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.

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
 “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 

“A well-written and argued treatise. . . . indispensable reading.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“Provocative and intuitively correct. An endlessly rewarding book.” —Kirkus (starred review)
 
The Narrow Corridor takes us on a fascinating journey, across continents and through human history, to discover the critical ingredient of liberty. In these times, there can be no more important search—nor any more important book.” —George Akerlof, Nobel laureate in economics, 2001
 
“Liberty does not come easily. Many populations suffer from ineffective governments and are stuck in a cage of norms and traditions. Others are subdued by a despotic Leviathan. In this highly original and gratifying fresco, Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson take us on a journey through civilizations across time and space. A remarkable achievement that only they could pull off and that seems destined to repeat the stellar performance of Why Nations Fail.” —Jean Tirole, Toulouse School of Economics, Nobel laureate in economics, 2014
 
“With gripping examples of civilizations that thrived or failed, Acemoglu and Robinson provide an exhilarating analysis of the critical balance needed between state and society. The Narrow Corridor is destined to be the landmark book that maps the future of freedom for any serious policy maker[JA3] [MC4] , scholar, or citizen.” —Erik Brynjolfsson, coauthor of The Second Machine Age
 
“One of the biggest paradoxes of political history is the trend, over the last 10,000 years, away from small tribes and toward the development of the strong centralized states that allow societies of millions to function. But—how can a powerful state be reconciled with liberty for its citizens? This great book provides an answer to this fundamental dilemma. You will find it as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking.” —Jared Diamond, professor of geography at UCLA and Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
 
“How should we view the current challenges facing our democracies? This brilliant, timely book offers a simple, powerful framework for assessing alternative forms of social governance. The analysis is a reminder that it takes vigilance to maintain a proper balance between the state and society—to stay in the ‘narrow corridor’—and avoid falling into either statelessness or [JA5] [MC6] dictatorship.” —Bengt Holmstrom, Nobel laureate in economics, 2016
 
“Two of the world’s best social scientists have written a magisterial book of immense insight and learning, a true tour de force. From its rich historical study of the delicate balance between state and society it draws a chilling conclusion every thinking person should be aware of: Liberty is as rare as it is fragile, wedged uneasily between tyranny and anarchy.” —Joel Mokyr, author of A Culture of Growth
 
“Another outstanding, insightful book by Acemoglu and Robinson on the importance and difficulty of getting and maintaining a successful democratic state. Packed with examples and analysis, it is a pleasure to read.” —Peter Diamond, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2010
 

Praise for Why Nations Fail
 
“Bracing, garrulous, wildly ambitious and ultimately hopeful. It may, in fact, be a bit of a masterpiece.” The Washington Post

Why Nations Fail is a splendid piece of scholarship and a showcase of economic rigor.” —The Wall Street Journal

“A brilliant book.” —Bloomberg
 
“This is an intellectually rich book that develops an important thesis with verve. It should be widely read.” Financial Times

Why Nations Fail is a truly awesome book.” —Steven Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics