Synopses & Reviews
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?
Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?
Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.
Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:
- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More
philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?
Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.
“Iyigun has written a fascinating and detail-rich book on the links between religion, economic growth, and conflict over a broad swath of history. War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God will appeal to scholars in a number of fields, including history, political economy, and religious studies, as well as being of interest to the broader public intrigued by the historical origins of differences in modern-day development.”
"Why have monotheistic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—been so successful compared to other religions? Did the rise of monotheisms increase or tame conflict among societies? What does the spread of the Ottoman Empire have to do with the Protestant Reformation in Europe? What effect did the imperial harem exert on the war-making tendencies of Ottomans? How did the wars between the Ottomans and the Europeans shape religious differences and political institutions in today’s societies? Iyigun’s book provides surprising answers to these questions, weaving unexpected connections among religion, conflict, and prosperity over the long course of European and the Middle Eastern history."
“Challenging many prominent theories of human history, this captivating book shows that competition among the world’s leading monotheistic religions was a more powerful driver of development than competition within them. Cogently argued, insightful, and entertaining throughout, it demonstrates that struggles between Islam and Christianity produced momentous transformations not only in Muslim-governed lands but also in Europe.”
andldquo;The Political Origins of Inequality makes the bold claim that popular thinking on global development is profoundly and fundamentally flawed because many of the economists who have written many of the best sellers have often been shortsighted. This is an important book about big issues, dismissive of facile solutions, it should change the terms of the debate on why the gaps between us are so wide and what we could do about them.andrdquo;
“Iyigun presents a fascinating theory of the political and socioeconomic consequences of monotheism on world economic history. . . . [He] has done more than enough to convince the reader of the important and subtle connections between monotheistic faith, conflict, and long-run outcomes. . . . Monotheism is good for social stability because it permits an ecclesiastical monopoly that can legitimize and constrain rule; monotheistic societies therefore last longer and expand more rapidly; but, they must eventually come into contact with each other, and the importance of the 'one true God' dogma in monotheistic faith — the very element that makes monotheistic polities so successful in the first place — means that they are more likely to come into conflict once in contact.”
Differences among religious communities have motivatedand continue to motivatemany of the deadliest conflicts in human history. But how did political power and organized religion become so thoroughly intertwined? And how have religion and religiously motivated conflicts affected the evolution of societies throughout history, from demographic and sociopolitical change to economic growth?
War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God turns the focus on the big three monotheisms”Judaism, Islam, and Christianityto consider these questions. Chronicling the relatively rapid spread of the Abrahamic religions among the Old World, Murat Iyigun shows that societies that adhered to a monotheistic belief in that era lasted longer, suggesting that monotheism brought some sociopolitical advantages. While the inherent belief in one true god meant that these religious communities had sooner or later to contend with one another, Iyigun shows that differences among them were typically strong enough to trump disagreements within. The book concludes by documenting the long-term repercussions of these dynamics for the organization of societies and their politics in Europe and the Middle East.
Inequality is the defining issue of our time. But it is not just a problem of the rich world. Inequality between rich and poor countries, and rich and poor people the world over, is much greater than within countries like America and Britain. It is the global 1% that now owns fully half the worldandrsquo;s wealthandmdash;the true measure of our age of inequality. Addressing that demands that we look outside economics and beyond our national borders.
In The Political Origins of Inequality, Simon Reid-Henry takes a global perspective to explain how the crisis of welfare state capitalism in the rich world is linked to the wider ongoing condition of global poverty. Rich and poor the world over, he argues, engage in a wider political economy that has been structured over time in such a way as to reproduce a range of institutionalized forms of unfairness that are progressively distorting economies and democratic politics in countries around the world. This limits the ability of the poor to do what they are always counseled to do, to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. But it also undermines the position of the rich among us, creating a world where we are told to value security over freedom and special treatment over universal opportunity.
