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Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty [Hardcover]

Daron Acemoglu , James A. Robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Mar 2012
Now shortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2012.Why are some nations more prosperous than others? Why Nations Fail sets out to answer this question, with a compelling and elegantly argued new theory: that it is not down to climate, geography or culture, but because of institutions. Drawing on an extraordinary range of contemporary and historical examples, from ancient Rome through the Tudors to modern-day China, leading academics Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson show that to invest and prosper, people need to know that if they work hard, they can make money and actually keep it - and this means sound institutions that allow virtuous circles of innovation, expansion and peace.Based on fifteen years of research, and answering the competing arguments of authors ranging from Max Weber to Jeffrey Sachs and Jared Diamond, Acemoglu and Robinson step boldly into the territory of Francis Fukuyama and Ian Morris. They blend economics, politics, history and current affairs to provide a new, powerful and persuasive way of understanding wealth and poverty. They offer a pragmatic basis for the hope that at 'critical junctures' in history, those mired in poverty can be placed on the path to prosperity - with important consequences for our views on everything from the role of aid to the future of China.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (8 Mar 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846684293
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846684296
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'Compelling and highly readable' --Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money

'Brilliant and uplifting ... Acemoglu and Robinson lay out a convincing theory of almost everything to do with economic development' --Simon Johnson, MIT Sloan

`Important and insightful ... not to be missed' --Peter Diamond, Nobel Laureate in Economics 2010

'So good in so many ways that I despair of listing them all. It is an excellent book' --Charles C. Mann, author of 1491 and 1493

'Truly awesome ... will change the way we think about economic development ... a must read book' --Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics

'[A] major contribution ... a study of great vitality on one of the crucial questions in economics and political economy' --Gary S. Becker, Nobel laureate in economics, 1992

'Delightfully readable ... two of the giants of contemporary social science bring us an inspiring and important message' --Ian Morris, Stanford University, author of Why the West Rules - For Now

'Highly original ... Those who pick this book up and start reading will have trouble putting it down' --Michael Spence

'This highly accessible book provides welcome insight to specialists and general readers alike' --Francis Fukuyama

'Remarkable ... a must-read' --Steve Pincus, Yale University

'Fascinating ... Somehow [Acemoglu and Robinson] can generate both excitement and reflection' --Robert Solow, Nobel Laureate in Economics

'Why Nations Fail is a splendid piece of scholarship and a showcase of economic rigor' --Wall Street Journal Europe

'An eloquent and powerful statement of the long-run success of democratic capitalism at a time when it is under attack' --Wall Street Journal

`A must-read that makes sense of recent upheavals' --Money Week

'A fascinating bit of scholarship that is laden with lots of interesting historical detail' --Sunday Business Post

Book Description

A provocative new theory of political economy explaining why the world is divided into nations with wildly differing levels of prosperity.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Landmark 14 Dec 2012
By Athan
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The success of this book mirrors the progress of the "inclusive institutions" idea it talks about.

The author wrote about this stuff six years ago but did not capture the imagination of the general public. What Acemoglu does not know about growth is not worth knowing, he's the author of an excellent graduate textbook on the subject. But two transformational events have happened since 2006 that have made his ideas relevant and current: the financial crisis and, by dint of having survived it well, the emergence of China in the public's consciousness as a financial superpower.

My prejudice has always been that, warts and all, our pluralistic, capitalist, free-market system works very well. With an eye on the recent performance of markets and the increasing and often justified perceptions of stagnation and inequality in our western society, however, many people these days argue that there's another way and that China holds many of the answers. This is the book that gives you all the ammunition to demolish that theory. I think that is the secret of its massive success.

But that's a mere bonus, and the theory itself is quite beautiful. Here it is, in ten quick bullet points.

1. You can totally forget about growth if nobody holds the "monopoly on violence." You get places like Somalia, Afghanistan etc.

