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

Francis Fukuyama’s analysis of the development of the modern state is a masterwork.

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The Origins of Political Order:
From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
By Francis Fukuyama
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
608 pp.

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Francis Fukuyama became famous for his essay “The End of History,” published in the journal The National Interest in 1989. Along with the expanded book-version, the essay remains exciting and challenging more than two decades after it was first written. But “The End of History” has overshadowed everything he has published since, which is unfortunate because Fukuyama has quietly amassed a portfolio of writing that ranks him as among America’s best public intellectuals.

Reading his tremendous new book The Origins of Political Order is a reminder of how poorly Fukuyama ever wore the neo-conservative label. True, he worked in the Reagan administration and ran with the Bill Kristol/Commentary crowd. But he was always far more intellectually serious and empirical than most other neo-cons. When Fukuyama opposed the Iraq War and wrote “America at the Crossroads,” a 2006 book lamenting the demise of neo-conservatism, it was as much a result of latent political differences as it was of philosophical shifting. Retrospectively, at least, it would have been more precise to see Fukuyama as in the mold of Seymour Martin Lipset, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the first generation of neo-cons who were never conned into becoming Republican ideologues.

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