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

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  3,461 Ratings  ·  302 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 585 pages
Published April 12th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2011)
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Olin I'm enjoying it so far. I think I'll have to get into it a little farther to really decide. It's very readable though. I'll keep ya posted.

Community Reviews

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May 31, 2011 Ajj rated it really liked it
The best Civilization V based fan fiction ever! No seriously. I can't read a chapter in this book without thinking of Civ. games I have played. If you love Civ. you will love this book.

On a more serious note, I am very pleased with this book so far. While the general idea that the political situation of different areas is dependent on the cultural/political history of those areas seems pretty obvious, Fukuyama provides a wealth of information about different cultures that clearly illustrate his
Francis Fukuyama, unfortunately, is still widely known for his mistakes - and they are big ones - proclaiming the 'end of history' of the 1990s, and his influence in Neoconservatism and the disastrous military adventures of imperialism which resulted from it.

Fortunately for all, he has drifted away from that, and has now released a timely and remarkably observant book about the history and formation of states and political entities, in this particularly uncertain political climate. Political ent
Oct 16, 2012 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, expertly-researched, and thoroughly establishing an evidentiary framework for the analysis Fukuyama brings to his politico-historical game: the permutations of state-building and infrastructure, rule of law, and governmental accountability that have accompanied the evolutionary pathway—fraught with periodic episodes of regression and decay—towards the modern era of various democratic state structures in the face of an inherent familialism—the latter the tendency, via segmentary ...more
Nov 21, 2014 Michael rated it it was amazing
Fukuyama joins Max Weber, Emil Durkheim and Karl Marx as one of the Great Ones of Sociology and Political Theory with the first volume of this two volume work. I am in excited anticipation of the second volume, which has just recently been released. In the context of modern writers, Fukuyama is connecting the dots between Jared Diamond's works on prehistoric social development and Neil Furgusan's work on the ascendance of western society post middle ages. Fukuyama provides a comprehensive ...more
Roslyn Ross
Sep 23, 2015 Roslyn Ross rated it it was ok
-The whole premise of the book doesn't work for me. He starts off by saying that humans have a natural "need" for status and that is why politics exist. I disagree that "status" is a need. Status often meets the human needs of respect, appreciation, feeling valued, contributing, etc but "status" itself is not the need. The desire for "status" is usually a misinterpreted desire for self-esteem along the lines of: "If only I were important enough, then I would like myself!" So right there, in the ...more
Atila Iamarino
Uma versão mais longa, detalhada e cheia de exemplos históricos do que o Porque Falham as Nações explica. Um livro bem longo que passa pela história de várias civilizações explicando como o passado delas deu condições ou criou complicações que implicam no presente. Ótimas ideias, muito bem explicado, um tanto repetitivo, especialmente porque ele conta e reconta as mesmas condições em mais de um capítulo –eles lembram mais textos individuais, não algo que você leria em ordem no mesmo livro.

Umair Khan
Jul 20, 2013 Umair Khan rated it really liked it
Francis Fukuyama will always be best known, and mostly misunderstood, for his prophetic work The End of History and The Last Man celebrating the prevalence of democratic values and institutions over communism. This writing was influenced by the conservative Chicago philosopher, Allan Bloom who has despised the intellectual relativism growing in the American politics since then. Fukuyama feared, quite rightfully, that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American politics will only be focused ...more
Antonio Nunez
Jan 31, 2015 Antonio Nunez rated it it was amazing
Fukuyama has distilled a lifetime of learning into this book, where he aims to show how modernity comes about, state-wise. He begins with pre-modern times and shows that Hobbes and Rousseau'w view of a pre-social humanity is wrong. Humans always have been social, the same as our primate ancestors. Like chimpanzees, our nearest living relatives, we band together in small kin groups led by males, and within these groups there is both competition and cooperation. However, outside of the kin group ...more
Aug 29, 2016 M.J. rated it it was ok
Francis Fukuyama’s “The Origins of Political Order” is fantastic book that puts forward a broad theory of political development that attempts to explain, in the grand sweep of human (pre-modern) history, the emergence of political institutions and the contextual forces that can support and/or undermine their development. The book guides the reader from pre-historical tribalism to the birth of Fukuyama’s first true state (China) up to the 18th century as he assess civilizations at different times ...more
May 19, 2016 Zainab rated it it was amazing
This is the first book that I have read of Mr Francis Fukuyama and I am glad I did.
I have not read the first part but it was ok since he provided a summary of it in the first chapter.
The biggest thing about this book is the way it is written. Mr Fukuyama has a gift for writing complex ideas and processes in a simple language with a clarity that most writers lack.

