Saturday, October 27, 2012

David J. Hess's "Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy"

David J. Hess is Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Alternative Pathways in Science and Industry: Activism, Innovation, and the Environment in an Era of Globalization (2007) and Localist Movements in a Global Economy: Sustainability, Justice, and Urban Development in the United States (2009), and many other books.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy: Making and Keeping New Industries in the United States, and reported the following:
From Page 99:
By 2000, the United States was facing severe economic pressures on its manufacturing industries from newly industrializing countries. China became both the symbol of the shifts in the world economic system and a target of claims that its gains were based on the manipulation of trade agreements to the benefit of its export industries and the detriment of American manufacturers… Although the rivalry with China went well beyond the issue of green manufacturing, one should also not underestimate the importance of energy transitions to global economic hegemony.
Many people have recognized two fundamental, historical changes that are occurring during the twenty-first century—the broad shift of the center of the world economy to Asia in general and especially to China, and the slow but general transition to a low-carbon economy—but how are these two changes related to each other? In this book I follow the fortunes of the convergence of industrial and environmental policy in the United States. At first largely a state-government phenomenon, the convergence became a central part of the initiatives of the first two years of the Obama administration. The president promised five million green jobs, and he linked the greening of the economy to the economic stimulus package.

However, instead of embracing a bipartisan, national initiative that brought together job creation and the greening of the economy, the Republican Party mounted a full assault on the green-energy transition. By the 2012 election cycle, Republican presidential candidates were openly voicing skepticism about climate change, and although some Democratic governors continued to push for the ongoing convergence of industrial and environmental policy, the president backed away from the green jobs rhetoric that had characterized the 2008 election.

As the U.S. failed to assume world leadership for the renewable energy transition, China’s position in this arena continued to improve. That country supported the development of its renewable energy sector with strong demand policies, and it also provided substantial loans and other support to its growing photovoltaic industry, even to the point of violating trade agreements.

These current events are linked to long-term tectonic shifts in the global economy. My book explores how the neoliberal ideology of market fundamentalism that is so prominent in anti-green politics in the U.S. is poorly adapted to the rising competition from newly industrializing countries. As the full effect of the changes in the global economy become more evident, the U.S. will need to borrow more from the industrial and trade policies of those countries. The change requires a vigorous industrial policy and a more defensive posture with respect to trade. The debate over China and its increasing dominance of the manufacturing for renewable energy is one site that explore for the shift toward a more developmentalist approach to economic policy in the U.S.
Learn more about Good Green Jobs in a Global Economy at the MIT Press website and David J. Hess' website.

--Marshal Zeringue