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Publisher's Summary

From the authors of the international best seller, Why Nations Fail, a crucial new big-picture framework that answers the question of how liberty flourishes in some states but falls to authoritarianism or anarchy in others - and explains how it can continue to thrive despite new threats.

Liberty is hardly the "natural" order of things. In most places and at most times, the strong have dominated the weak and human freedom has been quashed by force or by customs and norms. Either states have been too weak to protect individuals from these threats or states have been too strong for people to protect themselves from despotism. Liberty emerges only when a delicate and precarious balance is struck between state and society.

There is a Western myth that political liberty is a durable construct, a steady state, arrived at by a process of "enlightenment". This static view is a fantasy, the authors argue; rather, the corridor to liberty is narrow and stays open only via a fundamental and incessant struggle between state and society. The power of state institutions and the elites that control them has never gone uncontested in a free society. In fact, the capacity to contest them is the definition of liberty. State institutions have to evolve continuously as the nature of conflicts and needs of society change, and thus society's ability to keep state and rulers accountable must intensify in tandem with the capabilities of the state. This struggle between state and society becomes self-reinforcing, inducing both to develop a richer array of capacities just to keep moving forward along the corridor. Yet this struggle also underscores the fragile nature of liberty. It is built on a fragile balance between state and society, between economic, political, and social elites and citizens, between institutions and norms. One side of the balance gets too strong, and, as has often happened in history, liberty begins to wane. Liberty depends on the vigilant mobilization of society. But it also needs state institutions to continuously reinvent themselves in order to meet new economic and social challenges that can close off the corridor to liberty.

Today we are in the midst of a time of wrenching destabilization. We need liberty more than ever, and yet the corridor to liberty is becoming narrower and more treacherous. The danger on the horizon is not "just" the loss of our political freedom, however grim that is in itself; it is also the disintegration of the prosperity and safety that critically depend on liberty. The opposite of the corridor of liberty is the road to ruin.

Includes a bonus PDF of the maps and figures from the book.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

One of the Financial Times' Best Books of 2019

One of Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2019

Shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber Prize

"What explains the rise and fall of democracy and dictatorship?... [Acemoglu and Robinson] offer a provocative framework for analyzing our current moment of democratic crisis.... A powerful starting point for understanding the many perils facing aspirations for democracy and liberty today...helpfully recalibrates our American tendency to collapse debates over freedom into a binary clash between the narrow liberty of ‘free markets’ on the one hand, and the economic and political freedoms provided by social-democratic ‘big government’ on the other.” (The Washington Post

“Crucially and rightly, the book does not see freedom as merely the absence of state oppression.... This book is more original and exciting than its predecessor. It has gone beyond the focus on institutions to one on how a state really works.” (Martin Wolf, Financial Times

“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)

What listeners say about The Narrow Corridor

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Long and Derivative

I read “Why Nations Fail” and loved it. Thought it was unique and innovative. This felt very derivative to that work and the case studies didn’t add much. “Why Nations Fail” really described what the Narrow Corridor is - a good balance between state and the people - and how it helped nations succeed or fail if you were out of that corridor. This seemed to cover more examples to support the work they already had written about.

4 people found this helpful

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Weak methodology

The authors present a theory of societal development. Their work is long on anecdotes, and short on statistics. Therefore, their thesis rests on very thin evidence.

To take one example of their methodological sloppiness, they make a case that India has been held back by the Hindu caste system. Okay, so let's look at Pakistan and Bangladesh, two countries that are culturally similar, but are Muslim, therefore without the Hindu caste system. They should be doing much better than India in terms of economic and political development. But they're not. So is the caste system really at fault? Most authors have identified the "license raj" as holding back India's development. The authors do not even touch on this alternative theory. I get the feeling that the authors are so in love with their theory that it hasn't crossed their minds that they must confront alternative models.

Does their theory have any predictive ability? When you push away the verbiage the answer, to my eye, is no. How nations develop seems to depend very much on chance, and even on the particular individual(s) in charge at a given moment in time.

There are some interesting historical nuggets in this book but as a coherent theory of societal development it is unsatisfying.

About 2/3 of the way through the book completely runs off the rails and becomes a simplistic blather of left-liberal platitudes. For example, the authors rail against the "robber barons" without providing a single instance of their supposed misdeeds. Early in the book the authors cite certain tribal societies that punish successful people, for example, a farmer who obtains a better yield by using better agricultural methods. But they are blind to the fact that their own left-ish ideology is replication of this leveling phenomenon applied to modern societies. Their whirlwind tour of modern American history is so simplistic it would be an embarrassment to a comic strip for children.

1 person found this helpful

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Powerful

The Narrow Corridor provides a simple, but powerful model for thinking about the world. Makes me want to re-read Fujiyama's two books about the origins of power and political order. in a world of increasing closemindedness, and political nostalgia, we need books like these that can open your mind.

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Difficult book to get through.

It was a difficult book to get through but one of the most informative and educational book on the history of governments. I always believed that it was propaganda labeling a particular country communism socialism or capitalism. This book points out why they should not be labeled as such, it explains a whole different way to look at an understand government.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

Excellent book with terrific content. Loving the authors perspective on what moves countries and cultures in and out of the democracy corridor. Excellent historical background on the cultural, political and past governments of many countries around the world. Very interesting discussion and compelling conclusions. I highly recommend this book.

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A great follow up to Why Nations Fail

The book did not disappoint. It was well written and it has been well read here. It gives a new perspective to development economics and politics.

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The Voice of the narrator is extremely dull

While the content of Daron Acemoglu’s book is very interesting and examples of countries that have failed or made progress must be considered very good, and non-English readers also stick well to the ideas in this book, I have to admit I couldn’t listen for more than 40-60 minutes in a row. This is very much due to the reader and I would say that it was not appropriate to read the book completely insensitive (cold). I even wondered if this was artificial intelligence reading this book. This is a very unfortunate situation, because this book is really valuable for understanding both the current economy and politics and global developments, and hopefully for a better future.

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Great book

As good as their first book "Why Nations Fail". This book uses analysis based on research from all different societies to draw some interesting conclusion about the nature of social norms and state power.

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Genius

Genius work and authors. Very enlightening and entertaining. The hard work, brilliance and recommendations of the authors are much appreciated and needed. It may be one of all time best written books

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Good idea but did not enjoy this book

I gained so much insight and perspective from an earlier book on the role of institutions that I plunged in and expected to be delighted. Instead the ‘shackled Leviathan’ the ‘Red Queen’ etc. killed the buzz instantly. Unfortunately it also blunted the power of a lot of ideas. When things would start to get really interesting, they fell back on the use of these terrible terms (and weird concepts) instead of supplying what could have been interesting analysis. Would not recommend.