Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity

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Free Press, 1995 - Business & Economics - 457 pages
In "The End of History, " Francis Fukuyama showed that the human historical process had culminated in a universal capitalist and democratic order. The end of the Cold War thus marked the end of ideological politics and the beginning of a struggle for position in the rapidly emerging order of 21st century capitalism. Yet despite the historic convergence of economic and political institutions throughout the world, we still see a great deal of social and cultural turbulence, not only in the West but in the emerging liberal states of Asia and Latin America. Now that Marxist economics and social engineering both have been discredited, Fukuyama asks, what principles should guide us in making our own society more productive and secure?
In "Trust, " a sweeping assessment of the emerging global economic order "after History, " Fukuyama examines a wide range of national cultures in order to divine the hidden principles that make a good and prosperous society, and his findings strongly challenge the orthodoxies of both left and right. Conservative economists believe that only free markets can liberate individual initiative and thereby foster greater prosperity, an assumption that dovetails with the popular myth that America was built by rugged individualists making unfettered "rational" choices. If Marxist economics undervalued the role of individual choice in a market economy, neoclassical goes too far in the other direction, promoting a radical individualism that neglects the moral basis of community and ignores the many "irrational" factors that influence economic behavior.
In fact, economic life is pervaded by culture and depends, Fukuyama maintains, on moral bonds of "social trust."This is the unspoken, unwritten bond between fellow citizens that facilitates transactions, empowers individual creativity, and justifies collective action. In the global struggle for economic predominance that is now upon us -- a struggle in which cultural differences will become the chief determinant of national success -- the social capital represented by trust will be as important as physical capital.
But trust varies greatly from one society to another, and a map of how social capital is distributed around the world yields many surprises. For instance, contrary to the assumptions of the "competitiveness" school, the United States has historically been quite similar to Japan in levels of social trust; and both differ greatly from low-trust Chinese Confucian societies on the one hand, or Latin Catholic societies like France and Italy on the other. Fukuyama argues that only those societies with a high degree of social trust will be able to create the kind of flexible, large-scale business organizations that are needed for successful competition in the emerging global economy.
The greatness of this country, he maintains, was built not on its imagined ethos of individualism but on the cohesiveness of its civil associations and the strength of its communities. But Fukuyama warns that our drift into a more and more extreme rights-centered individualism -- a radical departure from our past communitarian tradition -- holds more peril for the future of America than any competition from abroad.

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User Review  - SadieSForsythe - LibraryThing

This book is huge (just under 500 pages) statistical, and intimidating. But if you have an interest in culture and trust it is a must read. Fukuyama covers a wide variety of nationalities, finding ... Read full review

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User Review  - thcson - LibraryThing

This is a relatively interesting book which seeks a cultural explanation for the prevalence of very large business networks in some countries and the contrasting dominance of isolated family-based ... Read full review


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About the author (1995)

Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama was born October 27, 1952 in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Fukuyama received his Bachelor of Arts degree in classics from Cornell University, where he studied political philosophy under Allan Bloom. He initially pursued graduate studies in comparative literature at Yale University, going to Paris for six months to study under Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida, but became disillusioned and switched to political science at Harvard University. There, he studied with Samuel P. Huntington and Harvey Mansfield, among others. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard for his thesis on Soviet threats to intervene in the Middle East. In 1979, he joined the global policy think tank RAND Corporation. Fukuyama was the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University from 1996 to 2000. Until July 10, 2010, he was the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the International Development Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, located in Washington, D.C. He is now Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow and resident in the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Fukuyama is best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies is largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal democracy after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Fukuyama predicted the eventual global triumph of political and economic liberalism. He has written a number of other books, among them Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity and Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. His latest work The Origins of Political Order: From Prehistoric Times to the French Revolution made Publisher's Weekly Best Seller's List for 2011.

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