Two Steps Forward and One Step Back
Jeffrey Sachs in The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions provides a historical account of the seven ages of globalization. While he provides a macro-mapping of the ages and their impacts on society, he spends the majority of the book doing a deep dive into each age, the historical context and significance of each, and how they contributed towards the shaping of the next. In his words, the premise of the book is “about the complexities of globalization, including the powerful capacity of globalization to improve the human condition while bringing undoubted threats as well.” Beginning with the Paleolithic Age which he dates beginning at 70,000 BCE through todays Digital Age, Sachs asks the reader to continually consider five questions as he walks through each age:
- What have been the main drivers of global-scale change?
- How do geography, technology, and institutions interact?
- How do changes in one region diffuse to others?
- How have these changes affected global interdependence?
- What lessons can we glean from each age to help us meet our challenges today?
He argues that there is much to lose should we allow history to repeat itself in the way of societal disruptions and poses that the three greatest issues we face today are sustainable development, multilateral governance, and universal values. Sachs being a faculty at Columbia University and the director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network advocates that an effective avenue to address these is through the seventeen US Sustainable Development Goals. He concludes his thoughts by reminding the reader of the commonalities in the human journey and an encouragement that through our distinct cultures, a global society is strengthened.
While reading, there were several components that I connected with our previous readings in his program:
- The need for adaptive leadership as discussed with Northouse.
- The fact that despite how things may feel, society is getting better as discussed with Rosling.
- The importance of taking context into account when analyzing numbers as discussed with Chivers.
- The universal components of the human journey as discussed with Campbell.
- The implications that a good map has for progress of a society as discussed with Winchester.
- The necessity of facing harms caused in order to move forward as discussed with Tutu.
While not written from a biblical perspective, I think it would benefit the Christian leader of today to reflect on the five questions posed at the beginning of the book through a scriptural lens. I propose they would be framed something along the lines of:
- How does the church contribute towards global-scale change today?
- How does the church steward geography, technology, and institutions well?
- How does the church diffuse into their local or global community, especially considering increased access to virtual components during the pandemic?
- How has the church engaged with or led components of global interdependence?
- What lessons can we glean from how the church functioned in each age that have significance towards how we are postured towards the challenges faced today?
I think additionally, this book causes me to consider how the value and action of reflection can mitigate challenges and risk that would otherwise present themselves. While more historical than I tend to lean towards, Sachs does provide a wonderful reminder that history can revel the harms caused, the developments made, and the necessity to look at both deeply and critically as we step forward.
 Sachs, viiii.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 198.
 Ibid., 214.
10 responses to “Two Steps Forward and One Step Back”
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Wow! Model post right here, tell you what! I love it… the summary, the bullet points (they really make me happy), the connection to previous works, AND the implications for the Church. Well done. If I had time, I would like to further dialogue about these points and questions. Maybe Jason will use it for our discussion:)
Please don’t give him any ideas 😉
You’ve asked some really challenging questions.
Looking back at the church’s history, it has benefitted more often than not with the progress of globalization, whether through imperialism, colonialism, or industrialization. However, the digital age feels different. In fact, we know it is different because church attendance has been on a downward trajectory for decades.
Therefore, is there a healthy way for the church to ride the current form of globalization to reach the world with the Gospel?
Andy: While I’m not as deeply embedded into church attendance trends, I would find it interesting to see how data has been or will be tracked during and post (if that’s where we are?!) pandemic. From a more anecdotal understanding these last few years, it has seemed the livestream component that most churches were forced into opened up a much larger engagement than simply in person services. I would find it interesting to see the data and then revisit ‘Factfulness’ to ask certain questions about what the numbers are really saying and if we are asking the right questions about them.
Ms. Kayli: I also liked how he put forth from the beginning those 5 questions to ask about each time period. It focusses our analysis to better understand the development of human history. It isn’t easy to summarize 70,000 years of history but he does a great job. Nice post.
I kept thinking of you while reading this Troy knowing you’d be loving the historical depth he dove into!
Kayli, I am amazed by your consistent ability to connect current reading to past readings. I like the way your adapted Sachs’ questions and directed them toward the church. Let me ask you to share a thought or two about your last question: Specifically,how (the church) is postured towards the challenges faced today? How do you think the church is postured today versus how it should/could be postured?
Roy: A challenging question indeed which is why I asked it and didn’t answer it 😉 But if I had to share my perspective, I would say what I see at a broad-stroke level with the church today is more of a desire to be relevant, politically correct on all fronts, and not make waves in fear of being ‘cancelled.’ I have found it fascinating watching especially young Millenials and Gen Z lean into tolerance & acceptance in such a way as if there are no eternal realities at play. I think the thing that is hard to reconcile is as I read scripture and especially the gospels is that I find Jesus to having had no problem drawing a clear line — one that I think the church is a bit nervous to hold to today.
Kayli, I am interested to hear more about your experience with the younger generations lack of framework around eternal realities. What does this look like our how is this embodied?
Kayli, thank you so very much for your thoughtful post, engagement with Sachs’ material, and connections made to other readings. I really appreciate your critical thinking that shines through in this post. Like others, I also appreciate the way you re-framed the five questions for the churches’ consideration. How do you see the church today contributing to global-level change? I’d love to hear your insights, as this is a question my denomination’s national offices is very much sitting with and discerning these days.