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on 18 February 1997
As a result of his previous major work Francis Fukuyama achieved fame as the man who predicted 'the end of history'. With this new work he has turned his attention from the political arena to consider comparative international economic performance. He describes the broad theme of Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity as follows; "that social capital has a significant impact on the vitality and scale of economic organizations".

Many commentators have tried to evaluate the importance of culture in determining national economic success. Fukuyama claims to have identified the key, performance-determining, aspect of national culture, namely, the level of trust present in a society. He maintains that culture is of critical importance to everyday economic life and that only high trust societies can create the kind of large scale business enterprises that are needed to compete in today's global economy.

The culturalist view of history attributes the success of Japan and later of other East Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan to their common Confucian traditions and their concomitant cultural characteristics. However, the traditional drawing of distinctions between Eastern and Western cultures is seen as too simplistic by Fukuyama, who points out the many differences inherent in East Asian societies. He points out not only the differences between Japan and China, but also those between China and Chinese societies abroad such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. This attention to detail and depth of analysis is one of the strengths of Fukuyama's study.

To date, the debate on this topic has centred around culturalist explanations of the economic success of the Asia-Pacific Region, but Fukuyama has gone further by attempting to apply his thesis to all developed economies; Chinese, European, North American, Japanese and former communist. Fukuyama, following Weber, sees the earlier economic success of Western Europe as culturally determined, namely as a logical result of the Protestant work ethic.

Fukuyama sees three types of trust; the first is based on the family, the second on voluntary associations outside the family, and the third is the state. Each of these has a corresponding form of economic organisation; the family business, the professionally managed corporation and the state-owned enterprise, respectively. Societies in which family ties are strong (and thus ties outside the family relatively weak) have great difficulty creating large professionally managed corporations and look to the state to perform this critical economic function. Societies with high levels of trust, and many voluntary associations can create large economic organisations without state support. Fukuyama cites China, Italy, France and South Korea as societies with a strong role for the family and weak voluntary associations, while Japan, the United States, and Germany are said to have strong and plentiful associations beyond the family. The detail with which Fukuyama supports each of these examples is truly impressive and betrays the depth of research that undoubtedly went into writing this book.

