The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions

Jeffrey D. Sachs (Author)


Today's most urgent problems are fundamentally global. They require nothing less than concerted, planetwide action if we are to secure a long-term future. But humanity's story has always been on a global scale. In this book, Jeffrey D. Sachs, renowned economist and expert on sustainable development, turns to world history to shed light on how we can meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

Sachs takes readers through a series of seven distinct waves of technological and institutional change, starting with the original settling of the planet by early modern humans through long-distance migration and ending with reflections on today's globalization. Along the way, he considers how the interplay of geography, technology, and institutions influenced the Neolithic revolution; the role of the horse in the emergence of empires; the spread of large land-based empires in the classical age; the rise of global empires after the opening of sea routes from Europe to Asia and the Americas; and the industrial age. The dynamics of these past waves, Sachs demonstrates, offer fresh perspective on the ongoing processes taking place in our own time--a globalization based on digital technologies. Sachs emphasizes the need for new methods of international governance and cooperation to prevent conflicts and to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives aligned with sustainable development. The Ages of Globalization is a vital book for all readers aiming to make sense of our rapidly changing world.

Product Details

$24.95  $22.95
Columbia University Press
Publish Date
June 02, 2020
6.2 X 1.1 X 9.1 inches | 1.3 pounds

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About the Author

Jeffrey D. Sachs is University Professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. He is also director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and has been advisor to three UN secretaries-general. He is a New York Times best-selling author, and his Columbia University Press books include The Age of Sustainable Development (2015), Building the New American Economy (2017), and A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2018).


The Ages of Globalization provides an unparalleled explanation of human development. This lucidly written book is a must read for anyone interested in how humanity has evolved and the root causes of the challenges we face today. Jeff Sachs's magisterial and engaging book provides profound perspectives on human history, offering urgently needed insights to make sense of the present and offer an essential guide to our future.--Ian Goldin, author of Age of Discovery: Navigating the Storms of Our Second Renaissance
As my special advisor on the Sustainable Development Goals, Jeffrey Sachs consistently emphasized that the world can achieve sustainable development only through bold and forward-looking cooperation on a global scale. In his new panoramic history of globalization, Sachs shows why the imperative of peaceful cooperation is more crucial than ever. Our very survival as a species requires that we understand our common fate. This book will help us to reach that shared understanding.--Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Few scholars have the breadth of knowledge with which to cogently weave insights from such wide-ranging fields such as agronomy, economics, archaeology, anthropology, and engineering to recount the layered story of how globalization and development unfolded. As always, Sachs is a treat to read.--Gordon McCord, University of California, San Diego
This romp through world history, by the famous economist Jeffrey Sachs, summarizes most of what you really need to know about the history of the last 70,000 years. Buy just this one book: it will let you throw away dozens of specialized books that you already own!--Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
An authoritative account of our "shared," increasingly interdependent human journey.--Kirkus Reviews
Sachs has produced a masterpiece--its scope is breathtaking, its insights stimulating, and its conceptual innovation pathbreaking. For those seeking a story about where humanity has come from and is going to, his book is a story with many lessons and hopes for the future. At once clear-headed and opinionated, he provides a roadmap for what we could and should do for our grandchildren. A wonderful book.--Gordon L. Clark, University of Oxford
Sachs has produced a brilliant, yet remarkably short, book on the biggest challenges now confronting humanity. He provides a compelling account of how geography, technology, and institutions have combined to shape globalization over 70,000 years, in seven distinct ages. Then he explains what humanity now has to do if it is to escape the environmental, social, and geopolitical calamities that its own staggering successes have brought so close. This book is essential reading.--Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times
This dazzling book makes an invaluable contribution to the debate about the future of globalization by brilliantly summarizing humanity's existential challenges and providing bold ideas for ensuring our survival. Sachs makes a persuasive argument that applying the concept of sustainable development must be today's essential mission. His thoughtful proposals for reforming key international institutions, starting with the UN, merit particular attention. The Ages of Globalization is required reading for our times.--Vuk Jeremic, former president of the United Nations General Assembly
Understanding history can help steer the future, yet economic history is too often missing from the economics curricula. Sachs goes directly against this trend by providing a tour de force historical account on how humans, technology, and nature have interacted over the last 72,000 years! Key to the book's message is that while technological progress has been exponential, our ability to benefit from it has always depended on the ways in which people have chosen to organize themselves. Today this means that while digital technologies provide endless possibilities, public policy and corporate governance decisions are key to determining who benefits. Sustainable and inclusive development will depend on our concrete forms of democratic participation, ethical standards, and the ability to create public spheres that allow us all to flourish. A must-read!--Mariana Mazzucato, University College London
In this erudite yet accessible book, Jeffrey D. Sachs traces the history of modern humans from our migration from Africa some 70,000 years ago to today. In a pathbreaking account, he shows how geography, technology, and institutions drive change. His analysis is indispensable for understanding current global predicaments. A tour de force.--Prasannan Parthasarathi, Boston College
As it comes from Jeffrey D. Sachs, I had expected this book to be analytical, punchy, and readable, and so it is. But it is a pleasure to be able to report that it is also a book by a superstar economist that takes both history and geography seriously and that allows the past, with all its complexities and contingencies, to speak for itself. Impressively broad in both temporal and geographical scope, this is a masterpiece of concision and a great introduction to global economic history.--Kevin O'Rourke, author of A Short History of Brexit: From Brentry to Backstop
At a time when the foundations of the world economic order are being challenged, we must rely on the knowledge accumulated throughout history to make wiser choices for the future of our societies. In The Ages of Globalization, Jeffrey Sachs offers a superb and unique historical and analytical framework for understanding the process of globalization, highlighting its dynamic nature and addressing its social and economic implications. From the Paleolithic Age to the current digital age, this book examines the interplay of geography, technology, and institutions to achieve a comprehensive explanation of how globalization emerges and evolves. Analysts, policy makers, social and political leaders, interested citizens, and anyone concerned with the future of the global economy can draw invaluable lessons from this book.--Felipe Larraín B., former minister of finance of Chile
The Ages of Globalization is not just a book for the modern citizen. It is an essential survival kit for the twenty-first century. At the same time that humanity was amassing wealth, it was also creating the means of its own destruction. Now we are facing forces none of us can counter alone, such as climate change and environmental degradation. Sachs's call for action resonates with vigor and urgency. With this book, we can better explore, learn, and act.--Miroslav Lajčák, minister of foreign and European affairs of the Slovak Republic
Economics is rediscovering historical perspectives, and thus its own roots. The result, in Jeffrey Sachs's masterful hands, is eye-opening and refreshing. The Ages of Globalization is a tour de force through many millennia of human history, discerning patterns that help us understand in new ways our contemporary dilemmas. While the story he tells provides many reasons to be pessimistic about our future, Sachs also restores a sense of possibility with his steadfast refusal to think in ahistorical categories and his urgent plea to embrace the possibilities of the human condition. An important and empowering book.--Sven Beckert, coeditor of American Capitalism: New Histories