Inequality, Reid-Henry argues, is a function of the political choices we make, and, drawing on the historical experience of different countries, he shows how it is within our power to address it. At a moment when the future of international development is being set, we need to understand more than ever both why tackling global inequality is necessary and why it is the only way to meet a great many other challenges confronting humanity today, from climate change and food insecurity to economic instability and migration. The problem is not that the world is falling apart. To the contrary, worlds we once thought were separate are colliding. It is our capacity to act in concert that is falling apart. As Reid-Henry shows, it is this that needs restoring most of all.
In Conflict, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God, Murat Iyigun explores how longer-term developments influenced the spread of monotheistic religions and how these trends affected other societies and religions. He explores with the statistical methods of economics the way religions shaped the development of societies and framed the conflicts between and within them. Specifically, he asks why and how political power and organized religion became so swiftly and successfully intertwined, and then examines the role of religion in conflict historically, as well as the sociopolitical, demographic, and economic effects of religiously motivated conflicts. Conflict, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God breaks exciting new ground in our understanding of religion and societies, and the conflicts between them.
About the Author
is the Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. In 2005 he received the John Bates Clark Medal awarded to economists under forty judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.
JAMES A. ROBINSON, a political scientist and an economist, is the David Florence Professor of Government at Harvard University. A world-renowned expert on Latin America and Africa, he has worked in Botswana, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, and South Africa.
Table of Contents
I The Preliminaries
1 Societies, Polities, and Religion
1.1 Faith and Social Order
1.2 Does Theistic Competition Matter?
1.2.1 Social Advantages of Economies of Scale
1.2.2 Personalized Spiritual Exchange
1.2.3 Longer Time Horizons Due to Afterlife
1.3 Monotheisms Rule
II The Rise of Monotheism
2 Empires Strike Back
under One God
2.1 Some Definitions
2.2 Sources and Data
2.3 A Brief History
2.4 Some Generalizations
2.6 Identifying Monotheisms Impact
2.7 Monotheisms Reign Supreme
3 Globalizing Abrahamic Monotheisms
3.4 The Early Contacts
3.4.1 Mohammed and Charlemagne
3.4.2 Holy Crusades
3.4.3 Moorish Spain (al-Andalus)
3.4.4 Medieval Islamic Science
3.5 From Triumph to Confrontation
III Monotheism, Conflict, and Cooperation
4 A Conceptual Framework
4.1 An Outline
4.2 Resources, Conflict, and Territorial Conquests
4.3 Whats Faith Got to Do with It?
5 The Dark Side” Rises
5.1 From Local Tribe to Global Empire
5.1.2 Government and Polity
5.2 Gaza, Islam, and the Ottoman State
5.3 Western Conquests
5.3.1 The Golden Era
6 Ottomans Faith and Protestants Fate
6.1 Charles, Francis, and Ferdinand
6.2 The German Diets, Austria-Hungary, and the Papacy
6.3 Deals with the Infidel
6.5 Data Sources and Definitions
6.6 A Descriptive Look
6.7 Main Findings
6.7.1 Ottoman Wars and Intra-European Violence
6.7.2 Ottomans and the Protestant Reformation
6.8 At the Dawn of an Oasis of Prosperity
7 Those Harem Nights
7.1 Trends in Ottoman Conquests
7.2 The Harem Hierarchy and Genealogical Links
7.4 Main Results
7.6 Mom Knows Best?
7.7 Cultural Identity, Ethnicity, and Religion
IV Pluralism, Coexistence, and Prosperity
8 Culture, Clashes, and Peace
8.1 Ethnicity, Religion, and Conflict
8.2 What the Data Say
8.3 Key Findings
8.4 From Ethno-Religious Battles to Huntington and Beyond
9 Conflict, Political Efficacy, and National Borders
9.1 Conflicts and Institutional Quality
9.2 Caveats, Qualifications, and Channels of Impact
9.3 Borders Are a Manifestation of Conflict, Too
10 Religious Coexistence, Social Peace, and Prosperity
10.1 Is There a Link?
10.2 Individual Effects
10.3 Institutional Effects
10.4 A Comparative-Development Coda
11 Meanwhile, in the Orient
11.1 The Cognitive Dissonance of the Sick Man of Europe
11.2 External Foes and Islamic (Dis)unity
11.3 The Pending Islamic Reformation?