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 citizens.
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.
In “The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution,” recently published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, Francis Fukuyama, author of the bestselling “The End of History and the Last Man,” provides a sweeping account of how today’s basic political institutions developed.
The first of a major two-volume work 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 a 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 provocative work that offers fresh insights on the origins of democratic societies and raises essential questions about the nature of politics.
Fukuyama is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), resident in FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. He has written widely on issues relating to questions concerning democratization and international political economy.
“The End of History and the Last Man” was published by Free Press in 1992 and has appeared in over 20 foreign editions. His most recent books are “America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy” and “Falling Behind: Explaining the Development Gap between Latin America and the United States.”
Fukuyama received his B.A. from Cornell University in classics, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in political science. He was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation from 1979-1980, then again from 1983-89 and 1995-96.
In 1981-82 and 1989 he was a member of the policy planning staff of the U.S. Department of State, the first time as a regular member specializing in Middle East affairs, and then as deputy director for European political-military affairs. In 1981-82 he was also a member of the U.S. delegation to the Egyptian-Israeli talks on Palestinian autonomy.
From 1996-2000 Fukuyama was Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, and from 2001-2010 he was Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He served as a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001-2004.
Fukuyama chairs the editorial board of The American Interest, which he helped to found in 2005. He holds honorary doctorates from Connecticut College, Doane College, Doshisha University, and Kansai University. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Rand Corporation, the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, and the advisory boards of the Journal of Democracy, the Inter-American Dialogue, and The New America Foundation.
He is married to Laura Holmgren and has three children.