- Concrete Examples
People in the West often view political liberty as a state which, once achieved, will remain the status quo. According to economists and best-selling authors James A. Robinson and Daron Acemoglu, however, liberty exists only in the fragile balance between a strong state and a strong society. In The Narrow Corridor, the pair delve into global history to illustrate why democratic institutions will not, in and of themselves, protect against abuse of power. Rather, liberty relies upon an educated citizenry continually and proactively defending its rights against state encroachment.
If it’s been awhile since you took a civics class, this book offers a helpful refresher. The sheer breadth of historical case studies used – from Ancient Sumer to the Swedish response to the Great Depression to the end of apartheid in South Africa to the present-day rise of populism – is impressive and convincing. The authors’ reliance on neologisms like “cage of norms” and “Red Queen effect” may, initially, feel intimidating; but, ultimately, these terms function as a helpful and memorable shorthand. The text provides a sobering assessment of the fragility of liberty, but Robinson and Acemoglu also reassure readers that it is possible to widen the narrow corridor of liberty, or to return to it.
About the Authors
James A. Robinson is a professor of political science and economics at the University of Chicago. His coauthor, Daron Acemoglu, is an economist and professor at MIT.