From the authors of the international bestseller 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. In Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson argued that countries rise and fall based not on culture, geography, or chance, but on the power of their institutions. In their new book, they build a new theory about liberty and how to achieve it, drawing a wealth of evidence from both current affairs and disparate threads of world history. 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, arrived at by a process of ´´enlightenment.´´ This static view is a fantasy, the authors argue. In reality, the corridor to liberty is narrow and stays open only via a fundamental and incessant struggle between state and society: The authors look to the American Civil Rights Movement, Europe´s early and recent history , the Zapotec civilization circa 500 BCE, and Lagos´s efforts to uproot corruption and institute government accountability to illustrate what it takes to get and stay in the corridor. But they also examine Chinese imperial history, colonialism in the Pacific, India´s caste system, Saudi Arabia´s suffocating cage of norms, and the ´´Paper Leviathan´´ of many Latin American and African nations to show how countries can drift away from it, and explain the feedback loops that make liberty harder to achieve. 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.
´A must-read. Acemoglu and Robinson are intellectual heavyweights of the first rank . . . erudite and fascinating´ Paul Collier, Guardian , on Why Nations Fail 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. ´An intellectually rich book that develops an important thesis with verve´ Martin Wolf, Financial Times , on Why Nations Fail
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