cover image Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity

Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity

Francis Fukuyama. Free Press, $25 (457pp) ISBN 978-0-02-910976-2

In his acclaimed The End of History and the Last Man, Rand Corporation analyst Fukuyama argued that capitalist democracy is the ultimate goal of history, the highest form of socioeconomic organization. His audacious premise in this provocative new study is that the degree of trust and social cohesion in a particular society greatly influences that nation's economic well-being and global competitiveness. France, Italy, South Korea and China, in his schema, are family-oriented societies with relatively low levels of trust among strangers. In such countries, he maintains, state intervention is often the only way to build large-scale industries, and inefficient public administration, political corruption and fragmented party systems are common. By contrast, Germany and Japan, superpowers marked by a highly developed sense of societal trust and communal solidarity, readily developed large-scale enterprises and professional management. In the United States, Fukuyama maintains, the upsurge of individualism at the expense of community--combined with rising crime and litigation, the breakdown of families and the decline of neighborhoods, clubs, associations--weakens our overall global competitiveness and augurs a more intrusive government to regulate social relations. Fukuyama's bold attempt to link cultural values to economic performance is bound to stir controversy. (Aug.)