Francis Fukuyama:

"The Origins of Political Order" (2011)

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Fukuyama provides an erudite study of the source of political institutions. In his view there are three components to the story: the State (the entity that concentrates and deploys power), the Rule of Law (consensus about what the ruler can do) and Accountability (procedural and moral). To start with, he views the state as a struggle against family. Primitive societies were tribal, i.e. the political order was a function of kinship. Biologically speaking, political order originated from a combination of inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism. The state replaced the kin with the citizen. He claims that in this sense the modern state arose first in China during the Qin dynasty (the first one to unify China). After centuries of endless warfare, the importance of the army had increased, which required more taxation, which implied a more efficient bureaucracy, which required competent bureaucrats, which led to the examination system and meritocracy, which displaced nepotism. He doesn't quite elaborate on what was missing in the Roman Republic that was there in Qin China. The rule of law basically constrains the power of the state. He thinks that its origins lie in religion (with the exception of China). Religion in Europe, India and other regions provided a higher source of justice by which even the supreme ruler had to abide. He emphasizes accountability over democracy, and sees democracy as an accident of history, not as a rational consequence of some premises (for example, the constitutional revolt in Hungary failed but the same revolt succeeded later in Britain and yielded the first parliamentary system). The three factors are largely independent. Accountability can come before the state exists.
This is a book about the development of political order. It is not a history of the world, and therefore one cannot expect a full account of all civilizations. However, at the end one is puzzled by many of the conclusions because they don't seem to reflect what we know of the civilizations that Fukuyama neglect. There are many powerful ideas spread all over the book. Not all are fully supported by the facts that he mentiones (and especially by the facts that he does not mention).