SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

2016 Lecture

Harvard Professor delivers prestigious Marie Jahoda Annual Lecture

Jahoda 2016SPRU was honored to host Harvard Professor Dani Rodrik, one of the greatest current thinkers on globalization and economic growth to deliver the special 50th anniversary Marie Jahoda Annual Lecture. The Jubilee Lecture theatre with a capacity of 500 people was full and there was standing room only as the last few attendees came through the doors. Packed lecture theatre

Introduced by Professor Mariana Mazzucato as an Economist whose work is both rigorous and radical in how it fundamentally debunks common thinking on fundamentally important subjects, Dani commenced his lecture ‘Is the Age of Growth Miracles Over?’ with a look back at work by Marie Jahoda and other members of SPRU in the 1970s that critiqued the Club of Rome’s book Limits of Growth and argued for more attention to be given to technology and innovation, at a time when there was unprecedented growth in East Asia.

According to Professor Rodrik, industrialization was key for the economic growth miracles of the 1970s and in China more recently. In particular, they were crucial for pulling large segments of the population into the formal sector and creating employment. However, this employment generation mechanism of manufacturing has become weaker over successive decades. 

Dani Rodrik argued that East Asian style growth miracles based on rapid industrialization and its positive effects on mass employment are less likely to occur in the future and if they do they will not be based on manufactured exports. The problem is that there are no obvious alternative candidates. In particular, there are high productivity service industries but these employ typically such small shares of the population, that they are not suitable for producing the positive employment effects that past industrialization has offered. So, mused Professor Rodrik, what are the alternatives?

Professor Rodrik argued that there are examples that public investments can lead growth such as in Ethiopia. However, it is not clear whether this growth is sustainable. In general, resource-based growth in emerging markets has been unsustainably high in last decade and will come down. Convergence will continue, but not as rapidly, and in large part because of low growth in advanced economies. There is the need to better understand the fundamental drivers of economic growth.

Professor Rodrik concluded by suggesting that alternative paths to high growth could focus on enhancing growth payoff of investments in capabilities or expanding the range of industries with “escalator” properties. In summary, there is the need to develop alternative growth models that are innovation-led. What could these alternative growth models be? What role could research, innovation and technology play in the efforts towards finding these new models? SPRU aims to play a leading role in finding answers to these questions and helping to address some of our most pressing global challenges.

The Marie Jahoda Annual Lecture is held annually in honour of the renowned former SPRU academic, a psychologist who came to the University of Sussex in the 1960s and played a full part in the academic life of the University and its governance. After her official retirement, Marie began a new period of active creative work participating in the interdisciplinary research of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU). She made major contributions to research programmes on social and technological forecasting and the social psychological consequences of prolonged unemployment.