From ‘End of History’ Author, a Look at the Beginning and Middle

Historians in the News

Human social behavior has an evolutionary basis. This was the thesis in Edward O. Wilson’s book “Sociobiology” that caused such a stir, even though most evolutionary biologists accept that at least some social behaviors, like altruism, could be favored by natural selection.

In a book to be published in April, “The Origins of Political Order,” Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University presents a sweeping new overview of human social structures throughout history, taking over from where Dr. Wilson’s ambitious synthesis left off....

Dr. Fukuyama, a political scientist, is concerned mostly with the cultural, not biological, aspects of human society. But he explicitly assumes that human social nature is universal and is built around certain evolved behaviors like favoring relatives, reciprocal altruism, creating and following rules, and a propensity for warfare.

Because of this shared human nature, with its biological foundation, “human politics is subject to certain recurring patterns of behavior across time and across cultures,” he writes. It is these worldwide patterns he seeks to describe in an analysis that stretches from prehistoric times to the French Revolution.

Previous attempts to write grand analyses of human development have tended to focus on a single causal explanation, like economics or warfare, or, as with Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel,” on geography. Dr. Fukuyama’s is unusual in that he considers several factors, including warfare, religion, and in particular human social behaviors like favoring kin.

Few people have yet read the book, but it has created a considerable stir in universities where he has talked about it. “You have to be bowled over by the extraordinary breadth of approach,” said Arthur Melzer, a political scientist at Michigan State University who invited Dr. Fukuyama to give lectures on the book. “It’s definitely a magnum opus.”

Dr. Melzer praised Dr. Fukuyama’s view that societies develop politically in several different ways, followed by selection of the more successful, rather than marching along a single road to political development. “It’s the kind of theory situated between the hyper-theory of Marx or Hegel and the thick description that certain anthropologists and historians aim at,” he said....

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