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

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  4,033 Ratings  ·  344 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 t ...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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Apr 29, 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 08, 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 lin ...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 accoun ...more
Roslyn Ross
May 22, 2013 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
Nov 07, 2016 Sebastien rated it it was amazing
I'll be honest, this was a dense book for me, covering a lot of material from areas of history I'm woefully uneducated and ignorant of. But that was part of the fun, this book got me outside my comfort zone (namely US and European history) and gave me a feel for cultures and histories that I haven't been exposed to. I enjoyed the historical surveys of cultures like China and the Arab world. I felt I learned a lot. But I also feel this is a book I will need to reread. There is just so much materi ...more
Jul 16, 2012 Gwern rated it it was amazing
It is, overall, an excellent book and one of the better ones on grand history I've read†... but Fukuyama does not have a very transparent prose style, and makes no concessions to those who don't have a good grasp on global history and especially those who don't know their Chinese history well (eg. if you can't put the Qing, Han, Qin, and Shang dynasty in order, you aren't going to enjoy at all the large amounts of material he rightfully devotes to Chinese politics). And it's seriously big, no ki ...more
Mar 27, 2017 Sandra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, history
How Not to Write a History Book: The art of making a pile of mostly-derivations-from-primary-sources unengaging and lifeless (again). The third star is for the general education value.

The likely winner of the most boring book of the year. Can't believe I got myself into reading the second (and even longer) one too.
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
May 16, 2016 M.J. rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 24, 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 sa ...more
Feb 11, 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 non- ...more
Antonio Nunez
Jul 12, 2014 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 t ...more
May 05, 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, w ...more
Elizabeth Wig
Feb 03, 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.
Justin Tapp
Oct 06, 2014 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
Mar 16, 2017 Aaron rated it it was amazing
It is really tempting to explain things in terms of one or two factors, especially politics. I've been guilty of it myself; I've written "it's geography, stupid!" more times than I'd like to say. Yet, simplifying explanations of history, society, and government tend to be tools of evil (or stupidity). In the past, Christianity and Catholicism was used to explain imperialism under the guise of the White Man's Burden. The Nazi Reich based their explanations of history of the world through racial d ...more
Alan Menachemson
May 13, 2017 Alan Menachemson rated it it was amazing
This review is longer than usual. It took me months to read and there are thoughts I would like to remember
Having loved "Sapiens" with its sweeping but (IMHO) manager mainly correct statements, I found FF's detail refreshing

To be fair, as another reviewer pointed out, even in this detailed treatise, there are, of necessity, sweeping statements. Having said that, the deliberate focus on primarily India, China, Mamluks, Ottomans and later (in Europe) France, Spain - and its colonies - Russia, Hu
Filippo Pacifici
Apr 28, 2017 Filippo Pacifici rated it it was amazing
The Origins of Political Order is a massive and very insightful book. It provides a comprehensive historical analysis that goes from the beginning of the concept of state to the creation of liberal democracies.
The treatise is very detailed and effective also thanks to the historical parallels that are presents in the whole book. These really help in making the arguments exposed very strong.
As example I really liked the parallel between the creation of the state in China, India and in ancient Rom
Feb 23, 2017 Scott rated it it was amazing
Incredible macrohistory on how nations are formed and what constitutes a true civil society. Not as expansive as I'd liked, but I realized early on I had unrealistic expectations. Mostly what I took away from this book is that how a state functions beyond a certain point is honestly irrelevant. The state's goal should be adaptability, survival, and taking care of its people. Clearly certain systems are better at this than others: republic-democratic vs communist-socialist. But really this books ...more
Apr 09, 2017 Biglaity rated it it was amazing
Took a couple of months to finish it. Although Fukuyama seems still and only to champion the traditional western "democracy as victory/means to an end" perspective, the chapters which relate to the historical/political origins (and development) of Islamic, India an China (even Denmark) are definitely interesting and worth reading. I really agree with that the inertia of the current political development of a country is largely dependent and influenced by its tradition/history (In a way, every co ...more
Apr 10, 2017 Kelly rated it really liked it
Einstein said something like, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” This book fits that quote perfectly. Incredibly comprehensive, and given the topic, it should be. Yet one feels like this book is as concise as it can be, without sacrifice.

For a more comprehensive review, check out Michael's, which I found very good.
Ven Benables
Mar 19, 2017 Ven Benables rated it really liked it
He likes to explain political history using metaphors about turtles.
Dec 07, 2016 Nathaniel rated it it was amazing
I'm writing this review 6 months after finishing the book for a pretty simple reason: I had precisely 100 notes to transcribe into Evernote before I was ready to write my review. That should tell you how much I got out of the book, by the way. There are a only a few books--probably the The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, maybe The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates--that netted me more fascinating notes and quotes than this one ...more
Aarish Khan
May 03, 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 poli ...more
"The Origin of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution," by Francis Fukuyama is a large text on the origins and development of political stability throughout the human world. Fukuyama starts with prehistoric human tribes, looking at human biological and sociological factors in considering why humans act as they do toward each other, and to develop a background to human political development. Fukuyama then begins to examine the development of the Rule of Law, centralized aut ...more
Feb 09, 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
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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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“Human beings are rule-following animals by nature; they are born to conform to the social norms they see around them, and they entrench those rules with often transcendent meaning and value. When the surrounding environment changes and new challenges arise, there is often a disjunction between existing institutions and present needs. Those institutions are supported by legions of entrenched stakeholders who oppose any fundamental change.” 5 likes
“Many people, observing religious conflict in the contemporary world, have become hostile to religion as such and regard it as a source of violence and intolerance.5 In a world of overlapping and plural religious environments, this can clearly be the case. But they fail to put religion in its broader historical context, where it was a critical factor in permitting broad social cooperation that transcended kin and friends as a source of social relationships. Moreover, secular ideologies like Marxism-Leninism or nationalism that have displaced religious beliefs in many contemporary societies can be and have been no less destructive due to the passionate beliefs that they engender.” 3 likes
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