Part of The Best Books of 2011 on Political and Legal Subjects

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

Fukuyama is best known for his reflections on "the end of history," but with this landmark study, he turns to history's beginning, tracing the origins and trajectories of political order from prehistoric times to the French Revolution. (A second volume will take the story to the present.) Drawing inspiration from Samuel Huntington's classic study Political Order in Changing Societies, Fukuyama begins with humans' earliest steps to construct tribal societies before moving on to the gradual emergence of organized political communities and the rise of the territorial state. At each turn in this rich survey, he is interested in the origins and evolution of political institutions, whether they be Arab, African, Chinese, European, or Indian. Political development, he argues, is manifest in societies' gradual, contested, and reversible transitions toward the modern state, where authority is centralized, the rule of law holds sway, and representative leaders are held accountable. The book incorporates both traditional accounts of the rise of the state, emphasizing war and economic predation, as well as those that focus on transformative ideas about law, justice, and religion.

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