Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions that included a central state that could keep the peace and uniform laws that applied to all citizens. Some went on to create governments that were accountable to their constituents. We take these institutions for granted, but they are absent or unable to function in many of today’s developing countries—with often disastrous consequences for the rest of the world.
Francis Fukuyama, author of the best-selling The End of History and The Last Man, and one of our most important political thinkers, provides a sweeping account of how today’s basic political institutions developed.
The first of a major two-volume work, The Origins of Political Order begins with politics among our primate ancestors and follows the story through the emergence of tribal societies, the growth of the first modern state in China, the beginning of the rule of law in India and the Middle East, and the development of political accountability in Europe up until the eve of the French Revolution.
Drawing on a vast body of knowledge—history, evolutionary biology, archaeology, and economics—Fukuyama has produced a brilliant, provocative work that offers fresh insights on the origins of democratic societies and raises essential questions about the nature of politics and its discontents.
©2011 Francis Fukuyama (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Fukuyama writes a crystalline prose that balances engaging erudition with incisive analysis. As germane to the turmoil in Afghanistan as it is to today's congressional battles, this is that rare work of history with up-to-the-minute relevance." (Publishers Weekly)
“Political theorist Francis Fukuyama’s new book is a major accomplishment, likely to find its place among the works of seminal thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, and modern moral philosophers and economists such as John Rawls and Amartya Sen . . .It is a perspective and a voice that can supply a thinker’s tonic for our current political maladies.” (Earl Pike, The Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Ambitious and highly readable.” (The New Yorker)
This book is simply amazing. As a political science major in college and graduate school, I've read a ton of histories and evaluations of politics but nothing comes close to this work. Fukuyama writes a complete and thorough analysis of human politics that is full of in depth case studies and insightful information. I would definitely recomend this book not only to poli sci students but also anyone wishing to know the origins of our political order.
Fukuyama begins by describing pre-state human social groups--and human biology--to be used as a foundation for the rest of his compelling theory for how states are formed--or rather were formed in history. His historical account of the development of states in China, India, the Ottoman empire, and Europe demonstrates that the road of state formation varies greatly, and is not at all purely progressive. The outcome of state formation is also varied (as we can see in the modern world).
If nothing else, the first half of this book is a great overview of the development of different societies. Fascinating. And really not dry.
Fukuyama is just detailed enough to make his theories convincing, one being that central components for a modern political state as we see in Western democracies require: a strong state, the rule of law, and state accountability to all citizens. Many states have one or more of these things, but every modern political order must have them all.
His whole book is a build up to an upcoming second volume which will describe why in modern times state formation can proceed more directly and purposely than it has in history: with so much violence and suffering.This first volume is interesting, but is not directly relevant for understanding the workings of modern states we currently live in. Such insight I believe will come in the next volume. Still, a fascinating read!
This is a narrative--the author's narrative--of how states formed in history. And it reads like a narrative. It's not exactly a light read, but the strong narrative aspects make it a very compelling read.
Davis narration is very clear with perfect pronunciation of works in other languages (well, as far as I can tell). His pace is great and his emphasis of works in sentences actually helps in understanding what Fukuyama is saying.
Fukuyam's insight of the pre-conditions for a modern liberal capitalist state is convincing and based not just on his historical research, but a solid socio-political philosophy as well.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
Brief history of politics.
This is the first time.
There are scenes?
This audiobook is an interesting, educational look at some of the biggest political developments in history. It tries to see things in each era and under each political system in the way that an average person during that era would see it. It provides perspective, but ultimately feels like it compares every system with democracy. Granted, it isn't a big deal, but I enjoy my books to be unbiased, and this one is pretty much unbiased.
Non-Fiction, Science, History and Business Reader
I have only good things to say about this book and it's narration. Fukuyama sets out to write a history of Political order and the developments of the core parts of the state and achieves this goal definitively.
I thought the pace was excellent, as was the narrative progression. It moved freely yet logically between the micro and the macro perspectives. It even manages aptly walk the line between too much and too little background information for the various topics, institutions and regions, which could not have been easy given the subject's breadth.
For me, this was one of the books that subtly adjust my understanding of not just the subject matter on the page, but also of a range of other areas and disciplines as well.
I HIghly recommend this book to anyone interested in Politics, History, or virtually any other area of Non-Fiction.
Letting the rest of the world go by
The author does a definitive survey of political development through out the world while avoiding the ODTAA ("one dang thing after another") trap survey books of this kind can often fall into. This kind of information often pops up in many of the books I read, but is never covered as a primary topic nor as definitively as this author covers this topic. Usually, it's hard to get a good description of the political history of Islam, India and China, and most authors force the story into their comic book characterization narrative of those societies so that it will fit into their narrative so that they can show the supposed superiority of the West. This book doesn't do that whatsoever and gives each region it's full due respect.
The author not only looks at each major civilization and parts thereof as an end in itself but will contrast it with the familiar when needed.
Political systems need three things in order to prosper fully: accountability, transparency, and "rule of law". All three aren't necessary, but each sure do help. The earliest systems start with a "kin and friend" system and develops from there. The author steps the reader through the process and how it differs depending on the civilization.
The author shows that Rousseau (man is perfect until government corrupts him) is wrong about everything, Hobbes (government is only to protect against violent acts) only gives a barely adequate government, and Locke (live, liberty and pursuit of property) gives the most responsive government, and the author shows how these stages can develop or never existed in this first place as in the worldview of Rousseau for the different societies studied in this book.
The author speaks with authority on the topic and this book filled in a lot of holes on the topic that I got from reading other books which never fully developed the topic.
