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

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A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
A Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011 Title
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction of 2011 title

Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions which 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 are unable to perform in many of today's developing countries—with often disastrous consequences for the rest of the world.

Francis Fukuyama, author of the bestselling 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.

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About the author

Francis Fukuyama is the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He has previously taught at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University and at the George Mason University School of Public Policy. He was a researcher at the RAND Corporation and served as the deputy director in the State Department's policy planning staff. He is the author of The End of History and the Last Man, Trust, and America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. He lives with his wife in California.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
Apr 12, 2011
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Pages
608
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ISBN
9781429958936
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Language
English
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Genres
History / World
Political Science / History & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A New York Times Notable Book for 2011

Sometime around 1750, English entrepreneurs unleashed the astounding energies of steam and coal, and the world was forever changed. The emergence of factories, railroads, and gunboats propelled the West's rise to power in the nineteenth century, and the development of computers and nuclear weapons in the twentieth century secured its global supremacy. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many worry that the emerging economic power of China and India spells the end of the West as a superpower. In order to understand this possibility, we need to look back in time. Why has the West dominated the globe for the past two hundred years, and will its power last?

Describing the patterns of human history, the archaeologist and historian Ian Morris offers surprising new answers to both questions. It is not, he reveals, differences of race or culture, or even the strivings of great individuals, that explain Western dominance. It is the effects of geography on the everyday efforts of ordinary people as they deal with crises of resources, disease, migration, and climate. As geography and human ingenuity continue to interact, the world will change in astonishing ways, transforming Western rule in the process.

Deeply researched and brilliantly argued, Why the West Rules—for Now spans fifty thousand years of history and offers fresh insights on nearly every page. The book brings together the latest findings across disciplines—from ancient history to neuroscience—not only to explain why the West came to rule the world but also to predict what the future will bring in the next hundred years.

Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
Between 1974 and 1990 more than thirty countries in southern Europe, Latin America, East Asia, and Eastern Europe shifted from authoritarian to democratic systems of government. This global democratic revolution is probably the most important political trend in the late twentieth century. In The Third Wave, Samuel P. Huntington analyzes the causes and nature of these democratic transitions, evaluates the prospects for stability of the new democracies, and explores the possibility of more countries becoming democratic. The recent transitions, he argues, are the third major wave of democratization in the modem world. Each of the two previous waves was followed by a reverse wave in which some countries shifted back to authoritarian government. Using concrete examples, empirical evidence, and insightful analysis, Huntington provides neither a theory nor a history of the third wave, but an explanation of why and how it occurred.

Factors responsible for the democratic trend include the legitimacy dilemmas of authoritarian regimes; economic and social development; the changed role of the Catholic Church; the impact of the United States, the European Community, and the Soviet Union; and the "snowballing" phenomenon: change in one country stimulating change in others. Five key elite groups within and outside the nondemocratic regime played roles in shaping the various ways democratization occurred. Compromise was key to all democratizations, and elections and nonviolent tactics also were central. New democracies must deal with the "torturer problem" and the "praetorian problem" and attempt to develop democratic values and processes. Disillusionment with democracy, Huntington argues, is necessary to consolidating democracy. He concludes the book with an analysis of the political, economic, and cultural factors that will decide whether or not the third wave continues.

Several "Guidelines for Democratizers" offer specific, practical suggestions for initiating and carrying out reform. Huntington's emphasis on practical application makes this book a valuable tool for anyone engaged in the democratization process. At this volatile time in history, Huntington's assessment of the processes of democratization is indispensable to understanding the future of democracy in the world.

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