The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order

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9780684845302: The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order

Francis Fukuyama is one of America's most astute and original thinkers, and his books have opened new perspectives on the changing world around us. In The End of History and the Last Man, he was the first to glimpse the emerging shape of the post-Cold War world. In Trust, he analyzed the social factors that create prosperity and explored how they can best be harnessed. Now, in his most provocative and far-reaching book, Fukuyama turns his attention to even more fundamental questions about the nature of modern society. The Great Disruption begins by observing that over the past thirty years, the United States and other developed countries have undergone a profound transformation from industrial to information societies; knowledge has replaced mass production as the basis of wealth, power, and social interaction. At the same time; Western societies have endured increasing levels of crime, massive changes in fertility and family structure, decreasing levels of trust, and the triumph of individualism over community. Just as the Industrial Revolution brought about momentous changes in society's moral values, a similar Great Disruption in our own time has caused profound changes in our social structure. Drawing on the latest sociological data and new theoretical models from fields as diverse as economics and biology, Fukuyama reveals that even though the old order has broken apart, a new social order is already taking shape. Part of human nature, he shows, is the fact that we are all biologically hard wired to forge bonds with one another, creating social cohesion in new and adaptive forms, not only in our neighborhoods but also in our business organizations and family structures. Indeed, he suggests, the Great Disruption of the 1960s and 1970s may be giving way to a Great Reconstruction, as Western society weaves a new fabric of social and moral values appropriate to the changed realities of the postindustrial world. The cycle of disruption and reconstruction is a familiar one in human history, and in pointing us toward the future, Francis Fukuyama challenges our assumptions about society and culture and opens up a new world of possibility. Breathtaking in its scope, The Great Disruption is an indispensable guide for how to think about the millennium about to dawn.

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Review:

Francis Fukuyama cements his reputation as a wide-ranging public intellectual with this big-think book on social order and human nature. Following his earlier successes (The End of History and the Last Man and Trust), Fukuyama argues that civilization is in the midst of a revolution on a par with hunter-gatherers learning how to farm or agricultural societies turning industrial. He finds much to celebrate in this cultural, economic, and technological transformation, but "with all the blessings that flow from a more complex, information-based economy, certain bad things also happened to our social and moral life." Individualism, for example, fuels innovation and prosperity, but has also "corroded virtually all forms of authority and weakened the bonds holding families, neighborhoods, and nations together." Yet this is not a pessimistic book: "Social order, once disrupted, tends to get remade again" because humans are built for life in a civil society governed by moral rules.

We're on the tail end of the "great disruption," says Fukuyama, and signs suggest a coming era of much-needed social reordering. He handles complex ideas from diverse fields with ease (this is certainly the first book whose acknowledgments thank both science fiction novelist Neal Stephenson and social critic James Q. Wilson), and he writes with laser-sharp clarity. Fans of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations will appreciate The Great Disruption, as will just about any reader curious about what the new millennium may bring. This is simply one of the best nonfiction books of 1999. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Francis Fukuyama is the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. He has served as a senior social scientist at the RAND Corporation and as deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Policy Planning Staff, and is the author of The End of History and the Last Man and Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. He lives with his wife and three children in McLean, Virginia.

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