Francis Fukuyama

In The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, his latest book, Professor Fukuyama takes risks – encounters with historians can be confrontational if one is not an expert in their specialized domain. However, the risk is worthwhile because we learn how understanding the origins of political order is necessary for any politician who wishes to improve their democracy – or at least to not destroy it. From national fiscal policies to American, European or global governance and challenges, Francis Fukuyama brings his fresh and invigorating view to our difficulties in coping with the biorhythm of political order.

How do people react to your new book?

The initial reviews in the United States and in Britain have been pretty positive. As time passes, more academics and other specialists look at it in a little more depth. No doubt there are mistakes in various parts of the book so I expect there will probably be more criticism later! What I am really curious about is the Chinese reaction, because it is going to be published in China. In a way, the Chinese have lost touch with their own past, so I am very curious to see how they react to my interpretation of their history. 

Political order is at the center of your latest book. How does the concept of global governance fit in? 

As you know, the political system of the world is based on the sovereignty of Nation-States. But we also live in a world that is deeply interconnected, not just economically but politically, through communications and the movement of people. This interconnectedness creates the requirement for cooperation, but the geographical range extends well beyond national borders; it reaches areas where the sovereign Nation-State is not capable of dealing with many of the issues arising. This is where global governance comes in. It describes the political structures that deal with those cross border issues, and, increasingly, I think these structures are not necessarily the ones that are set up by States. There are formal structures like the UN, the WTO, but in reality a lot of global governance needs to be accomplished by other non-governmental organizations that can operate across borders.

You take a historical viewpoint. Looking back into the past, we can see small powers becoming part of larger powers. In the same trend today, we are in the process of becoming part of an even bigger global power. Why aren’t people more concerned with the idea of global governance? The Americans distrust even the word global. What’s wrong with the idea?

I think there are multiple reasons for this lack of concern. There is a saying in the US that goes, “All politics are local,” which suggests that people only really care about their neighborhood, their city and the things going on close to them. When you talk about an abstraction like global governance, it doesn’t really affect the vast majority of people. There is a certain class, cosmopolitan types who travel and deal internationally who worry about these things, but not the bulk of the population. In normative terms there is also a problem because, while we understand pretty much how to create legitimate institutions on a national level – with rules of law and democratically accountable governments – we have not yet figured out how to do that on an international level. De facto cooperation between governments amounts to some form of global governance, but we do not yet have the equivalent of a democratic nation at world level, so that is another obstacle to global governance. Certainly, part of the reason why Americans tend to be distrustful of international organizations is because democratic accountability is so often questionable.

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By Jean-Christophe Nothias

(Photos © Rita Scaglia/The Global Journal)