Friday, May 13, 2011

Big History: Gray on Fukayama

There's an almost subliminal theme in my From Then to Now about how humans govern themselves and the rules and codes they/we have made to live by over the last 50,000 years.   It's not something pushed hard, there; I'm writing for 12 year olds (and the significant number of adults who prefer history at that reading level, maybe). But the topic continues to percolate with me.

So I've been intrigued by the new book by American big-thinker Francis Fukayama, The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution (it's only volume one of a two-parter) which is precisely about forms of governance throughout history. Not that I'm much of an End of History theorist, but at least someone is struggling with the big question.

In the Literary Review, however, writer John Gray dismisses Fukayama's study as warmed-over Whiggism, more an argument that his preferred form of government is the best and only one than a plausible study of history and its alternatives.  

Update, May 16:  In the Guardian Online, David Runciman is more respectful but not convinced.
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