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

(Political Order #1)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  7,470 ratings  ·  593 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.

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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
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 ...more
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
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
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, economics
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 ...more
Charles J
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Dana Aldee
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing

So, you look at the title of this book and I think you’ll either fall into one of two camps: This is really interesting, or “I’m already bored.”

If you fall into the second camp, hang on, because I’m going to tell you why this book is amazing.

I’ve never read anything by Francis Fukuyama before, nor had I ever heard of him. However, Fukuyama is apparently pretty well known for his research, and his adept way of presenting complex topics to the average nonf
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,
Aleksandar Todorovski
After his delusional perception about liberal democracy being the last chapter of political evolution globally, Francis Fukuyama embarks on a Odyssey of genuine historical analysis of the worlds major authentic political systems with an emphasis on China, India and the west. Establishing the premises that the successful building of political order us compromised of state building, the rule of law and a both way ( upward and downward) government accountability, Fukuyama explains how different his ...more
Paul Crider
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-science
This book impressed me. Fukuyama is humble enough to recognize that his topic is far too complex and multicausal to allow for anything like a predictive theory. Instead, he describes the historical details associated with the development of his three ingredients of political order in representative societies. These ingredients are a strong state, the rule of law, and political accountability. Fukuyama frequently references his explanatory "turtles": every big historical causal force was position ...more
May 16, 2016 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
Jan 05, 2014 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 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 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
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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

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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