image : James A. Robinson

James A. Robinson

James A. Robinson, a political scientist and an economist, is one of 8 current University Professors at University of Chicago. Focused on Latin America and Africa, he is currently conducting research in Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Haiti and in Colombia where he has taught for many years during the summer at the University of the Andes in Bogotá.

The Best 5 Books on James A. Robinson

image Daron Acemoglu

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

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. 
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image James A. Robinson

The Role of Elites in Economic Development (WIDER Studies in Development Economics)

Elites have a disproportionate impact on development outcomes. While a country's endowments constitute the deep determinates of growth, the trajectory they follow is shaped by the actions of elites. But what factors affect whether elites use their influence for individual gain or national welfare? To what extent do they see poverty as a problem? And are their actions today constrained by institutions and norms established in the past? This volume looks at case studies from South Africa to China to seek a better understanding of the dynamics behind how elites decide to engage with economic development. Approaches include economic modelling, social surveys, theoretical analysis, and program evaluation. These different methods explore the relationship between elites and development outcomes from five angles: the participation and reaction of elites to institutional creation and change, how economic changes affect elite formation and circulation, elite perceptions of national welfare, the extent to which state capacity is part of elite self-identity, and how elites interact with non-elites.
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Natural Experiments of History

Some central questions in the natural and social sciences can't be answered by controlled laboratory experiments, often considered to be the hallmark of the scientific method. This impossibility holds for any science concerned with the past. In addition, many manipulative experiments, while possible, would be considered immoral or illegal. One has to devise other methods of observing, describing, and explaining the world.

In the historical disciplines, a fruitful approach has been to use natural experiments or the comparative method. This book consists of eight comparative studies drawn from history, archeology, economics, economic history, geography, and political science. The studies cover a spectrum of approaches, ranging from a non-quantitative narrative style in the early chapters to quantitative statistical analyses in the later chapters. The studies range from a simple two-way comparison of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola, to comparisons of 81 Pacific islands and 233 areas of India. The societies discussed are contemporary ones, literate societies of recent centuries, and non-literate past societies. Geographically, they include the United States, Mexico, Brazil, western Europe, tropical Africa, India, Siberia, Australia, New Zealand, and other Pacific islands.

In an Afterword, the editors discuss how to cope with methodological problems common to these and other natural experiments of history.

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Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy

What forces lead to democracy's creation? Why does it sometimes consolidate only to collapse at other times? Written by two of the foremost authorities on this subject in the world, this volume develops a framework for analyzing the creation and consolidation of democracy. It revolutionizes scholarship on the factors underlying government and popular movements toward democracy or dictatorship. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that different social groups prefer different political institutions because of the way they allocate political power and resources. Their book, the subject of a four-day seminar at Harvard's Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences, was also the basis for the Walras-Bowley lecture at the joint meetings of the European Economic Association and Econometric Society in 2003 and is the winner of the John Bates Clark Medal. Daron Acemoglu is Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received the 2005 John Bates Clark Medal awarded by the American Economic Association as the best economist working in the United States under age 40. He is the author of the forthcoming text Introduction to Modern Economic Growth. James A. Robinson is Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is a Harvard Faculty Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and a member of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research's Program on Institutions, Organizations, and Growth. He is coeditor with Jared Diamond of the forthcoming book Natural Experiments in History.
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image James A. Robinson

Africa's Development in Historical Perspective

This edited volume addresses the root causes of Africa's persistent poverty through an investigation of its longue durée history. It interrogates the African past through disease and demography, institutions and governance, African economies and the impact of the export slave trade, colonialism, Africa in the world economy, and culture's influence on accumulation and investment. Several of the chapters take a comparative perspective, placing Africa's developments aside other global patterns. The readership for this book spans from the informed lay reader with an interest in Africa, academics and undergraduate and graduate students, policy makers, and those in the development world.
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