I would highly recommend you to read this book for getting the idea about the latest political developments around the world. It wil
Jan 05, 2014 Jack rated it it was amazing
This was powerful. Perhaps a bit dry over large stretches. But it's the book neoconservatives should have read before Iraq, and it's the book liberals should read every time they think we should try to aid the world. It takes hundreds or thousands of years for a group of people to form a stable, democratic, civilized nation-state. There are certain steps on a long process that are better taken than others, and there is a preferred order to those steps, but there is also a lot of luck involved, ...more
Oct 26, 2011 Matt rated it liked it
Ambitious, incomplete (even for a first-of-two books), closed-minded, and interesting. Tries to pass off a lot of fairly unremarkable stuff as profound, and I'm not convinced that he knows all that much about the political philosophy that he spends a decent amount of time talking about. In any event, his summaries of how various modern states came into being are really cool, and he dissects a lot of the current thinking on development issues in an accessible way. Just take him with a grain of ...more
Elizabeth Wig
Feb 26, 2016 Elizabeth Wig rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, z-2016
Easy to read, conversational while still informative, comparative and multicultural: this book was everything that my world history textbook was not, while still providing an engaging and enlightening overview about the reasoning for various political systems and their roots in different parts of the world.
Mar 31, 2016 Charles rated it it was amazing
Like Daniel Burnham, Francis Fukuyama makes no small plans. “The Origins of Political Order” aspires to be nothing less than an all-encompassing explanation of how human beings created political order. This book carries Fukuyama’s analysis up to the French Revolution; a second volume carries the story to the modern day. This volume is mostly taken up with creating and discussing a coherent framework that explains political order before the modern era. Much of what Fukuyama discusses here is ...more
Justin Tapp
May 14, 2015 Justin Tapp rated it really liked it
This is one of those "theory of everything" books worth examining. Fukuyama's work is two volumes and he urges the reader see the first and second as one work. I have not read the second yet, so these are my notes from the first. The closest book in style and subject matter to this work (2011) that I have read is Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail (2012). Both books look at societies from prehistory onward and try to determine why good governance did or did not take root. Why Nations Fail ...more
Aarish Khan
May 04, 2015 Aarish Khan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is a master-piece of historical political analysis. Although it is not an easy reading, I thoroughly enjoyed it for the breadth of knowledge encapsulated in it and a remarkable coherence for such a long prose. Fukuyama has so beautifully elucidated upon the varying shapes and degrees of political evolution in different societies by virtue of their distinct geographies, social orders, and other related internal and external influences in the book. Fukuyama divides the development of ...more
Feb 17, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama. It was the selection for our local book group and we ended up with a great discussion.

Amazing read. Gives one a totally different slant on history. Fukuyama (who was a student of Samuel Huntington whom I think I dislike but haven't read so what's that worth?) looks at the entire history of the planet trying to understand the rise of the state, by which he means an impersonal government, i.e. not a g
Mar 31, 2012 Joe rated it really liked it
When you’re penning a two-volume series ambitiously titled The Origins of Political Order, every word counts. When it comes to the word count of political philosopher Francis Fukuyama’s newest book, it’s a rather large one, splayed out over 600 pages. Cognizant of that, perhaps it’s better to spare the extraneous; Fukuyama’s investigation concerns no less than the historical development of human social organization from tribes, bands, clans and chiefdoms through 10,000 years to kingdoms, empires ...more
Oct 02, 2016 Mehrsa rated it it was amazing
Really fantastic first volume that basically explains world political history. Read together with volume 2. It will be worth your while. It is along the lines of Sapiens and Debt by David Graeber and Fields of Blood by Armstrong--all of them a long view of history focused on one thread
Steven Peterson
May 21, 2011 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
An ambitious work by a scholar who has aroused controversy with "big picture" analyses. This is the first of a projected two volume set. In brief, here is the purpose of this volume (Page xiii): "Hence, the current book, which looks at the historical origins of political institutions as well as the process of political decay. This is the first of two volumes, and it deals with political development from prehuman times up to roughly the eve of the French and American revolutions."

