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In his two-volume blockbuster Fukuyama is looking for an overall pattern in history that, while leaving room for human choice, normally eventuates in democratic government. In The Origins of Political Order (2011), a 600-page door-stopper, he pursued his quest from pre-human primate hierarchies up to the French Revolution. Now we have another 600-page opus, which takes the story up to the present time. There are no surprises in this concluding volume: while it may now be in some difficulties and its ultimate triumph is not predetermined, liberal democracy continues to be the universal destination of humankind. 'The study of "development",' he writes, is 'not just an endless catalog of personalities, events, conflicts, and policies. It necessarily centers around the process by which political institutions emerge, evolve, and eventually decay.'

The telltale word here, and throughout the two volumes, is 'evolve'. For Fukuyama, as for many other modern thinkers, today and in the past, political development is an evolutionary process. What drives this process is never specified; if there is a social equivalent of the natural selection of genetic mutations, we learn no more about its workings from Fukuyama than we did from Karl Marx or Herbert Spencer, who produced similar speculations in the 19th century. It is never explained why political evolution should have any particular end state, nor why the process should involve the convergence of institutions. As it operates among species, evolution shows no such tendency. Drift and diversity, punctuated by extinction, are the normal state of affairs. Why should evolution in society - if there is such a thing - be any different?

Literary Review - John Gray on Francis Fukuyama

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