The Big Ideas Book Series will feature Simon Johnson and Rana Foroohar discussing their new books.
BACKGROUND: Recently, a spate of economists have authored big conceptual books on topics of interdisciplinary and cross-sector import. This is a welcome trend in which economists are going beyond the standard, often narrowly-conceived research paper.
Meanwhile, scholars in other disciplines are tackling pressing problems of political economy from a range of different perspectives.
To spur interdisciplinary engagement between economists and scholars and practitioners from other disciplines, the Columbia Center for Political Economy is hosting a series to embrace and critically examine key “big” books through discussions, open to the public, at Columbia University.
This session will feature Simon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, discussing his latest book Power and Progress: Our thousand-year struggle over technology and prosperity (Public Affairs 2023) in conversation with Rana Foroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor at the Financial Times and author of Homecoming: The path to prosperity in a post-global world (Crown 2022).
Power and Progress argues that a thousand years of history and contemporary evidence makes one thing clear. Progress depends on the choices we make about technology. New ways of organizing production and communication can either serve the narrow interests of an elite or become the foundation for widespread prosperity.
The wealth generated by technological improvements in agriculture during the European Middle Ages was captured by the nobility and used to build grand cathedrals while peasants remained on the edge of starvation. The first hundred years of industrialization in England delivered stagnant incomes for working people. And throughout the world today, digital technologies and artificial intelligence undermine jobs and democracy through excessive automation, massive data collection, and intrusive surveillance.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Power and Progress demonstrates that the path of technology was once–and may again be– brought under control. The tremendous computing advances of the last half century can become empowering and democratizing tools, but not if all major decisions remain in the hands of a few hubristic tech leaders.
Homecoming is a sweeping case that a new age of economic localization will reunite place and prosperity, putting an end to the last half century of globalization. Arguing that the reign of globalization as we’ve known it is over, Homecoming argues that the rise of local, regional, and homegrown business is now at hand.
With bare supermarket shelves and the shortage of PPE, the pandemic brought the fragility of global trade and supply chains into stark relief. The tragic war in Ukraine and the political and economic chaos that followed have further underlined the vulnerabilities of globalization.
This fragmentation has been coming for decades, observes Foroohar. Our neoliberal economic philosophy of prioritizing efficiency over resilience and profits over local prosperity has produced massive inequality, persistent economic insecurity, and distrust in our institutions. This philosophy, which underpinned the last half century of globalization, has run its course. Place-based economics and a wave of technological innovations now make it possible to keep operations, investment, and wealth closer to home, wherever that may be.
With the pendulum of history swinging back, Homecoming explores both the challenge and the possibilities of this new era, and how it can usher in a more equitable and prosperous future.
Authors Simon and Foroohar will be in conversation, exploring how their work builds on, challenges, and expands the other’s.
Simon Johnson’s biography can be found here.
Rana Foroohar’s biography can be found here.
Books will be available for sale at the event. LOCATION This event will take place on May 18th, 2023, from 4:15pm to 5:45pm at The Forum (601 West 125th Street) in Room 315 (Third Floor).