In This Review

The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions
The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions
By Jeffrey D. Sachs
Columbia University Press, 2020, 280 pp

This masterful history of the human experience of global interconnectedness begins in the Paleolithic Age and ends in today’s COVID-19 pandemic. Sachs makes a powerful case that the globalizing forces creating our increasingly interdependent world are deeply rooted in the human condition and that they are forces—for better and worse—that are here to stay. The book identifies seven ages of globalization, from the classical age to the digital age. In each, technology, geography, and social institutions have shaped the frontiers of economic advancement and human interaction. Sachs shows that in each successive period, the scale of organization, exchange, and cooperation has dramatically increased. The book acknowledges both the upside and the downside of globalization: it has created opportunities for learning, economic growth, and new forms of political community, even as it has brought great suffering to the world through disease, conquest, war, and financial crises. On balance, Sachs seems to think that the gains from globalization are indisputable, and in each historical age, it has fostered social advancement. But Sachs’s history also shows that the revolutions in technology that propel globalization tend to outpace the ability of governments to manage their consequences.