In his companion to The Origins of the Political Order, the deeply engaged political scientist offers a compelling historical overview of a useful template for the retooling of institutions in the modern state.
Former neoconservative academic Fukuyama (International Studies/Stanford Univ.) is concerned about the functionality of government, specifically what he sees as the current “vetocracy” in the United States, which signals the beginning of political decay. Moving from the French Revolution onward and using myriad examples from Prussia to Nigeria, the author lays out the evolution of three essential political institutions: the state, the rule of law and democratic accountability. Fukuyama is commenting on (and updating) his teacher Samuel P. Huntington’s Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), in which Huntington argued that “before a polity could be democratic, it had to provide basic order”—e.g., the introduction of the Napoleonic Code in France. Fukuyama defines institutions, after Huntington, as “stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior” around which humans act for the greater good. Why have some countries developed stable institutions like public safety, a legal system and national defense while others have not? The author delves into the making of the first stable and effective modern states, notably in Prussia, where Calvinist doctrine infused in leaders a sense of austerity, thrift and intolerance of corruption, and spurred a substantial army and education and taxation systems. Elsewhere, particularly in Greece, Italy and Argentina, where stable institutions should have developed, states were stymied by an absence of social trust and by clientelism, which depends on patronage. Fukuyama also looks at the roles of geography, climate and colonialism. Shaking off patronage-laden bureaucracies, as Britain and America managed to do, is essential to a stable state. In the U.S., Fukuyama decries the creeping “repatrimonialization” in the form of lobbyists and special interest groups.
Systematic, thorough and even hopeful fodder for reform-minded political observers.