Fukuyama Examines World Order
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 14:02
After Hurricane Sandy cancelled his scheduled visit to Boston College in October, renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama finally made it to Chestnut Hill Tuesday night, narrowly avoiding more meddlesome extreme weather in winter storm Nemo.
Fukuyama, who has authored or edited 22 books on political science, lectured as part of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy’s John Marshall Lectures.
A senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, Fukuyama spoke on the topic of his latest book, The Origins of Political Order, which was published in 2011. The book, the first in a series on political development, lays out the foundation for modern state building from the very beginnings of political order through the French Revolution.
At the heart of his examination of political development, Fukuyama discussed three central components of modern political order. When these elements are integrated, a state can accomplish what Fukuyama calls “getting to Denmark,” referring to that nation’s desirable combination of prosperous, modern, non-corrupt, and democratic characteristics.
The first component is a strong and capable state, or a “legitimate monopoly of force over a defined territory.” This element is absolutely essential to establishing political order, since, without a strong state, effective nation building and democratization cannot occur.
Fukuyama exemplified this idea by pointing to American efforts to turn countries such as Haiti, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo into “Denmarks,” only to discover that we had no idea what we were doing to establish states where order had collapsed.
True rule of law, the second main point in Fukuyama’s outline of political order, “expresses the general consensus of a community about the rules of justice, and it must be binding.”
“If a powerful leader can make up rules as he or she goes along, then it’s not the rule of law,” Fukuyama said.
He also explained how the rule of law arose from organized religion in various regions of the world, from ancient Israel to the Christian West and the Muslim and Hindu worlds. Moral rules espoused by different religions turned into codified laws that were then presided over by institutional hierarchies not controlled by the state.
Using China and Europe as examples, Fukuyama differentiated the development of these two areas through his focus on religion. China, without a transcendental religion, but rather, only ancestor worship, did not have rule of law. This fact, according to Fukuyama, is particularly interesting since China successfully established a state boasting a modern, efficient organization and a centralized, merit-based bureaucracy.
Europe, on the other hand, was strongly influenced in its political development by the autonomy of the Catholic Church. With an internal hierarchy, the Church became an independent political player. In Europe, Fukuyama said, law came first, and was followed by ambitious kings wanting to create centralized, modern states. Their power, though, was limited by preexisting law that served to prevent tyranny as the rulers tried to concentrate power.
The Church was also crucial in breaking nepotistic ties and reducing corruption, two essential factors that lead to Fukuyama’s third component of political order, accountability. Accountability, said Fukuyama, involves a “state taking into account the interests of the whole body of citizens and not just the interests of those ruling the state.”
“A modern state concentrates and uses power and is able to use power to get things done. It can build bridges, infrastructure. It can deliver services such as education and health. It can enforce laws,” Fukuyama said. “Both the rule of law and accountability are limitations of the state, so these are constraints on state power to make sure it is not used arbitrarily.”
Political development is not the only aspect of nation building in general, however. Economic growth, social mobilization, and development of ideas are also crucial dimensions of development that must be considered as well.
For Fukuyama, modern politics is essentially the practice of overcoming powerful forces of human nature. Agreeing with Aristotle in believing “men are political animals,” Fukuyama asserted that, when institutions such as rule of law and accountability break down, people will naturally turn to those closest to them for socialization, bringing dangerous nepotism to the forefront of conversation.
“There was never a period in human history when people were not social by nature,” Fukuyama said. “Friends and family are the forms of human social organization to which people will default in the absence of powerful incentives to behave otherwise.”