Near the top, for its informed analysis.
It contextualizes our present political problems
Its harmony to the narrative.
Good naration. Very enlightening content . Put together well so the information was a pleasure to absorb rather than a burden to understand. Good job all around!
The narrator actually takes on the tone of the author and has a good voice. The material is quite unique and it teaches history alongside politics and basic economics. Now for the second book...
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
Consider the sweep of world history from the perspective of governmental structure. This book is useful to gain an understanding of our modern world by looking at the development of the various strategies employed by the ancients. I now have a better understanding of how China can have a tradition of central government going back thousands of years and still not have any sense of ethics in their leadership. I now know how Russia seems to have difficulty implementing Western-style democracy when all they have ever known is authoritarianism. Of course, for it to fully sink in I will have to listen to it a second time; but first I may tackle volume two. This book is structured much like a series of scholarly lectures. Narrated by the always excellent Jonathan Davis.
One have to have some philosophical inclinations to like this book.
The main philosphical question which is being brought up in this book:
Are the founding principles of social order. Why humans are willing to give up some of their freedoms for security and order of society.
Also if humans are naturally good behaved if not restrained by law and order or not.
There is no one definite answer to this question.
The analysis of different types of social order was interesting but sometimes it seems that detailed historical references brought little value or point to the book.
This is the kind of styles I like: good pace, cerebral, well-documented, meaty, mind-bending.
Many might remember Fukuyama from over-the-top opinions about the democratic model but fewer, probably, have read his books. Democracy is not the main theme of this book, as most of the analysis takes place before the development of modern universal-suffrage democracy. The main theme is, instead, whether common forces explain the rise (and decay) of institutions. This involves answering the following questions:
Were institutions created by modern humans or did they pre-exist in pre-human times?
Are there natural or behavioral factors that naturally decay existing institutions?
Which institutional principles are more effective at preventing decay?
How do more modern institutions emerge in the first place?
In answering these difficult questions, Fukuyama takes the route of comparative history, that of scientists seeking truth from the observed behavior of societies, from ancient China, India, the Middle-East to continental Europe and the anglo-saxon world. This gives the theory that he builds a solid grounding on fact. Further, a unique research design is its focus on a historical timeline, as we see the overlying theory driving a society throughout the ages.
So, what causes the creation and decay of institutions? The second part is where Fukuyama gets the cleanest answer. The institution of family (or kin) is the original institution of pre-human times, with solidarity within the family and the method of conflict and violence for those outside. This is Fukuyama's answer to what the state of nature is and, to support this fact, provides evidence from chimps and ancient societies. It is a surprising answer that rejects the myth of the isolated men of both Hobbes and Rousseau but, at the same time, reconciles the benevolent Rousseauian and the brutal Hobbesian savages.
This starting point is taken to the next step, looking at the emergence of non-family based institutions. Interestingly, kin-based ties, sometimes we hear them described as "nepotism", gradually wear-off the basic principles of these institutions, from the fairness across non-controlling families to the selection of the most competent elites. Institutions take measures against the decay, of which we see a number of examples, such as celibacy among priests, non-married slave soldiers in the Middle-East or eunuchs in the East, but because these measures weaken but do not wholly extinguish the human nature toward kins, the rules are always gradually lifted.
So there is, strictly speaking, no decay of institution in society, but a return to the most natural institution of human nature, that of caring for one's own family. This is the place where the exposition weakens as, while the source of decay is well-documented, the source of creation of non-family institutions remains murky. The historical record is itself full of hesitation: is it the result of the power of one competent or benevolent person (like Pope Gregory)? Is it the principle of the survival of the fittest society? (like industrial Europe?) Is it an exogenous social shock? (like religious movements?) Fukuyama errs toward ideas, as the fundamental cause of institutions, but one is left wondering what IS an idea, whether it is the man that spoke it, or the society that made it possible.
This is perhaps where my main criticism lies, that the lack of understanding of the creation of institutions puts the onus on decay and against family, even though the force of decay is a very slow-acting one with many beneficial aspects, while the force of creation is fast and probably first-order. For reasons that I do not know, Fukuyama makes almost no reference to modern economics research on efficiency as a cause for institutions, except for a few grossly misrepresented theories of the state as a rent-extracting mafia which do not represent, in any way, the current state of economic theories on this matter. Economists have a lot of learn from his research, but so does he from them.
This may be a book that has to be read. I just could not listen to this book. Complex ideas, layered theses, and a constant influx of new names--combined with Davis's narration--left me rewinding over and over. Eventually, I gave up. My "story" rating is unfair, as I only got a few hours in. Davis's style is great in Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, but it does not match up well with Fukuyama's writing. In fairness, though, I'm not sure anyone else could do any better. Buy this one in print.
In the box thinking with an orthodox bias. Poor specificity of terms (e.g., the state, government, patronage, clientelism, etc.), and getting some concepts completely backwards (e.g., debasing currency because of inflation, rather than inflation being caused by the debasement of currency). The history is very good. The economics, not so much.
Fundamentals for political understanding. Very thorough mapped history of the courses of politics. Very long.