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Prof Raphael Kaplinsky, Sustainable Futures: An Agenda for Action

8 July 2021

We were delighted to be joined by Professor Raphael Kaplinsky on 7 July 2021 to launch his brand new book, Sustainable Futures: An Agenda for Action. We also welcomed Professor Carlota Perez and Professor Theo Papaioannou.


Long before the pandemic, economies across the world were in trouble, with growth slowing across the board. This downturn coincided with growing inequality and social exclusion. Rising political dissatisfaction with ruling elites fuelled the rise of populism. Add to this the alarming environmental emergency and few can deny we live in a time of multiple sustainability crises.

While this conclusion can lead to despair, in this broad-ranging book Raphael Kaplinsky, a leading development policy analyst, argues that the future is not necessarily bleak. Interrogating the causes and nature of the systemic crises we are living through, he shows how the challenges which we now face mirror previous historical epochs, in which dominant ‘techno-economic’ paradigms flourish, mature and run into crisis. In each case, decisive action is required to move to a more economically and socially sustainable world. In our time, we are witnessing the exhaustion of the Mass Production paradigm. How we herald and manage the transition to the next paradigm – that of Information and Communications Technologies – will determine our capacity to build a more prosperous, equitable and environmentally sustainable world. This book sets out an integrated agenda for action by multiple stakeholders to achieve this end.


Raphael is the author of numerous books on technology, industrialisation, and globalisation. These include studies on globalisation, industrial policy, industrial organisation, global value chains, the international automobile sector, computer-integrated automation, computer aided design, the impact of microelectronics on employment, appropriate technology and on the resource sector. During the 1990s he pioneered research on changing patterns of organisation in manufacturing in developing countries and on global value chains. In 2005 he published a widely-cited book on globalisation, utilising micro-, meso- and macro-data to examine the generalised consequence of upgrading in the global economy (Globalization, Poverty and Inequality). He has researched the impact of China and India (“The Asian Driver” economies) on Africa, and the implications of their growth for the global commodities sector (The Impact of China on Global Commodities, 2012). 

Raphael has participated in numerous UN and EU Missions, providing advice to a large range of countries, particularly on industrial and technology policies. He has led teams of advisers in Central America, Cyprus, South Africa and Kazakhstan and has participated as an adviser in a number of other countries. Between 1991 and 2003 he worked intensively with the South African government on Industrial Policy, and has been deeply involved in the development of industrial strategy in the post-Apartheid era. He has also provided advice on strategic focus and on manufacturing organisation to transnational firms, and to firms in the UK, Africa, Brazil, Central Asia, Central America and India. In the mid-1990s he worked with the European Commission on a programme of assistance to encourage organisational restructuring in European manufacturing and services. He has also worked with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on policies towards the resource sector.

Book reviews

‘There are many critics of the current capitalist system. And equally many others who profess how to organize it better. What is often missing is a link between the two. That is, an understanding of how we got into the mess we have, and using this understanding to analyse what is required to do better. Kaplinsky’s book does just that, bringing together historical, political and economic research in a way that allows us to both learn from history, and to have a more prosperous and sustainable future.’

Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, and author of Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism

‘If you want to understand today’s world and how to fix it, this is the book to read. Kaplinsky shows a formidable capacity to encompass the whole spectrum of today’s global problems and provides realistic – though ambitious – solutions. Indispensable reading!’

Carlota Perez, author of Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages

‘A compelling read, brilliantly written and bubbling with thought-provoking ideas, experience and outlines for the future.’

Sir Richard Jolly, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN

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