Francis Fukuyama is one of America's most provocative social
analysts. His much-discussed 1989 essay, "The End of History,"
declared that the collapse of Soviet communism eliminated
conflict as the engine of historical change. The ultimate stage in
human history had been reached. Market capitalism had triumphed, and
democratic values were spreading inexorably across the globe.
Fukuyama, a freethinking neoconservative who teaches public
at George Mason University, has since admitted that liberal
is far from universal and that the dynamics of historical change
remain more problematic than he had earlier assumed. Yet he remains
audacious in his analysis of the social scene.
In "The Great Disruption," he announces that the fractious
individualism spawned during the 1960s is coming to an end - and
Fukuyama contends that beginning in the mid-1960s a wave of
disruptive values washed across Western civilization. Individualism
asserted itself over community needs; personal rights and freedoms
triumphed over familial and social responsibilities. The result was
a "great disruption," a seismic shift in the fragile balance
maintaining social order.
This breakdown, he asserts, occurred in many countries, and can be
statistically demonstrated in trends related to crime, fatherless
children, public trust, and other social activities.
THE GREAT DISRUPTION:
HUMAN NATURE AND THE
By Francis Fukuyama
354 pp., $26
True to the sweeping nature of his argument, Fukuyama marshals an
impressive array of data from over a dozen countries to bolster his
broad thesis. He demonstrates that in the last 50 years, every major
Western democracy has witnessed sharp increases in crime, dramatic
declines in family stability, and the erosion of trust in core
Fukuyama then systematically considers and dismisses as incomplete
the most prominent explanations for this "great disruption" -
poverty and social inequality, the anarchic excesses of the
counterculture, mistaken government welfare policies, the decline of
conventional religious belief.
His own cross-cultural analysis leads him to fasten on two
interrelated factors that have affected developments in all Western
democracies: the emergence of an information-based economy and the
reverberating implications of the birth-control pill. He emphasizes
that the rise of excessive individualism resulted primarily from
technological and economic factors "that are products of the
capitalist economy conservatives celebrate."
By elevating mental work over physical labor, the knowledge
revolution eliminated most of the stable blue-collar jobs upon which
postwar American society was based. It also has thrust millions of
women into the workforce and thereby undermined traditional family
roles by freeing many men from their economic responsibilities. …