Mutually Assured Construction
They say do not judge a book by its cover, but I certainly judged this book by its title alone. The term globalization has become white noise, a contextual assumption, within the political, economic, and social structures. However, Jeffery Sachs’ book The Ages of Globalization provides a narrative, yet historical arch of globalizations, which he defines as the, “[…] interlinkages of diverse societies across large geographical areas.” He continues, “These interlinkages are technological, economic, institutional, cultural, and geopolitical.” I found his work to be helpful as a contextual overview of globalization’s development, and paradigmatically enhancing.
Globalization is often posed as a more recent phenomenon, but Sachs points back to the foraging era of the Paleolithic Age to show how the interlinkages of globalizations are a concurrent with human history and its development.
Sachs charts 7 ages in human history that advanced globalization
- Paleolithic Age (70,000-10,000 BC): Prehistoric, foraging, nomadic.
- Neolithic Age (10,000-3,000 BC): Humans began farming and settling land.
- Equestrian Age (3,000-1,000): Domesticating of the horse and advancements in communication. This enabled distant trade and communication, both which are essential to the escalation in globalization.
- Classical Age (1,000 BC-1,500 AD): The first large scale empires galvanized.
- Ocean Age (1800-1500 AD): When those empires expanded across land and sea.
- Industrial Age (1800-2000 AD): A few societies, Great Britain and the United States namely, utilized science and technology to drive production and increase wealth.
- Digital Age (2000-2023 AD): The current age of global interconnection and interdependence.
Sachs writes of the digital age:
“We are moving from an era of hegemonic power to a multipolar world, in which several regional powers coexist. The ubiquitous flows of information have globalized economics and politics more directly and urgently than in the Industrial Age. We have seen how a hiccup in one part of the world economy, […] can within days create a global-scale financial panic and economic crash.”
Though he sees the shift and distinction of each age, Jefferey Sachs makes the novel claim that globalization is an essential part of the human story, and orientation. Each age presents new challenges, new ways of sustaining and destroying life, but he’s quite pointed about how we must move forward now in the digital age with rising economic inequality, environmental destruction, and massive geopolitical shifts.
Sachs seems quite optimistic about the advances brought about since the dawn of the Industrial Age to present, but also warns of the growth disparity between the wealthiest people and the poorest. He details 17 sustainable development goals which the United Nations aspire to, which include universal healthcare, access to education, gender equality, control of climate change, etc. These goals are high ideals, and Sachs, who has advised many American foreign-national leaders on these topics, stressed the need for consensus and accountability on a global scale.
Upon face value, Sachs book seems rather progressive in its verbiage, but some progressives feel his work only speaks of change, without truly advocating its implementation. One reviewer wrote of the book,
“The Ages of Globalization should be read, studied and discussed, but not through the lens of its billing as a progressive treatise. It should be treated as a text penned and promoted by the ruling class, meant to manipulate and derail the groundswell for fundamental change we so desperately need.” Link to Review
In one podcast, Sachs suggested revolutionary changes within the American political structure, such as the elimination of a president, and a revisioning of the Constitution, which he feels is no longer relevant for the digital age.
In the end, Jeffery Sachs paints a clear picture of globalizations history and future, and though he is certainly an idealist, I believe those ideals are rooted in an aim toward the common good, and mutually assured construction.
 Jeffrey D. Sachs, The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions (Columbia University Press, 2020), https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/sach19374. 2.
 Sachs. 1-32
 Sachs. 5.
 Sachs. 196.
4 responses to “Mutually Assured Construction”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Nice summary. I too enjoyed this book. Interestingly, I would not have pegged it as a progressive work, but I suppose I can see that now that you mention it.
In light of this book, and our current culture and world events, what do you foresee happening to the US and the “world super powers” in the next 20 years? Don’t worry, I won’t hold you too it:)
What an excellent summary of the book.
You wrote about the author talking about radical change but not giving an implementation strategy. What are the main mechanisms of real systemic change in the world?
Michael, such a well-written post. I’m guessing by your comments about Sachs’ “novel” claim about the need for globalization that you may not agree with his positive take on that. Do you think the positives outweigh the negatives, or do you find that too simple of a question about issues so complex?
Michael I would like to tag in on Roy’s question and ask how you see the trend of deglobalization changing the future?