I wrote up a brief review of Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order for Counter-Currents.
The first part of the book, “Before The State” should be of particular interest to anyone studying tribalism and pre-state societies.
The rest should be of interest to anyone who wants to better understand where modern liberal institutions came from, why they don’t necessarily work everywhere, and why they may not last forever.
Here are six quotes pulled from my own notes on The Origins of Political Order:
“…the natural human propensity to favor family and friends — something I refer to as patrimonialism — constantly reasserts itself in the absence of strong countervailing incentives. Organized groups — most often the rich and powerful — entrench themselves over time and begin demanding privileges from the state. Particularly when a prolonged period of peace and stability gives way to financial and/or military crisis, these entrenched patrimonial groups extend their sway, or else prevent the state from responding adequately.”
On The State of Nature
“The state of nature might be characterized as a state of war, since violence was endemic, but the violence was not perpetrated by individuals so much as by tightly bonded social groups. Human beings do not enter into society and political life as a result of conscious, rational decision. Communal organization comes to them naturally, though the specific ways they cooperate are shaped by environment, ideas, and culture.”
“For the account of the state of nature given by Hobbes, Locke, or Rousseau to be correct, we would have to postulate that in the course of evolving into modern humans, our ape ancestors somehow momentarily lost their social behaviors and emotions, and then evolved them a second time at a somewhat later state in development. It is much more plausible to assume that human beings never existed as isolated individuals, and that social bonding into kin-based groups was part of their behavior from before the time that modern humans existed. Human sociability is not a historical of cultural acquisition, but something hardwired into human nature.”
On Alpha Males
“An alpha male in a chimp colony is not born to that status; like a Big Man in Melanesian society, he has to earn it by building coalitions of supporters. While physical size and strength matter, dominance is ultimately achieved through an ability to cooperate with others.”
On The Struggle for Recognition
“Since human beings organize themselves into social hierarchies, recognition is usually of relative rather than absolute worth. This makes the struggle for recognition fundamentally different from struggles over economic exchange, since the conflict is zero sum rather than positive sum. That is, one person’s recognition can come only at the expense of the dignity of someone else; status can only be relative. In contests over status, there are no win-win situations as in trade.”
On Violence and Social Change
“Societies can get stuck in a dysfunctional institutional equilibrium, in which existing stakeholders can veto necessary institutional change. Sometimes violence or the threat of violence is necessary to break out of the equilibrium.”