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Political Order and Political Decay

From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

By Francis Fukuyama
12-minute read
Audio available
Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy  by Francis Fukuyama

Political Order and Political Decay (2014) contrasts the history of democracy in America with its current condition to reveal the fundamental flaws of our modern democracy. From a declining middle class to selfish lobbyists and unadaptable institutions, these blinks explain just a few sources of political decay in the United States.

  • Anyone curious as to how the American political system has developed over time
  • American voters interested in the underlying problems with their government
  • Political science students seeking an introduction to the more complex aspects of democracies

Francis Fukuyama is an American political scientist, best known for his seminal text The End of History and the Last Man, as well as several other books including The Origins of Political Order and America at the Crossroads. He has taught at both Johns Hopkins University and George Mason University, and is currently the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Institute for International Studies.

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Political Order and Political Decay

From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy

By Francis Fukuyama
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy  by Francis Fukuyama
Synopsis

Political Order and Political Decay (2014) contrasts the history of democracy in America with its current condition to reveal the fundamental flaws of our modern democracy. From a declining middle class to selfish lobbyists and unadaptable institutions, these blinks explain just a few sources of political decay in the United States.

Key idea 1 of 7

Democracy is the cornerstone of American politics.

The word democracy often gets thrown around, whether in political discussions, philosophical debates or cultural criticisms. It’s also the central theme of these blinks, so let's put the concept of democracy into context before going any further.

Simply put, democracy is a government for the people, by the people. In 1789, the US Constitution brought together democratic ideals of equality and fair representation in a radical way.

Unfortunately, the values embedded in the Constitution were ignored for much of the country’s early history, and the United States had a weak and deeply corrupt political system right up until the nineteenth century. Goods and services were bought and sold in exchange for political alliances and, unsurprisingly, it was the rich and influential who wielded the most political power.

But toward the end of the nineteenth century, things began to change; the American federal government began to transform. By the mid-twentieth century, it had become an independent, effective and value-driven political actor.

This transformation began with the Progressive movement, led by politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt, who broke up big business conglomerates. This work was pushed along by the politics of the New Deal, which provided US citizens with healthcare and a general pension.

Industrialization had also altered traditional social structures and was a driving force behind social changes. From African-Americans to suffragettes, a host of newly empowered political actors began to shake up the old and corrupt system.

By 1989, it looked like democracy was on top. The author, in his seminal text The End of History, argued that the fall of Communism marked democracy’s triumph, and its global expansion was the inevitable path that the future would take.

In fact, the number of democracies across the globe increased to nearly 120 in 2010 from just 35 in 1970; that’s around 60 percent of the world’s countries. But as democracy spread, it encountered its fair share of challenges along the way – and this is even true of democracy in the United States. But before we dig deeper into these issues, let’s learn about what makes a democracy work.

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