Overall Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity has to be considered a highly original work which has and will continue to raise significant interest. While many will dispute Fukuyama's main contention that significant comparative advantages arise from differences in levels of trust between countries, he offers a great deal of evidence to support an argument which is certainly correct at an intuitive level.
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on 5 April 2012
This book is huge (just under 500 pages) statistical, and intimidating. But if you have an interest in culture and trust it is a must read. Fukuyama covers a wide variety of nationalities, finding surprising similarities and dissimilarities. Which 2 business models would assume to be more similar, Japan and China or Japan and Germany? I think you might be surprised at the answer, and the deciding variable is trust. That is what makes this book so important. Trust might be difficult to define and measure, but it has immense effects in cultural and economic dealings, and is often overlooked. Despite its size Trust is a relatively quick read. I recommend it for those interested in the topic.
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on 24 September 2004
In this challenging book, author Francis Fukuyama examines the role of "trust" in economics. He proposes that it is the social capital of a given country (or even area within a country) that defines how its economy functions. In a high-trust society, individuals have a propensity to join voluntary organizations, and as such there are likely to be many organizations (including business organizations), of all sizes. In a low-trust society, where individuals are only able to organize within their own clan or family, organizations are likely to be either small, or very large (and state-operated). Along the way, he examines countries around the globe, but focusing primarily on China and the Confusion countries, Italy, France and Korea (as low-trust societies), and Japan, Germany and the United States (as high-trust societies).
I found this book to be quite fascinating. I must admit that I am not an expert on economics, but I found the author's arguments quite convincing. His examination of various countries explained a lot of things that I have noticed before, but he succeeds in putting it all into a whole new paradigm. I highly enjoyed this though-provoking book, and recommend it to everyone!
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on 7 November 1998
If you are a post-modern liberal-minded type, swear by the perfectibility of democratic capitalism and put your faith in the healing powers arational phenomena like culture and religion have on our over-busy life then you would like this book. Moreover, if you are a sociologist then you would appreciate the lucidity of thought and tenacity of argument that the author shows when he examines different societies. Even then if you are a leading American political scientist and a best-seller author then you must be Francis Fukuyama himself.
Francis Fukuyama's book comes as a sequel to his magnum opus 'The End of History and The Last Man' which made waves in academic circles. In this book he claimed that after the demise of communism, history had virtually come to a halt - income the free market concepts like de-regulation, liberalization and free competition and all others exeunt.
In his latest book, he adds another ingredient for the making of a successful society - social capital. The author gives the idea of trust. According to him trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behaviour, based on commonly shared norms, on part of other members of that community.
He divides societies on the basis of the quantum of trust that exists therein. China, France, Korea and Italy are low-trust societies whereas Japan, Germany, America are high-trust.
He starts from social set-up and correlates it with the industrial structure a society may evolve for itself, and tells how the former determines the position of a country in the global diversion of labour. Though people may interact through contract lams but if they trust each other the cost may be effectively reduced. Similarly if an economic turmoil hits a country, a socially well knit society may cope with it more hard-nosily. Also a high-trust society is more capable to form large organizations. For instance, the Japanese keiretsu networks help each other out when in distress.
As such he does not make a case for 'cultural determinism' that certain societies are bound to succeed while others to fail and falter. In his own words "there is no necessary trade-off between community and efficiency but those who pay attention to community may indeed become the most efficient of all."
With minor exceptions the book makes an interesting reading, intelligent in content and thought-provocative, indeed a marvelous piece of value-added research.
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on 8 December 1997
Fukuyama's Trust is a valuable piece of work offering an interesting insight into the civil-society school of thought. However, the new right implications of his analysis is worrying to a reader uncomfortable with the lack of paternalism of American political culture. Fukuyama expands upon theories as posited by others ranging from Weber to state-centered theorists such as Eric Nordlinger producing a piece of literature that expands upon contemporary explanations of modern economic and subsequently, political development. One flaw in Fukuyama's argument is that it is too reuductionist in its scope, considering only those examples which best fit his argument, while neglecting those variables which could do damage to his overall claims. Furthermore, Fukuyama is too harsh in explaining why certain groups are ultimately more successful than others, neglecting to consider various very real exigences certain communities face today. His approach in this regard would be very comfortable within the political camp headed by the Dan Quayles and Preston Mannings of our political world. Notwithstanding this criticism though, Trust proves to be an incredible read, allowing one to consider elements which for the most part have been overlooked in contemporary political study. It was very difficult to put down.
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on 26 June 1999
Reviews of Fukuyama's book Trust tend to be by those who read it for the political and economic insights. Since I have lived in Asia and Africa, what interested me was the insight on how lines of trust between human beings are seen by different cultures.
Reading this book explains why Americans should hesitate to invest in China (they only really trust those in their own families). It explains why Japanese trust their companies not to be fired. And it explains why American conservatives favor local and private solutions to problems rather than government.
Businessmen and others who assume all people think like Americans might benefit from reading this.
One problem is that it is a thoughtful book, but not a book that is easy to read.
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on 19 December 1998
Although I did not find it as enlightening as his previous work; 'The End of History and the Last Man', I did come out of it feeling that I gained considerable insight in the areas of historical and sociological ecomomics. The deeper I went into the book, the more I found myself making mental comparisons between his observations about human interactions and my own experiences at work and in other countries; and he is right on the money most of the time.
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on 5 February 1997
Many in the West look with disbelief and awe at the growth of the East Asian tigers in recent years. The author highlights how such seemingly low trust societies may indeed be hampered by deeper cultural factors in the ever more competitive economic landscape of the future. This book should be read by aspiring East Asian leaders of low trust societies before its too late.
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on 1 January 1997
Asks the question how people come to trust each other
enough to create the vast sustaining enterprises of
prosperity. A must-read for world-philosophers, subject
to the caveat that the generalization to nationalities
can be attacked as weak, though this does not make it
less compelling.
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on 13 August 2014
Very interesting reading, and sociological approach to economy.
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