As life unfolds on our planet, I think it's important to remember that the human experience is, and always has been, an experiment in-progress. As with all experiments, there is no guarantee of success. Since 1947, the year I was born, the world has changed nearly beyond comprehension. Lately, I have wondered if things have developed more rapidly than our ability to manage them. If we can no longer effectively manage our ever more complex world, then chaos can't be far behind. And, it appears, that could be in the offing.
Human progress over the centuries has been a blood-sport. Social reforms have frequently come as a result of war pushing out the olde to make room for the new. The establishment tends to not let go easily.
But this book suggests a new possibility for change, more in keeping with our maturing as a thought-directed species. By comparatively analyzing the dynamics of past and present cultures, recognizing that the actual development, or lack thereof, of governance has been influenced by many extraneous factors, common principles can be gleaned from the data that can help guide us in making pre-emptive changes, hopefully before the current order falls apart.
Professor, political scientist, economist and author Francis Fukuyama is an ambitious fellow. He apparently believes that we've reached a sufficient point in our mental and social development to begin learning from our collective past, and we can now use this comprehensive "enlightenment" to create a better world. What a concept!
As we casually ignore nature's championing of survival-of-the-fittest, and the degeneration of our species that naturally results, there needs to be some balancing activity on the other end of the spectrum. Using the kind of information contained in this book to do some 'Steve Jobs'-type engineering, that's right- social engineering (sorry, Newt), we should be able to come up with a system that encourages innovation, rewards free enterprise AND liberates Everyman from the stranglehold of the special interests of the new Global Corporate economy. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Mr. Fukuyama is not perfect (It's reported he voted for Obama, at least in part as protest for the devastation caused by 8 years of George "W" – understood), but in my opinion, this is a seminal work. I searched before ordering this book to see if there was anything else like it. If there is, I couldn't find it.
He's not, as far as I can determine, pro-left or pro-right. If he's pro anything, he's pro-science. Do the research, ascertain the facts and let the results fall where they may. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. If we can wrench this subject away from the greedy sort who want to keep everything they have while grabbing for more, I think most of the rest of us will agree on the results. We are, after all, ancestrally connected. The majority of us all want the same things. If we base our method of trying to attain our common objectives on an understanding of the several millenia of history that is available to us, I think we'll have a much better chance of getting what we all want. Or we can just let it collapse, which it appears to be headed for doing.
Two thumbs way up - regardless of what "Lame" says. (Didn't quite get what that was all about.)
YES. I have listened to this once through and been introduced to a large variety of concepts which were fleshed out with many great case studies. This book contains so much information in a format which is so easy to follow that a second listening would bring so much more of the subtle details to stuff I know rather than just something you heard.
The organization of the theories he presents is superb, with case studies to support each claim. There are enough case studies to be convincing and interesting, without going into so much detail that it is impossible to follow. Furthermore, I really appreciate the comparative nature of his methodology, not just beating a case to death but using broader trends throughout different societies to back up each of his points.
The performance was great, haven't heard anything else he's narrated. He paces it just right so you can listen. There were a few times when I missed sentences and had to go back because of the intense thought used in processing previous sentences, but this is largely a function of the book being incredibly well written. The narrator paced himself well so that those moments weren't too common despite the density of the neat ideas in this book.
There were 2 problems with this book: 1) there are times (few, but noticeable) when the author made lists to prove his point. When this happens, its incredibly hard to follow specifics listening rather than reading which allows to reread the numbers. They were never excessive or damaging, but in a perfect world would not be there.
2) This really is just up to the beginning of the french/american revolution. It is incredibly frustrating that modern day political order he left for a second book which is not out yet, as this one was put together so well I am antsy for the second volume.
An interesting overview of the development of governance in the ancient world and the middle ages. Panoramic view across cultures and the globe which provided some "oh that's how and why that developed here, but not here." Not being a specialist, it helped me understand the differences between tribal kinship systems in China and the feudal systems in Europe.
It was interesting to speculate about the role of the Catholic Church in the development of an independent judiciary, the separation of powers, and the rule of law. The importance of religions in setting the groundwork for the development of the rule of law which was a missing ingredient in China which offers an explanation of their continuing struggle in developing rule of law.
I would recommend that you download the PDFs because the maps and tables help provide some insight into the different areas in their historical context.
I rather liked some of the explanations about political systems, the idea that a state of anarchy would produce something like a third world country and not a well-funcioning utopia. I also liked the sections dealing with the history of political systems in Asia, which was new to me.
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.
"Weighty, serious but at times tedious"
Valuable wide-ranging and erudite introduction to the origins of political organisation and the emergence of the state, the rule of law and formally established governance systems. Well researched and referenced with examples and insights from China and India, the Arab world and Ottoman Empire, and Europe. This is at times contrasted with other societies such as in the Pacific which have not developed the same systems of governance and are still very reliant on "wantok" (one-talk - clan connections and patronage). Insightful and interesting with some reference to current issues and debates - but at times long-winded and tedious. One advantage of hard copy is the ability to skip over a chapter in which one has become less engaged - but still to flick through and scan what it covers, read some of the sections but not all, and then perhaps come back when one has fewer distractions or feels the need to go back and appreciate the detail. Of course one can do something like that that with the audiobook - but having a clearer map and outline of the book and the focus and outline of each chapter, plus main headings and sub-headings, would help with navigating a carefully researched and rich book. Perhaps something that Audible and its partner organisations can work on (you can have that advice for free ...). That said I listened for all 23 or so hours and enjoyed much of it including the references to theory, but there were times when I really wanted to get through it and move on... I will, however, look out for Volume 2 which has not yet been published...
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