We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
 >   > 
Why Nations Fail Audiobook

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?
Regular Price:$33.60
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Publisher's Summary

Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions - with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on 15 years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

  • China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
  • Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
  • What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2012 Daron Acemoglu (P)2012 Random House

What the Critics Say

"Why Nations Fail is a truly awesome book. Acemoglu and Robinson tackle one of the most important problems in the social sciences - a question that has bedeviled leading thinkers for centuries - and offer an answer that is brilliant in its simplicity and power. A wonderfully readable mix of history, political science, and economics, this book will change the way we think about economic development. Why Nations Fail is a must-read book." (Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics)

"You will have three reasons to love this book: It’s about national income differences within the modern world, perhaps the biggest problem facing the world today. It’s peppered with fascinating stories that will make you a spellbinder at cocktail parties - such as why Botswana is prospering and Sierra Leone isn’t. And it’s a great read. Like me, you may succumb to reading it in one go, and then you may come back to it again and again." (Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the best sellers Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse)

"A compelling and highly readable book. And [the] conclusion is a cheering one: The authoritarian ‘extractive’ institutions like the ones that drive growth in China today are bound to run out of steam. Without the inclusive institutions that first evolved in the West, sustainable growth is impossible, because only a truly free society can foster genuine innovation and the creative destruction that is its corollary." (Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (876 )
5 star
 (456)
4 star
 (263)
3 star
 (123)
2 star
 (19)
1 star
 (15)
Overall
4.3 (717 )
5 star
 (380)
4 star
 (221)
3 star
 (87)
2 star
 (19)
1 star
 (10)
Story
4.3 (717 )
5 star
 (376)
4 star
 (241)
3 star
 (70)
2 star
 (15)
1 star
 (15)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Nater662 03-04-15
    Nater662 03-04-15 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    11
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Must Read "

    Every Econ or PoliSci student should read this book. They present their theory in great detail.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anja Schmidt Denmark 02-08-15
    Anja Schmidt Denmark 02-08-15 Member Since 2006

    k11923

    HELPFUL VOTES
    32
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    96
    73
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great analysis"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Why Nations Fail to be better than the print version?

    Perhaps.


    Any additional comments?

    I think, this book comes around to a very likely conclusion.
    It effectively analyses why many other suggestions about this may be wrong. Very enligthening and highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ramiro E. Prudencio 11-05-14 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A big book with big ideas - loved it"
    Where does Why Nations Fail rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    For anyone who is curious about why wealth and advancement takes place in some countries, while fails to do so in others. The book takes a historic view of economic and political development, contrasts all corners of the globe, and provides rich context. One learns new things and questions long-held assumptions. Critically important reading to understand our world, especially the challenge of raising standards of living for all.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anand Bangalore, India 10-04-14
    Anand Bangalore, India 10-04-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    31
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This may / may not be the book for you.."

    Why nations fail is a fascinating book . I have been intrigued by the distribution of wealth around the world and have been seeking answers. While I picked up jared Diamond's book I dont think I got anywhere close to the answer.

    In my opinion this book nails the reason for economic disparity. The key words are pluralism, inclusive, economic, political systems.

    While this book nails it; it may not be the right book for you. The authors take several examples and go through each one of them in excruciating details. Now if history is your cup of team then sure you would enjoy this book; else the key messages of inclusive political and economical institutions are repeated throughout the remainder of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    julian washington, DC, United States 03-07-14
    julian washington, DC, United States 03-07-14 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    7
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Astonishing Read. Loved it."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    One of the best books I've read in years. If you liked Guns, Germs, Steel... you will love this sweeping look at economic history. Enlightening and extremely thought provoking, punctuated by fascinating examples of why nations fail and succeed from all points in human history and across all continents.


    What other book might you compare Why Nations Fail to and why?

    Guns, Germs, Steel. Rational Optimist. Ascent of Money.


    Which character – as performed by Dan Woren – was your favorite?

