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The book gives a rational and somewhat oriental approach.
am 7. November 1998
If you are a post-modern liberal-minded type, swear by the perfectibility of democratic capitalism and put your faith in the healing powers arational phenomena like culture and religion have on our over-busy life then you would like this book. Moreover, if you are a sociologist then you would appreciate the lucidity of thought and tenacity of argument that the author shows when he examines different societies. Even then if you are a leading American political scientist and a best-seller author then you must be Francis Fukuyama himself.
Francis Fukuyama's book comes as a sequel to his magnum opus 'The End of History and The Last Man' which made waves in academic circles. In this book he claimed that after the demise of communism, history had virtually come to a halt - income the free market concepts like de-regulation, liberalization and free competition and all others exeunt.
In his latest book, he adds another ingredient for the making of a successful society - social capital. The author gives the idea of trust. According to him trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behaviour, based on commonly shared norms, on part of other members of that community.
He divides societies on the basis of the quantum of trust that exists therein. China, France, Korea and Italy are low-trust societies whereas Japan, Germany, America are high-trust.
He starts from social set-up and correlates it with the industrial structure a society may evolve for itself, and tells how the former determines the position of a country in the global diversion of labour. Though people may interact through contract lams but if they trust each other the cost may be effectively reduced. Similarly if an economic turmoil hits a country, a socially well knit society may cope with it more hard-nosily. Also a high-trust society is more capable to form large organizations. For instance, the Japanese keiretsu networks help each other out when in distress.
As such he does not make a case for 'cultural determinism' that certain societies are bound to succeed while others to fail and falter. In his own words "there is no necessary trade-off between community and efficiency but those who pay attention to community may indeed become the most efficient of all."
With minor exceptions the book makes an interesting reading, intelligent in content and thought-provocative, indeed a marvelous piece of value-added research.