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The Next Convergence The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World

Michael Spence




Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Longlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year

With the British Industrial Revolution, part of the world's population started to experience extraordinary economic growth, leading to enormous gaps in wealth and living standards between the industrialized West and the rest of the world. This pattern of divergence reversed after World War II, and now we are midway through a century of high and accelerating growth in the developing world and a new convergence with the advanced countries—a trend that is set to reshape the world.

Michael Spence, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, explains what happened to cause this dramatic shift in the prospects of the five billion people who live in developing countries. The growth rates are extraordinary, and continuing them presents unprecedented challenges in governance, international coordination, and ecological sustainability. The implications for those living in the advanced countries are great but little understood.

Spence clearly and boldly describes what's at stake for all of us as he looks ahead to how the global economy will develop over the next fifty years. The Next Convergence is certain to spark a heated debate how best to move forward in the post-crisis period and reset the balance between national and international economic interests, and short-term fixes and long-term sustainability.


Praise for The Next Convergence

"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 policy makers better listen."—Dani Rodrik, Rafiq Hariri Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"The emergence of China is just part of an amazing catching up process going 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. Mike 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, IMF Chief Economist and Class of 1942 Professor Economics, MIT

"Rarely does one find a book that is so powerful in its analysis, timely in its topic, relevant in its thinking, and clear in its exposition. Combining his Nobel Prize-winning theoretical brilliance and unmatched operational experience, Michael Spence explains clearly complex multispeed dynamics that are rapidly impacting our world and influencing the current and future well-being of billions. This is by far the best book I have seen on today's historical growth transformations."—Mohamed A. El-Erian, author of When Markets Collide

"In recent years, developing countries have become an increasingly important driver of growth in the world economy, bringing about the prospect of a new and multi-polar landscape of the global economy in which the traditional gap in living standards between developing and advanced countries may possibly disappear. Michael Spence has written a succinct and clear analysis of the forces behind this fascinating process that is immensely readable, yet does justice to the complexity of the issues involved. 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 mega-trends shaping the future of the world economy."—Justin Yifu Lin, World Bank senior vice president and chief economist

"I always knew that Mike 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

"Michael Spence has long been pointing out the frictions that interfere with efficient markets . . . [He] has much to offer from a rich career in research, academia and global policymaking."—The Economist

"Impressive . . . Spence offers deep insights with a winning, refreshing humility rarely seen in Nobel Prize-winning economists."—The Washington Post

"An intelligent, rational, and humane book about the great economic event of our era . . . Anyone seeking a commonsense guide to the transformation underway need look no further."—Financial Times (London)

"A compelling tour d'horizon . . . Superior."—Strategy + Business (A Best Business Book, Economics)

"Spence explains complex issues in remarkably clear and concise language . . . You will not find a better introduction to today's most criticalglobal economic debates."—Finance & Development magazine

"Sharp . . . Michael Spence asks a simple yet evocative question: Why do we want our economy to grow? Spoiler alert: He does find a few good reasons. It's rare to hear an economist raise even theoretical doubt over such a deeply ingrained assumption in Western economies; one may as well ask why we want electricity."—James Ledbetter, Reuters

"An entirely sensible take on catch-up growth, a topic that is lacking a good popular treatment and yet deserves one . . . well-written and to the point."—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

"Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence tells a story out of Aesop's fables. While global financial development speeds along like a hare, he suggests, oversight trails like a slowly gaining tortoise."—The Daily

"Cogent, comprehensive, and compelling . . . Especially trenchant and timely."—The Huffington Post

"Fascinating . . . Having Spence as a brilliant guide, intimate with both the research and policy frontiers, is a perfect way to get up to speed . . . Engaging, intellectual treatments like this one will surely make progress easier."—Science

"Contrary to his book's title, Nobel Prize–winning economist Spence does less prognosticating than one might expect. Indeed, early on he shares a chart showing just how inaccurately economists predicted growth during the 1990s. Instead, he offers a comprehensive summary of the forces at play in today's global economy: removal of trade barriers, the lightning-fast transfer of knowledge from developed to emerging economies, global demand, resources, the role of national and international governments, and the management (or not) of currency rates, among others . . . His status report could give attentive readers a more empowered role in their own economic future."—Alan Moores, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

As the global economy emerged in the post war period, the colonial system disappeared. Old colonies became new countries, some of them with very odd shapes and geographical positions. With no history of self-governance as nation states, they struggled...

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  • Michael Spence

  • Michael Spence is a Professor of Economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and was the chairman of the independent Commission on Growth and Development. Winner of the Nobel 2001 Prize in Economic Sciences, he lives in California and Italy.

  • Michael Spence © Anne Knudsen Photography
    Michael Spence