Has ever a political writer eaten his own words with so much relish as Francis Fukuyama?

The American academic made his name in 1992 with a short book, The End Of History, and has spent the last 20 years writing about how history started up again. His latest magnum opus covers the evolution of Western political institutions since the French Revolution and suggests, though he never quite says this, that they have an inbuilt tendency to self destruction.

The End Of History was all about the supposed victory of American liberal capitalism and, when he wrote it, Fukuyama was pretty much a New Republican neoliberal. But his triumphalism over the eclipse of communism - his book was written in the shadow of the fall of the Berlin Wall - was short lived. Even before the Iraq War and the financial crash he was sounding storm warnings that the Project for a New American Century was becoming a project for a new American imperialism.

Fukuyama began to look towards the European Union as presenting a possible way forward. At the turn of the century the EU seemed to be creating a liberal democratic economic block, with a commitment to human and civil rights, without creating an imperial state. The crisis of the eurozone has somewhat dampened his enthusiasm for the EU because he is now less kind to Brussels.

Indeed, he seems to regard the ideal state as the small state. He talks of "getting to Denmark" as the destination of human and economic development. He means this metaphorically of course, but he clearly regards the small northern European states as offering many positive advantages over the global superpowers.

Countries such as Denmark are prosperous, stable, democratic and seem to be at peace with themselves without needing a large economic or military footprint across the world. Denmark not only has one of the highest standards of living in the world, it is a beacon of democracy and human rights and comes top of most of the indexes of wellbeing, such as the UN's Human Development Index. Fukuyama doesn't actually say that "small is beautiful" but he makes pretty clear that big isn't.

This is a vast book, which sprawls across centuries and societies, tracing the rise of modern democratic states, but it is really all about America and its failure to build on the moral as well as military hegemony that it established after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He despairs about the immobilism of American democracy, and fears that the checks and balances which used to be such a valuable part of the US constitution have become a recipe for gridlock.

He worries about how sectional interests, with expensive lobbying, have captured the Republic and turned it into what he calls a "neo-patrimonial" state; a "vetocracy" where these interests can use patronage and hard cash to block change. Interestingly, for an erstwhile conservative Fukuyama sees the growing inequality of wealth in America as one of the causes of this corruption of the US constitution.

The neo-patrimonialism is most apparent in the inability of the US to introduce reforms to address the causes of the financial crisis. Not only did the US government bail out the banks, it has actually helped them to become even more "too big to fail". The same handful of Wall Street behemoths continue to dominate the financial system by virtue of their lobbying power.

But Fukuyama isn't into Occupy rallies, and he isn't really in the business of coming up with original ideas about how to deal with this immobilism. His is primarily an academic interest in whether there is an inbuilt tendency of political systems like America's to decay.

He regards the US in the mid 20th century as about as near as we've got to a true liberal democracy, where there was a balance between strong state and rule of law, underpinned by a vigorous system of democratic accountability. But is it being supplanted by less democratic forms?

Inevitably, Fukuyama takes a long look at Chinese state communism and asks whether it may represent a more dynamic and competent state that doesn't rely on Western traditions of democracy. But I suspect Fukuyama is likely to be as disillusioned by China as with the European Union. Chinese communism is facing a banking crisis every bit as vast and destructive as that which followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

China is one vast sub-prime mortgage economy, in which countless billions have been invested in over-valued real estate in order to allow a corrupt bureaucracy to enrich itself. It is also a society which suppresses free speech, imprisons artists and executes people for "economic crimes". I don't think this is ever going to be a model that the West will want to emulate.

No - it is clear that "getting to Denmark" involves, well, being more like Denmark: having a flatter wealth profile, a more active state, a minimal military-industrial complex, high levels of social protection. Small countries, paradoxically, have been able to adapt more rapidly to the challenges of globalisation - though the people of Scotland weren't entirely convinced in the referendum. Perhaps next time.