James A. Robinson

The Narrow Corridor
  • The Narrow Corridor

  • 'As enjoyable as it is thought-provoking' Jared Diamond

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

    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 or anarchy - and explains how liberty can thrive.

    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 freedom exists, it's a steady state, arrived at by 'enlightenment'. But this static view is a fantasy, the authors argue; rather, the corridor to liberty is narrow and stays open only through a self-reinforcing struggle between state and society - between elites and citizens. Liberty depends on a delicate balance between the two.

    This struggle - which affects peace and prosperity - is incessant, and its outcome not predetermined. As the authors show, contrary to some theories, there is no inevitability to how countries move in and out of the corridor; Europe's political and economic ascendancy, for example, was not guaranteed. Particular historical relationships in each country between state and society affect their political and economic trajectory, and therefore influence how countries respond to events and shocks. So the future is up for grabs.

    With compelling stories from around the world, in history and from today - and with a single framework through which the path of any nation can be understood - this masterpiece helps us in the vital task of understanding the past and present, and analysing the future. For today the road to freedom is becoming more treacherous, endangering the peace and prosperity that depend on it - and the opposite of the narrow corridor to liberty is the road to ruin.


    '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

    'In this highly original and gratifying fresco, Daron Acemoglu and James 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

    '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

    '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

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.