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Publisher's Summary

Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions that 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 unable to function in many of today’s developing countries—with often disastrous consequences for the rest of the world.
Francis Fukuyama, author of the best-selling The End of History and The Last Man, and one of our most important political thinkers, provides a sweeping account of how today’s basic political institutions developed.
The first of a major two-volume work, The Origins of Political Order begins with politics among our primate ancestors and follows the story through the emergence of tribal societies, the growth of the first modern state in China, the beginning of the rule of law in India and the Middle East, and the development of political accountability in Europe up until the eve of the French Revolution.
Drawing on a vast body of knowledge—history, evolutionary biology, archaeology, and economics—Fukuyama has produced a brilliant, provocative work that offers fresh insights on the origins of democratic societies and raises essential questions about the nature of politics and its discontents.
©2011 Francis Fukuyama (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Fukuyama writes a crystalline prose that balances engaging erudition with incisive analysis. As germane to the turmoil in Afghanistan as it is to today's congressional battles, this is that rare work of history with up-to-the-minute relevance." (Publishers Weekly)
“Political theorist Francis Fukuyama’s new book is a major accomplishment, likely to find its place among the works of seminal thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, and modern moral philosophers and economists such as John Rawls and Amartya Sen . . .It is a perspective and a voice that can supply a thinker’s tonic for our current political maladies.” (Earl Pike, The Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Ambitious and highly readable.” (The New Yorker)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By blah on 05-12-13

Best Summary of Political History I've Read

This book is simply amazing. As a political science major in college and graduate school, I've read a ton of histories and evaluations of politics but nothing comes close to this work. Fukuyama writes a complete and thorough analysis of human politics that is full of in depth case studies and insightful information. I would definitely recomend this book not only to poli sci students but also anyone wishing to know the origins of our political order.

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36 of 36 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Luke on 01-24-13

Compelling historical narrative of state formation

What did you love best about The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution?

Fukuyama begins by describing pre-state human social groups--and human biology--to be used as a foundation for the rest of his compelling theory for how states are formed--or rather were formed in history. His historical account of the development of states in China, India, the Ottoman empire, and Europe demonstrates that the road of state formation varies greatly, and is not at all purely progressive. The outcome of state formation is also varied (as we can see in the modern world).

If nothing else, the first half of this book is a great overview of the development of different societies. Fascinating. And really not dry.

Fukuyama is just detailed enough to make his theories convincing, one being that central components for a modern political state as we see in Western democracies require: a strong state, the rule of law, and state accountability to all citizens. Many states have one or more of these things, but every modern political order must have them all.

His whole book is a build up to an upcoming second volume which will describe why in modern times state formation can proceed more directly and purposely than it has in history: with so much violence and suffering.This first volume is interesting, but is not directly relevant for understanding the workings of modern states we currently live in. Such insight I believe will come in the next volume. Still, a fascinating read!

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

This is a narrative--the author's narrative--of how states formed in history. And it reads like a narrative. It's not exactly a light read, but the strong narrative aspects make it a very compelling read.

What does Jonathan Davis bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Davis narration is very clear with perfect pronunciation of works in other languages (well, as far as I can tell). His pace is great and his emphasis of works in sentences actually helps in understanding what Fukuyama is saying.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

Fukuyam's insight of the pre-conditions for a modern liberal capitalist state is convincing and based not just on his historical research, but a solid socio-political philosophy as well.

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Sam Lipscombe on 11-30-14

Interesting political narative

What did you like most about The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution?

The progression of the story from early political history to the french revolution was captivating, Fukuyama explains the development of nations and their political structures incredibly well.

What other book might you compare The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution to, and why?

For me this book shines a light on political systems that I had previously not given much thought. I would struggle to compare to anything else I have read/listened to.

Have you listened to any of Jonathan Davis’s other performances? How does this one compare?

It was well spoken and engaging in its performance. I listened to it on my commute into work and it kept me captivated throughout.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

An insight into political systems that you may not have previously considered.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Anthony on 12-08-13

Weighty, serious but at times tedious

Valuable wide-ranging and erudite introduction to the origins of political organisation and the emergence of the state, the rule of law and formally established governance systems. Well researched and referenced with examples and insights from China and India, the Arab world and Ottoman Empire, and Europe. This is at times contrasted with other societies such as in the Pacific which have not developed the same systems of governance and are still very reliant on "wantok" (one-talk - clan connections and patronage). Insightful and interesting with some reference to current issues and debates - but at times long-winded and tedious. One advantage of hard copy is the ability to skip over a chapter in which one has become less engaged - but still to flick through and scan what it covers, read some of the sections but not all, and then perhaps come back when one has fewer distractions or feels the need to go back and appreciate the detail. Of course one can do something like that that with the audiobook - but having a clearer map and outline of the book and the focus and outline of each chapter, plus main headings and sub-headings, would help with navigating a carefully researched and rich book. Perhaps something that Audible and its partner organisations can work on (you can have that advice for free ...). That said I listened for all 23 or so hours and enjoyed much of it including the references to theory, but there were times when I really wanted to get through it and move on... I will, however, look out for Volume 2 which has not yet been published...

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Shane on 05-29-16

Good Synthesis

This book was pretty ambitious as far as topic was concerned. By looking at many different cultures and time periods, it really got down to the core of the common themes of political orders. I really enjoyed how they gave equal time to topics like Indian and Chinese culture, which is usually overlooked in historical/political works.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Andrew on 01-15-18

Engaging and highly enlightening

The book was absolutely wonderful. It opened a huge number of doors of thought and left me with much to think about.

The first 3rd where the author talks at length on China and India was initially quite hard to push through. However push through and you quickly see that this section sets the stage for the truly enlightening conclusions drawn in the later chapters.

Well worth the investment of time

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