TECHNOLOGY, GLOBALIZATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: TRANSFORMING THE INDUSTRIAL STATE by Nicholas A. Ashford and Ralph P. Hall

Reviewed by Lawrence Susskind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

technology globalization and

Technology, Globalization And Sustainable Development: Transforming the Industrial State by Nicholas A. Ashford and Ralph P. Hall, Yale University Press, 752pp

Ashford and Hall have produced a mammoth volume explaining why technology change and globalization are the keys to addressing the three most important dimensions of sustainability – the economy, work, and the environment. At the heart of their analysis is a belief that national and international governments can produce industrial policies that will “encourage or require environmentally sustainable production, products and energy-related activities through the tools of environmental policy and regulation.” They describe ways that the industrial state might be transformed, covering everything from advancing worker health and safety to techniques for restructuring international trade and finance. In the final analysis, though, their prescriptions only make sense if they are right about co-optimization, that is, the notion that economic development, environmental protection, and more worker-oriented employment can be achieved simultaneously, and need not be traded off or balanced against each other.

More than others writing about sustainable development, Ashford and Hall focus on industrial and trade policies that can stimulate “revolutionary technology innovation.” Their list of ways of overcoming the obstacles to sustainability run the gamut from education and human resource development to more extensive stakeholder involvement, to new approaches to underwriting the costs of sustainable development. In the end, though, everything comes back to government’s willingness to intervene. They analyze the “opportunity and capacity” of the government to act, making a case that crises create opportunities and social innovation can enhance capacity. What they are less clear about, though, is why there might be a sudden willingness on the part of national governments, locked in as they are to laissez faire strategies, to move in the activist and social welfare-oriented direction needed to achieve sustainable development.


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