    Well narrated. Great reader.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ted Menifee, CA, United States 02-27-14
    Ted Menifee, CA, United States 02-27-14 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    96
    9
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Why some countries are prosperous but most are not"

    I have traveled since my youth and have speculated for many years about the reasons that we (USA) have it all and most of the world has so little. Everyone seems to have a ready explanation- tropical diseases, cultural deficiencies, native flora and fauna unsuitable for domestication, environmental devastation, or exploitation of the poor countries by the wealthy ones. Although some of these factors certainly play a role, there are counter-examples that disarm them all in in many cases. I am convinced that this book has an explanation that stands up in just about every case. Further, it is an explanation that squares with evidence readily observable during one's own travel. Although the explanation offered here is generalized and must by qualified for each specific case, I can enthusiastically recommend the book as a thoughtful overview of this important question.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Seattle, WA, United States 01-29-14
    Paul Seattle, WA, United States 01-29-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The foundations of nationhood - exposed!"
    Where does Why Nations Fail rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is my top book - ever. I'm an immigrant to the US and read one book a week, and over 30 years that's a lot of books. I'm not sure that this book will be so compelling for US born Americans - but it certainly could be. Comprehensive and complete. Maybe a little long and disjointed for some listeners - but not for me. I loved every moment! Go Brazil!


    What other book might you compare Why Nations Fail to and why?

    Perhaps "The man who loved China"... or "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" - both of which explored sweeping changes throughout history. This book is more though - it exposes the interweaving social systems that cause history to unfold as it does


    What does Dan Woren bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Dan is a non obtrusive narrator. A master of the craft.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. Too many sections and stories to savor and digest.


    Any additional comments?

    I have 3 teenagers - and these 2 landmark books - "Why Nations Fail" and "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture" would be my first 2 additions to their "education". I know better than to suggest them though (the education of parents through experience :)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Haifaa Culver City, CA, United States 09-27-13
    Haifaa Culver City, CA, United States 09-27-13 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thinking Book"
    What did you love best about Why Nations Fail?

    I like to listen on what makes nations work. This book covers that subject from an economic perspective.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David United States 08-10-13
    David United States 08-10-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Explanations team-up with Atlas Shrugs"
    What did you love best about Why Nations Fail?

    Great insight based upon historical examples. Explains what no one else (to my knowledge) has even attempted. It is a "Politically Correct" explanation of the incredible failures of countries and their stagnation over centuries and millenia. It does NOT put a feel-good "liberal" slant on the clear facts of history. A very long book that flows through history!


    What did you like best about this story?

    Very encompassing in that it covers all civilizations and eras. Does not compromise the facts and principles presented. I kept expecting a "surrender" for Mao, Chavez, Liberals, Socialists, Democrats, etc., The authors stuck to principles without pulling punches, or compromising, and did it very professionally without degrading the idiots and marauders of history or their present day acolytes.


    What about Dan Woren’s performance did you like?

    Pace, understanding ... no mistakes


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The Preceding History that Led to Atlas Shrugged


    Any additional comments?

    Outstanding effort of time and intellect of the authors is GREATLY APPRECIATED!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Praha 518, Czech Republic 06-01-13
    Martin Praha 518, Czech Republic 06-01-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    39
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The West was lucky"

    The book explains in a very interesting way why it is so difficult to change the course of history of a society or country. It explains how the West was lucky to break free from the standard of history - oppressive and exploitative regimes. And tells you that you should not expect that an authoritative place will change for the just because there was a popular revolution or successful invasion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Judy Corstjens
    4/29/13
    Overall
    "History made science"

    Breathtaking sweep across time and geography, flying along on the coat-tails of a theory that is so intuitively acceptable that it almost makes you say 'duh'. A society's institutions, extractive (bad) or inclusive (good) explain the wealth of the society and the health and happiness of the common man (and, if you are really lucky, woman). I hated history at school because it didn't explain: just one damn thing after another. This does, right up to the end where they use their theory to predict the future success of current societies. It explains why 'state building' (e.g. in Afgahanistan) is such a challenge. The UK (a pioneer in modern state building) got properly started on the process in 1215, brought in universal education in about 1890 and gave women the vote in 1928. Mind expanding book.

    26 of 27 people found this review helpful
  • julien
    county wicklow, Ireland
    3/28/13
    Overall
    "unconvincing"

    the authors repeat the same argument over and over, stretching vast amounts of historical examples to fit it's frame.



    The reflexion is weak and unconvincing, thus the authors resort to an aggressive and patronizing rhetoric to dismiss other theories regarding the disparity between nations. They seem particularly threatened by Jared Diamonds Gun, Germ and Steal, and rightly so.



