, persuasive ... he attacks his former academic allies and friends ... with a relentless and awesome force (Glasgow Herald)

Thoroughly worthwhile ... [the book] will give many thoughtful people a sensible path forward (Spectator)

This is that rare work of history with up-to-the-minute relevance (Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2011-01-24)

No longer the neocon of former days, Fukuyama seems a more flexible and discerning thinker, and as always, his mastery of the literature is daunting. This exceptional book should be in every library (Library Journal)

Sweeping, provocative big-picture study of humankind's political impulses ... Endlessly interesting - reminiscent at turns of Oswald Spengler, Stanislaw Andreski and Samuel Huntington, though less pessimistic and much better written (Kirkus Reviews (starred) 2011-02-15)

It should be read by every democrat - and every dictator. (Dominic Lawson Sunday Times)

Societies that learn from mistakes rather than punish them have an inherent resilience...It is confirmed by this ambitious work. (Oliver Kamm The Times)

This sort of blockbuster history of the political and social world rarely comes along. Only someone of Francis Fukuyama's calibre could have written this brilliant tome. (Daily Telegraph Sydney 2011-07-30)

Magisterial and mammoth...Superbly written and widely researched, Fukuyama offers a fantastic, insightful take on the story of political development (Cape Times, South Africa 2011-07-22)

Fukuyama has produced a work of epic scope (Independent on Sunday 2012-06-24)

Book Description

Francis Fukuyama's most important book since the pathbreaking End of History

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3701 KB
  • Print Length: 620 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1846682568
  • Publisher: Profile Books (12 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Y5460W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #66,261 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Hardcover
Why have Western attempts to impose democracy on autocratic regimes met with such limited success? Why do so many developing countries remain mired in endless cycles of conflict and corruption? And why do manifestly authoritarian countries like China continue to prosper despite their widespread abuse of human rights?

In this hugely ambitious, yet accessible book, Fukuyama attempts to answer these questions by tracing the history of the development of human societies into fully functional states. Beginning in pre-human times, he analyses the reasons why isolated and generally nepotistic tribal groups started to co-operate and organise themselves into states. The answer, he argues, generally consists of war, religion and various combinations of the two.

It is becoming customary for Western liberals to demonise religion and, John Lennon-like, imagine that a world without it would be a better one. Some of Fukuyama's conclusions may surprise and even disturb them. Religion, he argues, is one of the very few forces capable of persuading human beings to abandon their traditional nepotism and work together towards a common ideal. Not everyone will be comfortable with his generally positive analysis of the role played by the Catholic church in medieval times, albeit accidentally, in promoting what he describes as "the rule of law." This phrase he defines at some length as being the concept of a moral code greater, even, than the power and authority of kings; this, combined with a strong state and universal democracy is a key attribute of a successful human civilisation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this work Fukuyama's objective is to explain how and why political order arises and under what circumstances the resultant social, economic and cultural conditions may or may not facilitate the eventual evolution of liberal democratic polities. He argues that for political development to take place in any society three institutional components must be present. These are: a strong and capable state; the notion of a rule of law to which the state is subordinated; and governments which are accountable to all their citizens. With the aid of these three interlinked institutional structures Fukuyama constructs his view of political development and decay.

All societies were originally organized as tribes or bands. The state came into existence as a consequence of various factors the most prominent of which may have been the need to wage war or defend one self from neighbouring tribes or bands. The state is understood to be an organization that enjoys a legitimate monopoly in the deployment of violence/coercion over a defined territory.

To illustrate the nature of political order and development and its relationship to the process of state building, the rule of law and accountability, Fukuyama makes a series of historical comparisons between different regions. These relate to China, India, the Middle East under the Ottomans, and Medieval and Early Modern Europe.

Fukuyama argues that China was the first society to develop a state structure in the modern sense ie an organization that is impersonal in terms of recruitment and authority over its citizens; whose administrative machinery is subject to a rational division of labour; and is based on technical specialisation and expertise.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fukuyama has a gift of writing intelligibly for the non-academic although he does use some jargon. This is history as I wish I had learned it; not battles, kings, generals and prime ministers but the institutions and structures that lead some societies to collapse, others to tyranny and a few to liberty and prosperity. While testing such theories by experiment is not possible, he draws on a wide range of sources and disciplines and a global reach to give a plausible account. He teases out the key factors in the development of societies that offer freedom and the protection of the law to their citizens in contrast to others that are ostensible democracies but continue to deny these to their citizens. Having lived for a number of years in a country with a democratic constitution and regular elections, but where the watchword was: "Why pay a lawyer when you can buy a judge?", I find his insights of much more than academic interest.
I look forward impatiently to the publication of Volume 2 covering the period from the French Revolution to today.
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Format: Paperback
Exploring the history of political systems throughout the world, Francis Fukoyama seeks to elucidate how governments emerge, why they work or don't, and the basic human tendencies, such as paternalism and tribalism that political systems throughout the world struggle to escape.

This book taught me so many things that I did not know, and elucidated further many things that I did. A few reviewers have criticized the author for waffling and being repetitive. I think this is more a case that the history repeats itself. And possibly the most important message within the book is that humans work in such a way that and political systems fall foul of these most basic tenets of human nature to reproduce similar results time and time again.

While this book may not add much to established political theory, is does bring it all together, or at least to me appears to do so. If you watch the news and ask yourself upon seeing reports from certain middle-eastern and African nations, 'why can't these people just get on with it a set up a decent government?' this book explains why. It explains why the anglo-saxon model is so successful, but why it is also frustrating, often appearing ineffectual. But ultimately I came away feeling that the politics we all complain about again and again, really can't be taken for granted. You can't build it, you can't buy it, and you can only rarely import it, you just have to look to history to see how you can incrementally improve it.
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