THE GREAT DISRUPTION by Francis Fukuyama


Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order
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Technological and economic progress meet social decay in this ambitious book that promises more than it delivers. Part of what makes reading Fukuyama (Public Policy/George Mason Univ.) fun and interesting is his willingness to take on big questions, as he did in The End of History and the Last Man (1992). Here he tackles what he finds to be the epochal transformation of developed societies into a “postindustrial era” where information and knowledge form the basis of economic life. He finds this transformation to be as monumental as the Industrial Revolution, and as disruptive. The dawn of the postindustrial era, roughly since the 1960s, has been accompanied by dramatic increases in crime, family breakups, and public distrust. Why has this occurred, what is the connection between technological change and social upheaval? Fukuyama maintains that technological changes have allowed certain things to occur that would not have otherwise. A post-industrial economy, which needs brains not brawn, has allowed unprecedented numbers of women to enter the workforce. While not necessarily bad in itself, this trend has contributed to the breakdown of families. When this happens, naturally aggressive young men do not have the checks on their actions that a strong family presents, hence the increase in crime. The advent of “the pill” and abortion have allowed men to be sexually more promiscuous and abdicate their communal responsibilities, such as “control[ling] access to women” on the part of younger men. Fukuyama deals with much more, yet what he says returns again and again to family. In the end he is optimistic that families, and hence society, will right themselves, for we are social animals and it is in our nature to reconstitute society into viable and functional forms. He may be correct, but the book ends up being a disingenuous defense of specific values rather than any dispassionate analysis of the interactions of technological and social change. A disappointing effort that, for all its detail, says very little.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84530-X
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999


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