Michael Spence Looks at the Future of Global Economic Growth

Michael Spence Looks at the Future of Global Economic Growth

Michael Spence explores a convergence between "two parallel and interacting revolutions: the continuation of the Industrial Revolution in the advanced countries, and the sudden and dramatic spreading pattern of growth in the developing world."

May 31, 2011 2:17 pm (EST)

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In his latest book, A. Michael Spence, CFR distinguished visiting fellow and Nobel laureate, explores a convergence between “two parallel and interacting revolutions: the continuation of the Industrial Revolution in the advanced countries, and the sudden and dramatic spreading pattern of growth in the developing world.”

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In The Next Convergence: The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World, Spence explains how the global economy reached its current state, studying high growth and poverty reduction in the developing world, and analyzing the short- and long-term effects of the global economic and financial crises of 2008. Using these findings, Spence examines whether “high growth in incomes and wealth can be sustained,” adding that “there are economic, governance, natural resource, and environmental braking mechanisms that may slow the process down or cause it to stop altogether.”

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Through this narrative, Spence answers questions such as

– What caused an additional 60 percent of the world to begin the process of joining the world of affluence?

– How long does it take for a poor country to make a full transition to advanced country status?

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– What attributes of advanced economies are constraining their growth, and will developing countries face similar limitations as they become wealthier?

– Will emerging powers such as China be able to navigate the “middle-income transition”—a move from labor-intensive to more capital and knowledge-intensive growth?

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– Can the global complex emerging and evolving global economy, with its rising interdependencies and complexities, be managed for stability, growth, sustainability, and fairness?

– Can the environment withstand a fourfold increase in the ranks of the relatively wealthy?

Stressing the importance of understanding these “multispeed” economic transformations, Spence argues that although, for the developed world, the conditions and growth of developing nations are “outside the range of day-to-day experience,” the effects are of “enormous importance and will be felt by the vast majority of the world’s population for years to come.”

To order, visit www.cfr.org/the_next_convergence


“Among the many books written on the new world economy, this is one of the most profound. A must-read for everyone interested in the megatrends shaping the future of the world economy."

Justin Yifu Lin, senior vice president and chief economist, World Bank

“I always knew that Michael Spence was a terrific economist. After reading this book I realize that he also has the rare ability to see the world economy—all of it, rich and poor—with clarity, reason, and empathy. If you are looking for a lucid, readable, consistent, unprejudiced picture of what has been happening and what might happen next in the world economy, this is an excellent place to find it."

Robert Solow, winner of the 1987 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences

“Among economists, common sense is not that common. Fortunately, Michael Spence has long bucked the trend. In this book he dispenses wisdom on economic growth—and much else—in accessible, bite-sized chunks. The world’s policymakers better listen.”

Dani Rodrik, Rafiq Hariri professor of international political economy, Harvard Kennedy School

“The emergence of China is just part of an amazing catching-up process going on in the world. We all feel this profound change, but few of us have the ability to step back, put it in perspective, analyze the past, and guess where the future is taking us. Michael Spence has it, and he delivers. This is serious thinking on essential issues. I learned a lot from the book, both in the small and in the large; I am sure other readers will as well.”

Olivier Blanchard, chief economist, International Monetary Fund; professor of economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


A. Michael Spence is CFR distinguished visiting fellow. Previously, Spence served as the chairman of an independent commission on growth in developing countries, professor emeritus of management in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford and professor of economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University. He served as dean of the Stanford business school from 1990 to 1999, where he oversaw the finances, organization, and educational policies of the school. From 1984 to 1990, he served as the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, overseeing Harvard College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Division of Continuing Education. He taught at Stanford as an associate professor of economics from 1973 to 1975. From 1975 to 1990, he served as professor of economics and business administration at Harvard, holding a joint appointment in the business school and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In l983, he was named chairman of the economics department and George Gund professor of economics and business administration. He writes monthly comments for Project Syndicate and occasional op-ed pieces in the Financial Times and other major newspapers and magazines.

The Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Since 1922, CFR has also published Foreign Affairs, the leading journal on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.


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