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Well Beyond the End of History

March 28, 2011

Evan R. Goldstein in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Francis Fukuyama has been accused of many things—triumphalism, utopianism, warmongering—but never a lack of ambition. True to form, his new book, The Origins of Political Order (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), doesn’t limit itself to the whole of human history. Rather, it begins in prehuman times and concludes on the eve of the American and French Revolutions. Along the way, Fukuyama mines the fields of anthropology, archaeology, biology, evolutionary psychology, economics, and, of course, political science and international relations to establish a framework for understanding the evolution of political institutions. And that’s just Volume One. The next installment, not due for several years, will bring the story up to the present. At the center of the project is a fundamental question: Why do some states succeed while others collapse?

“I proposed it as a three-volume work, but the publisher balked,” the author says matter-of-factly. He’s on the phone from his office at Stanford University, where he relocated last year after two decades in Washington, most recently at the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The reasons for the move were largely personal, he says. He had never intended to stay in Washington so long. His arrival, in 1989, coincided with the publication of “The End of History,” an essay—later a book—that rocketed him into the orbit of intellectual celebrity. His argument—that the war of ideas is over, and Western-style liberal democracy has triumphed, “marking the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution”—neatly captured the emerging zeitgeist of the post-cold-war world. [More]

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