Synopses & Reviews
Francis Fukuyama famously predicted "the end of history" with the ascendancy of liberal democracy and global capitalism. The topic of his latest book is, therefore, surprising: the building of new nation-states. The end of history was never an automatic procedure, Fukuyama argues, and the well-governed polity was always its necessary precondition. "Weak or failed states are the source of many of the world's most serious problems," he believes. He traces what we know and more often don't know about how to transfer functioning public institutions to developing countries in ways that will leave something of permanent benefit to the citizens of the countries concerned. These are important lessons, especially as the United States wrestles with its responsibilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond.
Fukuyama begins State-Building with an account of the broad importance of "stateness." He rejects the notion that there can be a science of public administration, and discusses the causes of contemporary state weakness. He ends the book with a discussion of the consequences of weak states for international order, and the grounds on which the international community may legitimately intervene to prop them up.
"Since the end of the Cold War (and especially since the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11), the problem of weak, failing, and failed states has grown steadily in importance on the security agendas of the United States and most of the developed world. Concomitantly, international financial institutions, humanitarian organizations, and other NGOs have been struggling to resolve the numerous problems associated with weak and dysfunctional governance structures in states across the globe. In this short but packed volume, Francis Fukuyama addresses a number of critical issues that must be confronted if the developed world is to make any headway in resolving the problem of failing states. First, Fukuyama examines the theoretical literature on the sources of state strength with the intention of discerning the factors that are most susceptible to formalization and hence to transferability across societal or cultural boundaries. Among those factors, institutional design stands out as an important and potentially transferable feature affecting the quality of state function. Yet, Fukuyama argues, there is simply no single, stable set of rules about institutional design that can yield high quality results across different settings. In short, public administration is far more an art than a science. Local factors matter significantly and belie attempts of successful state-building replication. Finally, Fukuyama turns to the matter of international legitimacy and the normative implications of sovereignty violations that externally imposed state-building projects necessarily entail. It is on these issues that Fukuyama's political stripes are shown most clearly, arguing against notions of internationally-based legitimation. State-Building offers a number of intriguing insights and a healthy dose of skepticism that governments and NGOs should consider as political development strategies are designed and implemented." Reviewed by Spencer D. Bakich, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"Fukuyama is a wonderful synthesizer of grand subjects....He pulls this off with minimal resort to jargon, and he pulls the reader along with him. I look forward to more books." Sebastian Mallaby, The Washington Post Book World
"While Fukuyama's ideas will no doubt be much discussed, parts of this book are too technical to appeal to a broad readership." Publishers Weekly
"When Fukuyama grounds his theory in examples, the book can be provocative and original, as when he finds a common thread from the United States' humanitarian interventions in the 1990s to the Bush wars of the last three years..." Scott Shane, Baltimore Sun
"This is a brilliant, sober, insightful look at a difficult issue which happens to be the central issue of our time. For the Bush administration and for its critics, and for leaders and policy-makers across the globe, Francis Fukuyama's analysis should be required reading." Robert Kagan, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Argues that weak states generate large strategic problems and stresses the importance of building new nation-states.
About the Author
Francis Fukuyama is Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of many books, including Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, and The End of History and the Last Man.