Frontiers of a Great Transition
Paper series on alternative visions and paths forward
Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead examines the possibilities for a sustainable and desirable world. The essay describes the historic roots, future perils, and alternative pathways for world development and advances the Great Transition path as the preferred route, identifying strategies, global actors, and values for a new agenda.
Paul Raskin surveys the landscape of a Great Transition future from the perspective of an individual living in 2084. He emphasizes the preeminence of a triad of values—quality of life, human solidarity, and ecological sensibility—and shows how they, combined with a sense of world citizenship, have permeated political, social, and economic institutions.
Chella Rajan analyzes the historical roles of politics and institutions and identifies the challenges that the institution of the modern nation-state faces amidst the rise of problems that can only be solved on a global level. Seeing the destabilization of the nation-state as a source of identity and moral unit, Rajan then outlines a vision for political decision-making processes and institutional structures that embody the values of a Great Transition future.
Rich Rosen and David Schweickart analyze the dominant models of capitalism and socialism from the twentieth century to identify key lessons learned that must be kept in mind in building a more just, equitable, and sustainable economic system. They then proceed to outline three model economic arrangements that would embody the values of a Great Transition future.
Allen White traces the genesis, growth, and evolution of the modern corporation and its role in wealth creation. He outlines a vision for the future of the corporation that reflects the core values of human solidarity, ecological sustainability, and quality of life. He then explores the way forward to realize such a values-based shift in the design and operation of the corporation.
Mark Halle explores the assumptions underlying the architecture of the multilateral trade regime and how it has both delivered and failed to deliver on the various promises of trade theory. He argues that sustainable development can be achieved by a more rigorous enforcement of and commitment to—rather than abandonment of—the espoused principles. He concludes by analyzing how trade would function in the three archetypal regions imagined in the Great Transition.
From the perspective of a historian writing in 2084, Charles Knight writes the history of how the world transitioned away from the paradigms of war and militarism and to a greater emphasis on cooperative security and “human security.” He discusses the institutional and cultural shifts that would effect such a non-violent and equitable world.
Philip Vergragt examines how and which technologies could contribute to a sustainable society envisioned in the Great Transition scenario. He develops a broad picture of future technological developments in a Great Transition and explores a vision and associated events, pathways, mechanisms, and choices to help realize this vision.
Anthony Leiserowitz, Robert Kates, and Thomas Parris analyze current public attitudes toward the three key values of a Great Transition: quality of life, human solidarity, and ecological sensibility. They discuss how the forces of population growth, globalization, technological innovation, climate change, and—importantly—surprise will influence such values along the path toward a Great Transition future.
John Stutz analyzes available data on well-being, focusing on the three components of welfare, contentment, and freedom. He offers a vision of a future in which society has embraced the lessons learned from such analysis, particularly the importance of time affluence, and outlines a strategy to achieve a heightened quality of life through value changes, coalition building, and policy action.
Wendy Harcourt et al. look at the context in which feminism is practiced by the women’s movements around the world. They present the Women and Politics of Place framework as an analytical approach that can inform our understanding of the many women’s networks engaged in the Great Transition. They then propose ideas for a feminist vision for the future built on realpolitik and feminist struggles for change.
James Goldstein describes how the forces of globalization and urbanization have strengthened place-based identities while fostering broad recognition of the need for sustainable development. He identifies the key actors in efforts to ensure community sustainability and examines the limitations of such activities. He outlines the design of a sustainable city under the Great Transition and offers lessons from the Boston Scenarios Project to move us forward toward such a goal.
Sivan Kartha explores the complexity of the climate problem and ways to address it. He considers contrasting optimistic and pessimistic narratives of the future, and outlines a Great Transition society living in peace with its climatic constraints. He then discusses the pathway toward such a society.
Elena Bennett and Nicolas Lucas discuss the increasing scale and rate of ecosystem change due to human impacts in the twentieth century as well as the unevenly distributed benefits and vulnerabilities from such change. They argue for the need to transcend the nation-state and the dominant economic growth paradigm in order to develop adequate policies and institutions for addressing the socio-ecological challenges of the coming decades.
Orion Kriegman examines the potential for a global citizens movement by drawing on relevant lessons from past and current social movements. He argues that, although the emergence of such a movement might not be probable, it is nonetheless possible at this historical moment of growing interdependence and collective risk. He addresses the missing ingredients for the development of such a movement and points to further avenues for assessing its possibilities..
Looking at the concurrence of global crises, Paul Raskin provides a theoretical framework for analyzing structural change in human-ecological systems. He explores the possible forms and interactions of two key uncertainties—the aforementioned crises and human intentionality—in the landscape of the future, as well as the various paths that could result. He concludes by highlighting prospects and strategies for the formation of a global movement rooted in a planetary ethos.