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

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“The Origins of Political Order” is a sequel of sorts to the late Samuel Huntington’s classic “Political Order in Changing Societies.” Fukuyama’s update of Huntington’s work examines what current scholarship understands about the evolution of states. Beginning with hunter-gatherers, the book ranges across an astonishing array of knowledge to look at the development of countries, up to the French Revolution. (A second volume is intended to pick up where “The Origins of Political Order” leaves off). Evolutionary biology, sociology, political philosophy, anthropology – all these disciplines are mined for insights into what is among the most difficult problems in international politics: the question of how to establish modern, functioning states.

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Fukuyama deliberately avoids establishing a concrete thesis, convinced as he is that traditional theories of development have been flawed precisely because they seek to establish definitive conclusions where none exist. There are real limits to our knowledge of state-building, and it is best to sidestep ultimate statements or theories. What Fukuyama does contend is that “there are many potential paths to modernization possible today,” as opposed to the arguments that development follows a specific sequence, such as stable middle classes preceding democracy, for instance.

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