The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
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A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
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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 to perform in many of today's developing countries―with often disastrous consequences for the rest of the world.
Francis Fukuyama, author of the bestselling 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.
economic classes. The aristocracy, bourgeoisie, and peasantry, while united at earlier times in their history, came to feel little sympathy for one another and did not believe, like their English counterparts, that they constituted parts of a single nation. Each of these classes was in turn internally stratified into a host of self-regarding ranks. Each rank was jealous of its privileges and more concerned to maintain its status relative to the next rank down than to protect the class itself or
the central state to buy the loyalty of individuals.26 The government of the towns in France came to be controlled by a small oligarchy who increasingly came to hold their offices through purchase. They sought office to distinguish themselves from their fellow townsmen; the solidarity of the community was undermined and those outside of the office-holding elite fell into apathy. The impact of political centralization was far reaching, producing the more homogeneous nation that we know today. The
disengaged emperors to let sleeping dogs lie. Repatrimonialization is a recurring phenomenon. The impersonal bureaucratic system set up during the Former Han Dynasty was gradually eroded by aristocratic families who sought to secure privileged places for themselves and their lineages in the central government. These families continued to dominate the Chinese bureaucracy during the Sui and Tang dynasties. Both the Egyptian Mamluks and the Turkish Janissaries undermined the impersonal slave
aristocrats riding chariots. Each chariot required a driver and at least two warriors, and was accompanied by an extensive logistics train of up to seventy soldiers. Driving a chariot and firing from it were difficult skills requiring substantial training and thus suitable as aristocratic occupations.6 Infantry in this period served only as auxiliaries. The transition from chariot to infantry/cavalry warfare took place gradually at the end of the Spring and Autumn period. Chariots were of
rituals in one’s present life and upward-spiraling rebirth (samsara) over the long pull, were the essential ingredients for finding a way out (moksha).”5 The jati system arises out of the concept of karma, or what one does in this life. Occupations have a higher or lower status depending on how close they are to sources of pollution—to the blood, death, dirt, and decay of biological life. Occupations like hide tanner, butcher, barber, sweeper, midwife, or dealing with the disposal of dead