politics & society | September 26, 2019

James Robinson, the Co-Author of Why Nations Fail, Returns with a New Book on the Pursuit of Liberty

Economist James Robinson published the acclaimed Why Nations Fail—an investigation of power, prosperity, and poverty—in collaboration with Daron Acemoglu. Now, the two come together once again for The Narrow Corridor, a book examining the “state, society and the fate of liberty.” 

“Everywhere people are interested in liberty,” James Robinson says, discussing his just-released book The Narrow Corridor. “But they also understand that there are disadvantages to living in a society without states, without hierarchy: it’s hard to cooperate, to provide public goods, to get order.”


So how do we create a centralized authority without cascading out of control? On the one hand there’s China’s example of a state dominating society, Robinson explains, while the other extreme is a country like Yemen or Lebanon, where the society dominates the state.


“In the book, we call the first of those a ‘despotic leviathan,’ and the second an ‘absent leviathan.’ And then in between, you can get this balance, what we call the ‘shackled leviathan,’ which is critical to the emergence of liberal democracy. This is the ‘narrow corridor’ of the book’s title.”

To read more of Robinson’s discussion on the new book, click here.


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