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(Original article by Adam Kirsch at The City...)

"Will this book—a 500-page survey of the growth of states “from prehuman times to the French Revolution,” with a promised second volume taking the story up to the present—finally be the one to emancipate Fukuyama from the end of history? The question is justified not simply by the size, scope, and ambition of the project but, above all, by its emphasis on origins. If the end of the Cold War represented the end of history, Fukuyama’s new book starts over at the beginning, with the emergence of the first states out of kin-based tribes more than 4,000 years ago. In the introduction, Fukuyama explains that his purpose in The Origins of Political Order is to offer a new theory of political development, to supersede the one that his mentor Samuel Huntington advanced in his 1968 study Political Order in Changing Societies...

It’s possible that Francis Fukuyama does not take unmixed pleasure in his fame as the author of The End of History and the Last Man. Ever since Fukuyama published that book in 1992—indeed, ever since he published the article on which it was based in The National Interest in 1989—he has been shadowed by the phrase “the end of history.” Since then, he has written five more books on big, complex subjects, ranging from the decline of trust in American society to the future of genetic engineering, and he has participated in countless policy debates. Yet on the cover of his new book, The Origins of Political Order, he once again is identified as “the author of The End of History and the Last Man.”

Will this book—a 500-page survey of the growth of states “from prehuman times to the French Revolution,” with a promised second volume taking the story up to the present—finally be the one to emancipate Fukuyama from the end of history? The question is justified not simply by the size, scope, and ambition of the project but, above all, by its emphasis on origins. If the end of the Cold War represented the end of history, Fukuyama’s new book starts over at the beginning, with the emergence of the first states out of kin-based tribes more than 4,000 years ago. In the introduction, Fukuyama explains that his purpose in The Origins of Political Order is to offer a new theory of political development, to supersede the one that his mentor Samuel Huntington advanced in his 1968 study Political Order in Changing Societies.

The title of The Origins of Political Order seems to promise the back story to this consummation, the arche to history’s telos. This might well sound like a hubristic project, requiring the kind of universal synthesis that few historians since Toynbee and Spengler have attempted (or wanted to attempt); and Fukuyama, of course, is not a historian. If he undertakes, in his new book, to discuss everything from Chinese Legalism to the Indian caste system to French tax farmers, it is not with the pretense of knowing everything about everything. Fukuyama confesses to relying “almost exclusively on secondary sources”—some, as the bibliography shows, rather antiquated. Nor, of course, does even such a wide range of topics come close to exhausting “the origins of political order”: for every civilization that Fukuyama treats, half a dozen go unmentioned. Most strikingly, he has almost nothing to say about the Roman Empire, which since Machiavelli has been the classic case study for thinking about the rise of states.

Still, Fukuyama’s project is quite in the spirit of Hegel, who made clear that the writing of universal history does not require giving an account of everything that has ever happened to mankind. Rather, Hegel explained in the introduction to The Philosophy of History, “The History of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of Freedom; a progress whose development [is] according to the necessity of its nature.” It is this story of progressive enlightenment that the universal historian has to tell..."


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