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

(Political Order #1)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  8,798 ratings  ·  699 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 Giroux (first published January 1st 2011)
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Zander Amazon sells a kindle edition if you have difficulties with shipping
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.…moreI'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.(less)

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Apr 29, 2011 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
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early on in this book, Prof. Fukuyama explains that he isn’t a fan of the “One damn thing after another” style of history. He is all about investigating causality and connections. This book is definitely in the category of BIG history.

The most difficult aspect of writing this review is how to convey even the haziest notion of the author’s complex arguments. He sees 3 main components to the development of “political order”. These are a strong and capable state, the state’s subordination to a rule
Oct 08, 2012 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
Francis Fukuyama first rose to prominence after the publication of a 1988 essay, titled "The End of History", which was developed into a book, "The End of History and the Last Man". Fukuyama's idea was not sui generis, its roots can be found in Alexander Kojeve's interpretations of Hegelianism, and the 1960 book "The End of Ideology", written by the sociologist Daniel Bell. Fukuyama argued at the decline and disintegration of the Soviet Union that liberal democracy had been the endpoint of ideol ...more
Private Account
May 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
I appreciate how clear Fukuyama is that government is the organized use of force/violence/coercion. I enjoyed the history he presented. That is why this book gets two stars instead of one.

It doesn't get more stars than that because I have read a lot about hunter-gatherers and vikings and his accounts of both of these groups do not match with the other things I have read about them. This makes me wonder how accurate the rest of the history he presents is.

The thing I dislike about this book the mo
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After reading Francis Fukuyama’s excellent Political Order and Political Decay a few years ago, I made a note at some point to go back and read the first volume of his work on the subject. The Origins of Political Order is a very ambitious attempt at explaining how modern state-centric societies arose in human history. Generally speaking, I think that any attempt to articulate a sweeping thesis covering every civilization in the world is doomed, at the very least, to suffer some major flaws. To ...more
May 舞
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Easy to read, informative, and well-structured. Enjoyed reading it very much and will be taking many new ideas and insights with me into the new year, 2019 <3
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
It deserves all the praise it gets.

As the subtitle suggests, Fukuyama focuses on the vast historic scale, starting from prehuman times, until the French revolution. Given the breadth, you would think that one will be constantly lost, possibly missing the forest for the trees. Fortunately, Fukuyama is a fantastic writer and manages to be sensible and clearly understandable (daresay, practical?).

By "political order", Fukuyama refers to the trifecta of a strong state institutions - the rule of law
Nov 21, 2014 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
Nov 07, 2016 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
Charles Haywood
Feb 11, 2016 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
Mar 27, 2017 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.
Oct 02, 2016 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
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Moved to gwern.net. ...more
Dec 07, 2016 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
John Farebrother
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal book. I came across it by pure chance at a second-hand bookshop on the South Bank, and bought it because I was intrigued by the title "...from prehuman times".
The sheer scholarship behind this book is incredible in itself. The author traces the evolution of human societies through three principle stages, bands - tribes - states. For his analysis of the earliest stage, he refers to studies of chimpanzees, and concludes that when people lived in groups of around 40 individuals, and ev
Julian Douglass
May 30, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Mr. Fukuyama takes a very, very, complex subject and makes it very easy to understand in the 500 or so pages of his book. The creation of states from tribal based societies to rules-based organizations is a phenomenon that has presented thousands of questions from how it happened to why some states are more liberal democracies while others are still authoritarian single party states. This is more of a history of the organization of states rather than a political science tome of the workings of t ...more
Umair Khan
Jul 20, 2013 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
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
Once upon a time, humans moved around in bands. Then there were tribes, and then there were states. States and the societies that make up its population have developed a bunch of institutions (defined as "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behaviour"), some of which are uniformly present across the globe, and some not. How did this variation happen? Why is every country not a democracy, which is largely accepted as the best trade-off for all concerned? How did different countries reach their ...more
M Jahangir kz
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, it has proved to be such a thought provoking and knowledgeable book, it covers absolutely everything in the subject of political order from pre humans up to the eve of American and French Revolution, that too very vividly and meticulously.
The main theme of the book is the building blocks of modern political order, these are State, Rule of Law, and Accountable Government, it covers how these institutions came into being in the first place, in what order and what sequence, and
Sep 24, 2011 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
Sep 20, 2020 rated it liked it
The sections on hunter gatherers and early agriculture were five star reads providing insights and perspectives beyond what I learned in anthropology and archaeology courses, although I didn't agrree with everything. I was making notes just about every page.

Then the following chapters became a slog, having to read sentences, paragraphs and whole pages over again. I only found about one thing per chapter noteworthy.

His claim on page 469 "One of the reasons why there is so much corruption in poor
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

It might sound odd to say that I enjoyed a nigh-500 page book on political theory, but it's true. Fukuyama has managed in this volume to write something which is both sensible and clearly understandable, despite being about the entirety of political history up to the French Revolution. He is punctilious about abandoning the traditional narrative approaches to theory of political development -- Greece and Rome, up through medieval and modern Europe -- to talk about India, the Middle East and, esp
What makes a state stable? How is it that some states developed a stable political system while others still are governed by weak states, which barely can survive?

The book is the first of two books on the development of political order. This book goes from its origins to the French Revolution while part II starts with the French Revolution and goes to the present day.

This book mainly focusses on China, India and Europe where we saw the emergence of the first states. According to Fukuyama, a (sta
Bob Nichols
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
The book, the first volume of Fukuyama’s study of political order and decay, covers the period from our hunter-gathering beginnings to the industrial revolution. These volumes follow up on Huntington’s 1968 classic, “Political Order in Changing Societies” (Huntington was Fukuyama’s mentor). This is the same review I wrote for his second volume.

Fukuyama is impressively multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural in his approach. He sees a more or less linear development in political organization that,
Hemen Kalita
Apr 28, 2022 rated it it was amazing
A mammoth of a book. It took me months to read it, but will take years to digest it.

I think i need a break before moving on to part 2...
Imran Pasha
Apr 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
The book is an attempt to understand why modern statebuilding and the building of institutions in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone and Liberia have failed to live up to expectations of western democratic ideas!!

The book first starts with the social order among chimpanzees,the war-like hunting group, rather than the family, was the primary social group, and claims the same for humans. Humans went further: to survive they formed tribes, whose armies were
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Aug 31, 2014 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 comi ...more
James Giammona
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the top ten books I've ever read. An amazing introduction to world history and the development of civilization. Learned a ton about Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and medieval European history! Fukuyama's framework and thesis is compelling. The hallmarks of a modern state are an impersonal bureaucratic government, a strong separate rule of law and accountable government. These do not arise simultaneously from economic growth, but have arisen in at different times and orders (or not at al ...more
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Professor Fukuyama's magisterial work on the origins and evolution of political structures is probably the most important political science text published in this century, and this, the first volume, covers how nation-states evolved from tribal groups, and how they developed strong governing institutions, the rule of law and (eventually) accountable government. There are still powerful states that lack the latter and even the rule of law (like China) but Fukuyama convincingly demonstrates that t ...more
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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

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

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