Ken Kassman

Cultural Recovery in the 21st Century – A Review of The Foresight Principle by Richard A. Slaughter, Adamantine Studies on the 21st Century, Adamantine Press Limited, 1995, 232 pages.

We live in a world where the immediate struggles of basic survival have been eliminated for many of the earth’s inhabitants. Millions of ordinary people now possess material wealth undreamed of by kings just a century earlier. Yet, we find that the fulfilment and over fulfillment of basic material needs is not enough to bring personal satisfaction. No matter how much we have, something always seems to be lacking. Our peace is temporary and fragile, tension and violence abounds. In such a state of paradox, could there be a more important task for society (and the individuals within it) than the search for a better, more meaningful future?

It’s strange then, that the search for possible, alternative futures is one of the most slighted in the modern world. Few universities have departments dedicated to exploring the potential of futures studies. Those brave souls who venture into the field are often viewed as ‘academically suspect’ by their peers – as being either soft in the head, heart, or both. Politicians speaking for the future fare no better. Interest groups want to see the results of political support NOW, and it seems against the politician’s immediate interest to think too far beyond the next election, or campaign fundraiser. Many corporate executives have even less vision – planning only to the next quarter’s profit statement. This is doubly dangerous when coupled with the currently accepted corporate lack of public responsibility and accountability.

With such a situation, it is indeed refreshing to find a hint of sanity and fresh air in the 21st Century Studies series by Adamantine Press. Adamantine Press has taken the lead in an all-too-neglected area of publishing by searching the world for top future-oriented thinkers, and presenting their thoughts and visions in a clear, concise and unusually fascinating manner. I know it is academically unfashionable to take value-loaded positions and make statements such as, ‘this is a series everyone should be familiar with.’ I know that in a world full of hyperbole, where everyone seems to be overselling something and people too often appear to be walking commercials of insincerity, that blurbs such as, ‘Slaughter’s The Foresight Principle is a book everyone should read’ sound more like advertising copy than reality. Yet, what else can I say? – I believe these things. I know it is not politically correct to say ‘everyone’ these days, or ‘should’ – and certainly never together in the same sentence. But what could be more important for an advancing civilisation than to be filled with creative and motivated citizens?

Citizens who dream of more positive futures for all and then attempt to make those possible futures into realities? Adamantine and Slaughter not only ask these kinds of questions, but they attempt to help us get from here to there as well. And they do a mighty fine job of it, deserving of support.

Slaughter’s The Foresight Principle is typical of the quality expected of this series. It is a wide-ranging text, covering subjects as diverse as megatrends, rationality, worldviews, fear, and wisdom all in an appropriately readable, yet scientific manner. I have studied many of the subjects Slaughter discusses and I find that he has done an excellent job of clarifying complicated subject matter (while retaining the important nuances) to the point where I would recommend his versions over some of the original theorists! His interpretation of instrumental rationality as the underlying cause of the modern problematique, for example, is short, concise, and right on target. One should not expect a one-sided diatribe against scientific, capitalist, industrialism, however, as Slaughter balances this critique with an appreciation for how useful instrumental rationality has been.

Slaughter is interested in changing worldviews. From our instrumental outlook to a wiser, more far sighted way of seeing reality. He argues that this is a natural perspective. We do it in constantly in everyday life. When we plan ahead for dinner, when we look before crossing a road. Why not make the same sort of plans and take similar precautions when looking ahead to our societal future? I guess you could call Slaughter’s book, a ‘how to’ book, in the best sense of the genre. Slaughter does not tell us how to empower ourselves, however, but rather suggests possible strategies of personal and societal empowerment. The most remarkable thing about Slaughter’s writing is that he cares. He is able to relate this attitude to the reader without sounding like a preacher on one hand or a doomsday prophet on the other. This is a rare ability.

Unfortunately, it is hard to convey the elegance and breadth of Slaughter’s writing in this review. It is an excellent book that not only policy makers and corporate leaders should read, but also teachers and students. It adequately surveys the field of futures studies while adding new insights and valuable personal advice. I find it always a pleasant surprise to pick up a book that delivers more than one expects. I expected a lot from Slaughter (as I do from other Adamantine Press books in this series) and was not disappointed.

For more information on Adamantine’s Studies on the 21st Century series or ordering information for Slaughter’s The Foresight Principle write to: Adamantine Press 3 Henrietta St Covent Garden London WC2E 8LU England

From: New Renaissance Vol 6 No 2, 1996.