The Narrow Corridor

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

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'A must-read. Acemoglu and Robinson are intellectual heavyweights of the first rank . . . erudite and fascinating' Paul Collier, Guardian, on Why Nations Fail

In this profoundly important follow up to their global bestseller, Acemoglu and Robinson provide a powerful new framework for looking at countries' development through the way that the state interacts with society.

This conceptualisation - in which any country can be located on a simple diagram and its future predicted - is new and based on decades of their research. The power distribution between state and society affects how peaceful societies are, what types of institutions develop, how much oppression and fear people suffer, how their economies are organized, and how rich they are.

Full of entertaining stories from the past (it starts with the wife of a Nigerian ruler fleeing Abuja with 38 suitcases of cash), Balance of Power sheds light on issues from the present and has practical political ideas for the future.

'An intellectually rich book that develops an important thesis with verve' Martin Wolf, Financial Times, on Why Nations Fail
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Product details

  • Paperback | 576 pages
  • 153 x 234 x 35mm | 672g
  • VIKING
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0241314313
  • 9780241314319
  • 64,330

Review Text

This book is more original and exciting than its predecessor...the highly influential Why Nations Fail Martin Wolf Financial Times
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Review quote

Fantastic...It's [about] the real, constant tension between what does a society want and ... what does the government want ... and you have to find the narrow corridor. And similarly I believe between markets, democracies, and liberal values, we have to find the corridor that works, where there isn't anything out of kilter -- Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft 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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About Daron Acemoglu

Daron Acemoglu (Author)
Daron Acemoglu is the Killian Professor of Economics at MIT and recipient of the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal.

James A. Robinson (Author)
James A. Robinson is an economist and political scientist and a University Professor at the Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago. They are the authors of the international bestseller Why Nations Fail, which won numerous prizes.
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Rating details

505 ratings
4.24 out of 5 stars
5 47% (237)
4 35% (178)
3 14% (72)
2 3% (14)
1 1% (4)
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