Over 100 people subscribed to our first live webinar to watch a panel of experts discuss The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty, a crucial new big-picture framework by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, the authors of the international bestseller Why Nations Fail.
Professors Emeritus Denis Galligan, Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, and Bogdan Iancu presented their perspectives on the book, praising the rich historical tapestry that the authors create in their analysis of how liberty flourishes in some states but falls to authoritarianism or anarchy in others.
Professor Galligan set out the authors’ central concept – that of liberty – which they define as best achieved through a healthy balance between a strong state and a strong civil society: this balance is the ‘narrow corridor’, a fragile balance that is a challenge to sustain.
Professor Galligan noted that the authors move from an initial concept of negative liberty, by which citizens are free from oppression, to a concept of positive liberty, where true liberty is only possible when citizens have opportunities to improve their lives. He observed that the authors’ sharp distinction between state and society is contradicted by evidence of powerful private interests capturing the state or parts of it, leading him to ask:
Professor Douglas-Scott took up the point that the book doesn’t devote sufficient attention to non-state power, such as the influence of corporations or transnational institutions like the EU, arguing that sections of society are being disenfranchised by the influence of corporate power through political advertising, which disrupts the whole democratic process.
Professor Iancu closed the panel discussion with his thoughts on how the narrow corridor is reflected in the post-Communist transition of Eastern European states, before the panellists took a series of questions from the audience.
Notes of Profs Galligan and Douglas-Scott’s comments are available to download at the links below, and the video can be watched on our Video pages.
The webinar was the first of our live webinars hosted on Zoom, which are all available to attend as free, public online events. Our next webinar is Professor Daniel Smilov’s Populism, Constitutionalism, and the Rule of Law, on Friday 19 June.
Register on our Zoom webinar channel to watch live and put your question to Professor Smilov.