The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution Themes

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The Role of Religion in Political Development

Fukuyama quotes Karl Marx, who once said that religion was the "opiate of the masses," meaning that it was something created intentionally to distract and subdue people so their political leaders might better take advantage of them. Fukuyama disagrees strongly with this characterization of religion. He argues that religion has played a crucial role in the social and political development of civilizations.

One of the earliest forms of religion addressed by Fukuyama is ancestor worship, a fairly primitive and personal form of religious observance. Ancestor worship, he argues, has the effect of strengthening a feeling of kinship among a group of people who might only be distantly related. These kinship bonds are what allow tribes to organize into larger groups, he claims, and can develop into a patrimonial state such as existed in parts of early China. Ancestor worship also involves the...

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