The Rise and Decline of Nations

Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities

Mancur Olson

View Inside Price: $40.00


September 10, 1982
276 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300023077
Cloth

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The years since World War II have seen rapid shifts in the relative positions of different countries and regions. Leading political economist Mancur Olson offers a new and compelling theory to explain these shifts in fortune and then tests his theory against evidence from many periods of history and many parts of the world.
“[T]his elegant, readable book. . . sets out to explain why economies succumb to the ‘British disease,’ the kind of stagnation and demoralization that is now sweeping Europe and North America. . . . A convincing book that could make a big difference in the way we think about modern economic problems.”—Peter Passell, The New York Times Book Review
“Schumpeter and Keynes would have hailed the insights Olson gives into the sicknesses of the modern mixed economy.”—Paul A. Samuelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“One of the really important books in social science of the past half-century.”—Scott Gordon, The Canadian Journal of Economics
“The thesis of this brilliant book is that the longer a society enjoys political stability, the more likely it is to develop powerful special-interest lobbies that in turn make it less efficient economically.”—Charles Peters, The Washington Monthly
“Remarkable. The fundamental ideas are simple, yet they provide insight into a wide array of social and historical issues. . . . The Rise and Decline of Nations promises to be a subject of productive interdisciplinary argument for years to come.”—Robert O. Keohane, Journal of Economic Literature
“I urgently recommend it to all economists and to a great many non-economists.”—Gordon Tullock, Public Choice
“Olson’s theory is illuminating and there is no doubt that The Rise and Decline of Nations will exert much influence on ideas and politics for many decades to come.”—Pierre Lemieux, Reason
Co-winner of the 1983 American Political Science Association’s Gladys M. Kammerer Award for the best book on U.S. national policy

"[Olson's] seminal work The Rise and Decline of Nations, published in 1982, helped explain how stable, affluent societies tend to get in trouble. The book turns out to be a surprisingly useful guide to the current crisis. . . . Olson's book was short but sprawling, touching on everything from the Great Depression to the caste system in India. His primary case study was Great Britain in the decades after World War II. . . . Olson's insight was that the defeated countries of World War II didn't rise in spite of crisis. They rose because of it."—David Leonhardt, New York Times 

"[T]his elegant, readable book . . . sets out to explain why economies succumb to the 'British disease,' the kind of stagnation and demoralization that is now sweeping Europe and North America. . . . A convincing book that could make a big difference in the way we think about modern economic problems."—Peter Passell, The New York Times Book Review

"One of the really important books in social science of the past half-century."—Scott Gordon, The Canadian Journal of Economics

"The thesis of this brilliant book is that the longer a society enjoys political stability, the more likely it is to develop powerful special-interest lobbies that in turn make is less efficient economically."—Charles Peters, The Washington Monthly

"Remarkable. The fundamental ideas are simple, yet they provide insight into a wide array of social and historical issues. . . . The Rise and Decline of Nations promises to be a subject of productive interdisciplinary argument for years to come."—Robert O. Keohane, Journal of Economic Literature

"I urgently recommend it to all economists and to a great many non-economists."—Gordon Tullock, Public Choice

"Olson's theory is illuminating and there is no doubt that The Rise and Decline of Nations will exert much influence on ideas and politics for many decades to come."—Pierre Lemieux, Reason

"Olson has already provoked a small tempest with this book, making it must reading for all serious students of political economy, sociology, and organization theory."—Orbis

"This is a useful, insightful, and easily readable book. . . . Provocative and compelling."—The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science

"Mancur Olson has laid an important new idea on the table of the profession. I am attracted by the idea, and I think that other readers will be too."—Robert D. Tollison, The Southern Economic Journal

"An extraordinary achievement. While we still don't know what accounts for secular economic and social change, Mancur Olson has made a solid contribution toward our understanding of those issues."—Douglass C. North, Science

"History will tell us whether Olson has built a cathedral of ideas or a shack in the intellectual winds, but either way he provides an interesting starting point for our speculations. One doesn't need a cathedral to get religion."—Lester C. Thurow, The New York Review of Books

"There is both a challenge and a stimulant in this ambitious theory, which is not frightened of ranging widely and drawing conclusions about great matters."—James Douglas, Political Science Quarterly

"Rises above the descriptive level of most books and directs our attention to the theoretical concerns in a way which gives the work a broader scope and the richness we have come to associate with the classic texts."—Kristen Monroe, Princeton University, New York University, from citation for Kammerer prize

"Olson's vivid descriptions, extensive data, and interpretations of the social and economic difficulties are persuasive and eloquent. He has a remarkable talent for combining sobriety of thought with formal but graceful prose. . . . Political scientists are indebted to Olson for this stimulating and ambitious effort to write a theory of political economy. In his sometimes quaint and subtle manner, he has managed once more to address the big issues and make sense of them in nontechnical language both respectable among his peers and accessible to noneconomists."—William C. Mitchell, The American Political Science Review

"A prize-winning performance: Olson's social theory of economic growth and decay is far superior to existing alternatives."—Aaron Wildavsky

"Olson has taken the implications of his earlier work, The Logic of Collective Action and used them in an extraordinarily innovative and impressive way. The result, quite apart from the specific predictions about when nations decline, is an important contribution to institutional economics—or equivalently, to the sociology of institutions. What makes the contribution especially important is its derivation from microeconomic foundations. The latter constitutes the most promising theoretical paradigm in the social sciences, yet little progress has been made in moving from micro to macro level. Olson's book constitutes a valuable step in that direction."—James S. Coleman

"Few economists dare to generalize as broadly as Olson, and this boldness is what makes his work intriguing."—Eliot Marshall, Science

"Clearly, this is no ordinary theory. Equally clearly, it sprang from the mind of no ordinary economist."—James Lardner, The Washington Post

"Schumpeter and Keynes would have hailed the insights Olson gives into the sicknesses of the modern mixed economy."—Paul A. Samuelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology