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The Narrow Corridor

States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty

Daron Acemoglu James A. Robinson



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03 October 2019
By the authors of the international bestseller Why Nations Fail, based on decades of research, this powerful new big-picture framework explains how some countries develop towards and provide liberty while others fall to despotism, anarchy or asphyxiating norms- and explains how liberty can thrive despite new threats.

Liberty is hardly the 'natural' order of things; usually states have been either too weak to protect individuals or too strong for people to protect themselves from despotism. There is also a happy Western myth that where liberty exists, it's a steady state, arrived at by 'enlightenment'. But liberty emerges only when a delicate and incessant balance is struck between state and society - between elites and citizens. This struggle becomes self-reinforcing, inducing both state and society to develop a richer array of capacities, thus affecting the peacefulness of societies, the success of economies and how people experience their daily lives.

Explaining this new framework through compelling stories from around the world, in history and from today - and through a single diagram on which the development of any state can be plotted - this masterpiece helps us understand the past and present, and analyse the future.
By:   Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson
Imprint:   Viking
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 35mm
Weight:   672g
ISBN:   9780241314319
ISBN 10:   0241314313
Pages:   560
Publication Date:   03 October 2019
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Daron Acemoglu is the Killian Professor of Economics at MIT and recipient of the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal. James A. Robinson is a political scientist and economist and the Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies and University Professor at the University of Chicago. They are the authors of the international bestseller Why Nations Fail, which won numerous prizes.

Reviews for The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty

A work of staggering ambition - aiming to explain why liberty has or has not existed at every moment in time in every geography in the world . . . It is chock full of delightful detours and brilliant nuggets . . . Smart and timely * Newsweek * The coauthors are American economists but The Narrow Corridor, the fruit of two decades' comparative research and argument, is, like their earlier Why Nations Fail, the very reverse of economistic or inhumane number-crunching. They favour institutional analysis, modestly comparing and contrasting their immense good fortune to live in a democratic country with an assertive society and high-capacity state with the desperate fate of the global poor majority. Liberty is a many-headed hydra and it must surely not be allowed to fail against the unicephalous Leviathan of despotism. -- Paul Cartledge, AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture emeritus, University of Cambridge, and author of Democracy: A Life Provocative and intuitively correct. An endlessly rewarding book -- Kirkus (starred review) Two of the world's best social scientists have written a magisterial book of immense insight and learning, a true tour de force. From its rich historical study of the delicate balance between state and society it draws a chilling conclusion every thinking person should be aware of: liberty is as rare as it is fragile, wedged uneasily between tyranny and anarchy -- Joel Mokyr, author of A Culture of Growth This brilliant and insightful book could not be more timely. Across the world countries are wrestling with the tension between state and society. Populism of both Left and Right offers glib and dangerous answers. By contrast, Acemoglu and Robinson show that the narrow corridor to liberty depends on combining a strong capable state with a strong civic society. Not one or the other - both. This is the route to prosperity for all - but it is as they say 'no easy feat' -- Sir Michael Barber, author of How to Run a Government Liberty does not come easily. Many populations suffer from an ineffective state and are stuck in a cage of norms and traditions, of self-appointed chiefs, dispute adjudicators, guardians of souls and husbands turned tyrants. Others are subdued by a despotic Leviathan. In this highly original and gratifying fresco, Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson take us on a journey through civilizations, time and locations. Their narrow corridor depicts the constant and often unstable struggle of society to keep the Leviathan in check and of the Leviathan to weaken the cage of norms. A remarkable achievement that only they could pull off and that seems destined to repeat the stellar performance of Why Nations Fail -- Jean Tirole, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2014 A well-written and argued treatise . . . indispensable reading * Library Journal (starred review) * This is a very ambitious and thought provoking book that analyses many of today's key themes, and cleverly links them to history and evidence of many diverse places around the world -- Lord Jim O'Neill, author of The Growth Map How should we view the current challenges facing our democracies? This brilliant, timely book offers a simple, powerful framework for assessing alternative forms of social governance. The analysis is a reminder that it takes vigilance to maintain a proper balance between the state and society-to stay in the 'narrow corridor'-and avoid falling either into statelessness or dictatorship -- Bengt Holmstrom, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2016 The Narrow Corridor takes us on a fascinating journey, across continents and through human history, to discover the critical ingredient of liberty. It finds that it's up to each of us: that ingredient is our own commitments, as citizens, to support democratic values. In these times, there can be no more important message-nor any more important book -- George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2001 Society and state need each other. Applying a global wealth of historical detail to a simple analytic framework, Acemoglu and Robinson build a powerful argument against the current opposing fashions of totalitarianism and the stateless society -- Sir Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion Another outstanding, insightful book by Acemoglu and Robinson on the importance and difficulty of getting and maintaining a successful democratic state. Packed with examples and analysis, it is a pleasure to read -- Peter Diamond, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2010 One of the biggest paradoxes of political history is the trend, over the last 10,000 years, towards the development of strong centralized states, out of the former bands and tribes of no more than a few hundred people that formerly constituted all human societies. Without such states, it would be impossible for societies of millions to function. But-how can a powerful state be reconciled with liberty for the state's citizens? This great book provides an answer to this fundamental dilemma. You will find it as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking -- Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel This book is more original and exciting than its predecessor...the highly influential Why Nations Fail -- Martin Wolf * Financial Times *

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