A hard slog, not a leap frog: Globalization and sustainability transitions in developing Asia

Michael Rock, James T. Murphy, Rajah Rasiah, Paul van Seters, Shunsuke Managi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


How does globalization influence transitions toward more sustainable socio-technical regimes in the developing world? This paper argues that transformations of regimes, the networks and institutions governing technological and environmental practices in an industry, can be positively influenced by globalization but it depends on how global forces interact with local socio-political landscapes-the political-economic institutions, values, and regulations broadly guiding an economy and its relationship to the environment. We evaluate these relationships through a comparison of two kinds of socio-political landscapes-the neo-liberal export-led development model commonly found in the developing world and the uniquely Asian capitalist developmental state. We first show how the neo-liberal model overemphasizes the power of market forces to facilitate upgrading and more sustainable industrialization. We then argue that capitalist developmental states in East and Southeast Asia have been better able to harness global economic forces for technological and sustainability transitions through an openness to trade and investment and effective public-private institutions able to link cleaner technologies and environmental standards to production activities in firms. We buttress this argument with firm-level evidence showing the evolution of socio-technical regimes in two industries-cement and electronics. The case studies demonstrate how interactions with OECD firms can contribute to environmental technique effects provided the socio-political landscape is amenable to changes in an industry's regime. Ultimately, we find the process of transition to be complex and contingent; a hard slog not a leap frog toward a potentially more sustainable future. We close by considering the limitations on the capitalist developmental state model and with comments about what else needs to be learned about globalization's role in sustainability transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-254
Number of pages14
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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