The Great Disruption Hardcover – 17 Jun 1999
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Francis Fukuyama cements his reputation as a wide-ranging public intellectual with this big-think book on social order and human nature. Following his earlier successes (The End of History and the Last Man and Trust), Fukuyama argues that civilisation is in the midst of a revolution on par with hunter-gatherers learning how to farm or agricultural societies turning industrial. He finds much to celebrate in this cultural, economic and technological transformation, but "with all the blessings that flow from a more complex, information-based economy, certain bad things also happened to our social and moral life." Individualism, for example, fuels innovation and prosperity, but has also "corroded virtually all forms of authority and weakened the bonds holding families, neighbourhoods and nations together." Yet this is not a pessimistic book: "Social order, once disrupted, tends to get remade again" because humans are built for life in a civil society governed by moral rules.
We're on the tail end of the "great disruption," says Fukuyama, and signs suggest a coming era of much-needed social reordering. He handles complex ideas from diverse fields with ease (this is certainly the first book whose acknowledgements thank both science-fiction novelist Neal Stephenson and social critic James Q. Wilson), and he writes with laser-sharp clarity. Fans of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations will appreciate The Great Disruption, as will just about any reader curious about what the new millennium may bring. This is simply one of the best non-fiction books of 1999. --John J. Miller, Amazon.com
This is a book about social values in an information age. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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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.
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.
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.