book-reviews

Political Order and Political Decay

by Francis Fukuyama

Rating: ★★★★

A worthy successor to Origins of Political Order, and one which clears up some of the questions I had at the end of the first volume, but also necessarily a book which is both drier and more strictly focused on modern political issues. Specifically, we see that Fukuyama has his attention drawn to two stories: the modern U.S., which he characterises as strung with self-imposed burdens to effective government, and modern China, which he views as a nascent rival to the history-ending model of liberal democracy, poised on the brink of a societal challenge by its growing middle class.

This is in essence the entire series in a nutshell. Fukuyama has paid so much attention to China in his first volume, not just because it provides an important model for how political order is established, but also because it may well be the history of an alternative or superior form of political order. Fukuyama does not abandon liberal democracy, he defends it on both moral and pragmatic grounds, but you can tell that this form of responsive East Asian autocracy is something that fascinates him.

Not that this volume is entirely devoted to these two major areas, of course. Fukuyama draws upon a wide range of experiences with state-building, from the outbreak of political order in Europe with the formation of effective state bureaucracies, to the differing experiences of Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia as, and after, they came into contact with the expanding European powers. He builds an understanding of the important processes from the challenging specific histories of multiple nations in each area. As a feat of historical survey alone this is a worthwhile read.

Sacrificing timelessness for timeliness in this volume may in the end turn out to Fukuyama's benefit, as he renders his theory relevant to modern statecraft. If his advice passes the dual test of political philosophy, and is both acted upon and correct, this could well be a monumental achievement of scholarly insight