    Although they would have us believe that we are responsible for our own misery or prosperity because of the institutions we live by, they then admit that there is no reason for one set of institutions to appear in one place rather than another, their explanation being a parallel between their theory and evolution, small institutional differences brought forward by crisis.



    there is no proper causal description, at best a messy pile of historical examples correlated with economic development. Whatever argument worth mentioning could have been said in a few paragraphs



    the fact that the authors are so pleased with themselves render the all experience rather unbearable.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Patrick
    Warrington, United Kingdom
    5/5/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brillianr explanation of the World we see today!"

    Why Nations Fail is one of the most thought provoking books I've ever listened to.

    This book explains in detail the reasons why we see the world as it is today. British, and in particular English creativity and entrepreneurism are at the heart of the story and describes how the actions of those people who wrestled power away from English elite society in the 17th century changed the face of the world for ever.

    Well worth a read if you want to know why the USA succeeded to become the most powerful country in the world and didn't end up as just another failed state.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Petros
    3/2/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting only as a history book"

    Interesting only as a history book. The assumptions of the writers are in most cases based on an one sided interpretation of historical events and they are missing some very obvious points.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • M
    Wakefield, United Kingdom
    9/25/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Repetitive, but interesting."

    As has been said - repetitively - by other reviewers, this is a very repetitive book. And not just thematically. If you removed the words "inclusive", "extractive", "institutions", "glorious revolution of 1688" and ”creative destruction" the book would be about 9 hours shorter. It's still quite interesting (especially when they zoom in on specific histories, like with Botswana, Uzbekistan and Brazil, about which I knew nothing) and I kept going to the end, but the Grand Theory being espoused doesn't seem all that remarkable, unfortunately. (It can be summarised as: If your public institutions are strong enough to stop the gangsters from getting in charge, you're probably going to be okay, if not, you're screwed.) So, not bad, but not brilliant either. (Did I mention it's repetitive?")

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • John Owen Byrne
    London
    1/28/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great companion to Diamond's work"

    This is a fantastic contrast to Jared Diamond's work on the origins of poverty. This should be required reading for anyone interested in the real sources of inequality. There is a slight danger in the book where anything that happens which is not consistent with the overall thesis becomes a 'contingency' of history. That said, the arguments are convincing and beautifully told.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • It's Me!
    3/18/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Very Insightful Book"
    Any additional comments?

    The book has to offer some very solid insights into why nations fail and how the present world has taken this shape over the last five centuries. Theory is very sound. It has great lessons for the policy makers and politicians of underdeveloped countries BUT they won’t take these lessons, as they are busy in “creative destruction”.
    Despite being a very good theory the book has been presented in less than perfect way. Repetitive arguments and examples make it quite boring listen at times. A couple of times I seriously thought of quitting as every argument was becoming too obvious and predictable. I think the authors should seriously take some time and try to cut at least 30%-40% off the book.
    Narration has been very good.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • RW MEAKIN
    Sheffield, UK
    12/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant book"
    What made the experience of listening to Why Nations Fail the most enjoyable?

    Fascinating at every turn, this book is essential for anyone seeking an understanding of the global economy and its historical context.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • DaveW
    7/21/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Thought provoking and lots of interesting history"
    If you could sum up Why Nations Fail in three words, what would they be?

    The core idea is brilliant.
    The examples from world history are fascinating.
    The discussion of past theories on the subject are thought provoking.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Why Nations Fail?

    When in the UK the elites were whigs and Tories, they actually decided to live by the rule 'of' law. This was because of the history in regard of the the fact that the ECW and glorious revolution were revolutions against absolutism, as opposed to just another elite. It was also because of the fact that there were now many more paws in government, so it was harder for the Whigs not to just become another set of elites.


    Which character – as performed by Dan Woren – was your favourite?

    N/A


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    It might help if the reader knew the basics of English history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • PJC
    Reading, UK
    7/12/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Oversimplifying"

    It is a truism that "for every complex question there is a simple answer, and it's wrong". The authors attempt to reduce nearly all of social and political history to a single proposition about whether societies develop inclusive or extractive institutions. While I've no doubt this is a significant factor, I doubt very much that it is the only one, and I suspect it is not even the most important. As other reviewers have noted, the text is rather laboured and repetitive, and would benefit from some redaction.

    I would recommend Niall Ferguson's Civilisation instead. It bears comparison because it is also aiming to explain why some nations have been more successful than others. It is similarly somewhat simplifying and selective, but Ferguson identifies six separate factors, which is surely much more plausible than one. It is also more lively and interesting to listen to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.