2. There are two types of politics: inclusive and extractive

3. There are two types of economic institutions: inclusive and extractive

4. Extractive political institutions often don't care at all for growth or innovation, lest a new order arises and the new order challenges these extractive political institutions.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why do I feel so gloomy? 5 July 2013
How dare the authors propose to answer a question that has engaged the finest scholarly minds since the mid-eighteenth century? The title of the book betrays the chutzpah of two of the finest political economists alive - Professors Daron Acemoglu (MIT) and James Robinson (Harvard). Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Max Weber, David Landes, Paul Samuelson, Kenneth Arrow, Jared Diamond, Jeffrey Sachs, Douglas North, Steven Pinker--to name but a few social thinkers--have addressed this question in one form or another. What new insights do Acemoglu and Robinson proffer? These were the questions in my mind after reading a review of Why Nations Fail in The Economist. Despite my initial reservations, I read Why Nations Fail and listened to Robinson's lectures on Youtube. I am glad I did. However, after reading the book, I feel gloomy about the prospects of poor countries like mine (Nigeria).

The authors seek to explain two observations: the cross-country disparity of wealth we see today (say the United States compared to Zimbabwe); and the intra-country process of wealth/poverty creation. Acemoglu and Robinson's main argument is that these two phenomena are best explained by intra-country politics: the interplay of inclusive/extractive political and economic institutions. So what? This may seem banal. Of course, politics matters, one may argue. But do geography, climate, culture and ignorance (of the elite) not matter more? The book tackles these putative causes of poverty. Acemoglu and Robinson refute the geographic, climate, cultural and ignorance theses of poverty. Geography may explain inter-continental differences in natural endowments like as arable land and draught animal species, but it does not explain intra-continental disparities in wealth.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I approached this with hesitation, after reading other reviews. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it - but of course it is a long academic treatise, setting out bags of evidence and potential evidence and a simple central economic thesis for which it argues, at length.

The thesis is a thesis about growth, which the authors see as the test of the success of nations. (Others might think of course, that this isn't just about growth and GDP, but you can see what they have in mind.) Growth is only possible if there is a centralised state. No centralised state, as in Somalia, just means chaos and no prospect of growth. If there is a centralised state, there be what the authors call an 'absolutist' regime where all power is concentrated in the ruler and the ruling elite and there can be growth for a while and of a kind - centrally driven growth, as under Stalin in Russia between 1930 and 1970 as labour was moved from the fields to the cities, or under the Chinese regime today, which has done something to address the need for incentives economically. But such growth will come to an end (and often it doesn't happen at all, because it's against the personal interest of the ruler or ruling elite) - because the essence of ongoing growth is 'creative destruction' the invention of new technologies etc which will throw up a new class of rich people. That's only going to happen in a world in which property rights are secure and there are incentives to innovate and invest. Of course whether that will happen is a matter of history and history is 'contingent' - you can't tell what will happen. The Young Pretender reached Derby in 1745. If he had reached London and regained the throne for the Stuarts, history in England would have been different, and the Industrial Revolution might not have happened.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read and Very Argumentative
I read this And Found It very persuasive on almost all fronts that it argues. As I Belong To Afghanistan, I found many of the reason provided very pertinent to my country. Read more
Published 1 month ago by EnAhmad
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative book about history, politics and economics
The book speaks about a lot of the politics and the economy of many places through History, so in that sense is a very informative book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Leonardo
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
Especially in this day and age . We should all be more interested in economics and power and the abuse of .
Published 2 months ago by anneie
5.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener!
Previous reviews prepared me well for this book. It has a few key messages that are hammered home by repetition. Read more
Published 3 months ago by YB
4.0 out of 5 stars The theory is not a complete explanation but still has rich insight
Why are some countries rich and others poor? Lots of people have lots of different answers and many books have been written to try and answer the question. Read more
Published 3 months ago by F Henwood
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Criticisms
The authors believe that nations succeed when they have pluralist civil society where no one group is able to seize the state machinery and use it to direct the economy to their... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Honky Tonk Woman
5.0 out of 5 stars enlightening book
After recently moving to the UK from Spain, it has helped me to understand why my country is in such a bad state and why the UK offers me many more opportunities to develop myself... Read more
Published 3 months ago by miguel
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good; recommended read
Bought the book last month and it has certainly taught me a lot. At times a bit repetitive I felt as the authors tried hard to drive home the same point but nevertheless overall it... Read more
Published 4 months ago by ForeverUTD
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, uninspiring, establishment economics.
This book is basically an apology for Capitalism. It predicates that successful Nations require the right to own private property, have inclusive political and economic... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Vicforshort
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read!
gives you a good history and makes you think... def worth the purchase... always wondered why other nations are not prosperous?
Published 4 months ago by Shamsur Rahman
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