The Origins of Political Order

From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. Farrar. Apr. 2011. c.688p. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780374227340. $35. HIST
The book that brought Fukuyama (Freeman Spogli Inst. for International Studies, Stanford Univ.) to public notice, The End of History and the Last Man, seems overly optimistic at times, but this present book, the first of a projected two-volume study, does not. Fukuyama looks at the causes and supports of political stability up to the French Revolution; the second volume will deal with the very different conditions shaping state growth in modern times. Origins seems not so much groundbreaking as consolidating: the author confirms his debt to Samuel P. Huntington's Political Order in Changing Societies, which lays out a comprehensive theory of state formation and state decay. Fukuyama doesn't explain state formation solely from Western examples. China and India occupy front stage, along with medieval Islam, where the institution of military slavery offered a way out of the centrifugal tribalism of Arabs and Turks and produced successive empires—the Mamluks and Ottomans—that endured for centuries. Of necessity, Fukuyama relies on secondary literature, but oh, how he reads!
VERDICT No longer the neocon of former days, Fukuyama seems a more flexible and discerning thinker, and as always, his mastery of the literature is daunting. This exceptional book should be in every library. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/10.]
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