The story begins
Sep 02, 2014 Gary rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Tony Heyl
Nov 24, 2011 Tony Heyl rated it liked it
When I was in college, one of my poli sci professors talked about how important Fukuyama's perspective was in current political thought, and he is certainly smart, but this book was very boring and I think missed a lot of points. Fukuyama talks about the rise of political societies and explains how a successful state has a rule of law, accountability, and a strong state and explains how political orders and societies emerged in China, India, Russia, and Europe, going back as far as the first ...more
Feb 18, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
This was a well-researched book that studies the development of society and government from prehistorical times (with even some discussion of primate organization) all the way through to the French revolution. It's so interesting to see how complicated the process of developing a nation can be. I really enjoyed the comparison of different societies - China, India, France, and England especially. Some of his insights explain how, even today, these countries are heavily influenced by cultural ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Ty rated it it was amazing
I have been a big fan of Fukuyama's since his groundbreaking first book, "The End of History and the Last Man" came out in the early 90's. His ability to weave together the strands of history across cultures and time were very impressive then, and are still well in evidence in this latest volume. "The Origins of Political Order" is the first in a two-parter, and this lead-off volume covers the ways in which human societies self-organized into units of various sizes, starting with prehistoric ...more
Oct 06, 2015 Steven rated it really liked it
This is a long and serious book about important topics by a somewhat controversial author. It's good to get back into reading books again. I learned a great deal about what makes countries great and why others are weak. You would be surprised to see what Mr. Fukuyama has to say about the U.S. Our democratic sensibilities are our strength, but they are leading to our downfall by empowering the elite. A very worthwhile read if you want context about the world.
A fantastic read (or listen in my case) on how political systems developed in various countries the way they did, and how liberal democracies developed in some places (Denmark for example) due to various uncontrollable things working together, while it never developed in China despite developing a strong and sophisticated hierarchy over 2,000 years ago!

I would definitely recommend to read the book instead of getting the Audible version, as I found I didn't get the best out of it that way.
Oct 12, 2011 Edith rated it it was amazing
An astounding tome packed with ideas and information that sets out to explain exactly as its title suggests: the development of modern political order and institutions. Instead of the Euro-centric view of old, Fukuyama unpacks comparative analysis of a variety of civilizations from Chinese, Indian, Arab, as well as surveys into different European entities to chronicle the possibilities of political development. I look forward to the Volume II of this series.
Vasil Kolev
Jun 23, 2016 Vasil Kolev rated it it was amazing
Probably the most concise books on how states emerge, their different characteristics and ways to fail. The tribalism/patrimonialism is a very good explanation for a lot of processes I've seen in Bulgarian politics, and the pillars of a state - rule of law, accountability, impersonal bureaucracy, strong state - seem to be the right ones.

Definitely recommended reading.
Saku Mantere
Jan 28, 2016 Saku Mantere rated it it was amazing
An elegant and profound treatise on the birth of the modern state as we know it: unified state, rule of law and accountable government. By studying the complex process through which all three are achieved in a functioning political system, Fukuyama also reminds us what a valuable inheritance the preceeding generations have left us with our political institutions,

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Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama (born 27 October 1952) is an American philosopher, political economist, and author.

Francis Fukuyama was born in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. His father, Yoshio Fukuyama, a second-generation Japanese-American, was trained as a minister in the Congregational Church and received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago. His mother, Toshiko Kawata Fu
More about Francis Fukuyama...

Other Books in the Series

Political Order (2 books)
  • Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

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