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Political Order And Political Decay: From The I...

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalisation of Democracy is a 2014 book by American political scientist Francis Fukuyama. The book follows Fukuyama's 2011 book, The Origins of Political Order, written to shed light on political institutions and their development in different regions.[1]

Political Order and Political Decay: From the I...

Different regions and countries developed these three institutions, if at all, at different times.[2] China, for example, developed a strong state early on, but never fully developed the rule of law or political accountability. India developed institutions akin to the rule of law early in its history, but not strong states. An ideal modern state, as conceived by Fukuyama, must have all three institutions in a delicate balance. Only in certain parts of Europe, in the late 18th century, did all three institutions come together to what we now recognize as a modern liberal democratic state.

Fukuyama describes the early U.S. having a weak state, with goods and offices handed out based on corruption and patrimony,[2] partially because democracy entrenched itself without a strong state with capacity to rule effectively.[3] Before the Pendleton Act of 1883, for example, all political offices were allocated on the basis of patronage.[5]

From the end of the 19th century to the mid-20th century, however, the Progressive Movement and the New Deal transformed the American state and made it much stronger and more effective.[2] Scholars, administrators and politicians advocated for, and eventually built, agencies administered by experts selected on the basis of merit and education instead of political hacks.[5] A workable bureaucracy, tax system and federal infrastructure were products of this transformation.[3]

Fukuyama argues that humans, by biological disposition, are likely to favor friends and family over others, leading to patrimonialism.[6] Successful political order requires institutions that can check and channel these impulses, thereby allowing productivity and the public good.[6] Fukuyama argues that in the modern world, the institutions best accomplish this feat is a strong state coupled with the rule of law and democratic accountability.[6]

In his 1968 book Political Order in Changing Societies, Samuel P. Huntington used the term "political decay" to describe the instability experienced by many newly independent countries after World War II.[5] Political institutions are rules that ensure stability and predictability in human societies, and they also facilitate collection action. However, Huntington explains, sometimes old political institutions do not adapt to new circumstances because of self-interest of insiders, cognitive inertia, or conformism.[5] Chaotic and sometimes violent transitions may then take place.[5] Fukuyama argues that while democracies can theoretically reform through electoral politics, they are also potentially subject to decay when institutions do not adapt.[5]

After tracing how a modern and effective government was developed in the U.S., Fukuyama asserts that it is experiencing political decay.[2] When institutional structures developed from a previous time fail to evolve with societal changes, institutional decline results. It is possible for an effective democratic state to decline, and the dynamics of the U.S. decline are explored in the final section of the book.

In The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama took us from the dawn of mankind to the French and American Revolutions. Here, he picks up the thread again in the second instalment of his definitive account of mankind's emergence as a political animal.

If we want to understand the political systems that dominate and order our lives, we must first address their origins - in our own recent past as well as in the earliest systems of human government. Fukuyama argues that the key to successful government can be reduced to three key elements: a strong state, the rule of law and institutions of democratic accountability.

But toward the end of the nineteenth century, things began to change; the American federal government began to transform. By the mid-twentieth century, it had become an independent, effective and value-driven political actor.

Industrialization had also altered traditional social structures and was a driving force behind social changes. From African-Americans to suffragettes, a host of newly empowered political actors began to shake up the old and corrupt system.

In political science, middle class refers to a measurement of social and educational standing. To illustrate this, think of a poor person with low social standing and a limited educational background who gets a new, better-paying job.

Next, imagine a middle-class person with a university education struggling to find a job. Because of their continued unemployment, they sink to a lower social level. By contrast, this person is much more likely to engage politically and protest their slide into poverty.

Without clear, stable rules, members would have to reestablish behavioral norms at every turn. This would be time-consuming and would invariably lead to conflict. Instead, individuals accept the constraints of institutions in order to benefit from their stability.

Democratic decay is often attributed to the inability of institutions to adapt effectively to rapidly shifting circumstances, especially as new social groups with new political demands rise up and challenge the status quo.

Political development is change over time in political institutions. This is different from shifts in politics or policies: prime ministers, presidents, and legislators may come and go, laws may be modified, but it is the underlying rules by which societies organize themselves that define a political order.

The rule of law has many possible definitions, including simple law and order, property rights and contract enforcement, or the modern Western understanding of human rights, which includes equal rights for women and racial and ethnic minorities. The definition of the rule of law I am using in this book is not tied to a specific substantive understanding of law. Rather, I define it as a set of rules of behavior, reflecting a broad consensus within the society, that is binding on even the most powerful political actors in the society, whether kings, presidents, or prime ministers. If rulers can change the law to suit themselves, the rule of law does not exist, even if those laws are applied uniformly to the rest of society. To be effective, a rule of law usually has to be embodied in a separate judicial institution that can act autonomously from the executive. Rule of law by this definition is not associated with any particular substantive body of law, like those prevailing in the contemporary United States or Europe. Rule of law as a constraint on political power existed in ancient Israel, in India, in the Muslim world, as well as in the Christian West.

The author is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations in the political science department at Columbia University, is the author of Power and Progress: International Politics in Transition (2012).

In my own work on corruption, I argue that state capacity to deliver services is a consequence of institutional quality. This can be shown by measuring particularism of outcomes rather than of procedures (for instance, what share of education funds go to a locality whose head does not belong to the same tribe or party as the minister of education, or what [End Page 173] share of public works contracts go to firms with political connections). But if this is the case, it is quite impossible to improve state capacity except by changing the rules of the game with respect to governance. And that is a political, not a capacity-building, endeavor. This is why the World Bank cannot point to any country in the world where civil-service training was able to achieve significant improvements in state capacity in the absence of political reform. Fukuyama acknowledges that in Europe bureaucratic autonomy, helped along by autocratic monarchs to serve their own needs, came before universal elections. In the United States, where universal elections came first, achieving state autonomy was much harder. In fact, a successful example of this sequence other than the United States is difficult to find.

The second volume of the bestselling landmark work on the history of the modern state Writing in The Wall Street Journal, David Gress called Francis Fukuyama's Origins of Political Order "magisterial in its learning and admirably immodest in its ambition." In The New York Times Book Review, Michael Lind described the book as "a major achievement by one of the leading public intellectuals of our time." And in The Washington Post, Gerard DeGrott exclaimed "this is a book that will be remembered. Bring on volume two." Volume two is finally here, completing the most important work of political thought in at least a generation. Taking up the essential question of how societies develop strong, impersonal, and accountable political institutions, Fukuyama follows the story from the French Revolution to the so-called Arab Spring and the deep dysfunctions of contemporary American politics. He examines the effects of corruption on governance, and why some societies have been successful at rooting it out. He explores the different legacies of colonialism in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and offers a clear-eyed account of why some regions have thrived and developed more quickly than others. And he boldly reckons with the future of democracy in the face of a rising global middle class and entrenched political paralysis in the West. A sweeping, masterful account of the struggle to create a well-functioning modern state, Political Order and Political Decay is destined to be a classic. 041b061a72


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