The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of the Social Order

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The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of the Social Order

By Francis Fukuyama
The Free Press, 1999
336 pp. $26.00

Fukuyama is famous for his contention that capitalist democracy has triumphed in the historical clash of ideas. In this ambitious new book, he argues that liberal democracy's social and moral foundations are now under assault from industrialism and technological change. Western democracies are buffeted by this "great disruption" as the information age and birth control bring more women into the work force, undermine family structures, and loosen social cohesion. Rising rates of crime, divorce, and illegitimacy are all part of this larger process of social breakdown as capitalism frays the social fabric and depletes a country's social capital. But Fukuyama remains optimistic. In the long run, he believes, Western countries will discover new sources of social cohesion, perhaps through religious or civic renewal. Nevertheless, the links between the changing role of women, the breakdown of the family, and the rise of crime and social disorder are more ambiguous than the book admits. The civil rights and feminist movements may have eroded traditional sources of social stability, but they also have infused liberal democracy with a new sense of legitimacy. Still, the book is valuable for its learned and lucid account of the ebb and flow of social order -- and it will surely spark more debate.

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