Michael Marien

The Foresight Principle: Cultural Recovery in the 21st Century. Richard A. Slaughter (Director, Futures Study Centre, Melbourne). Foreword by Hazel Henderson. Praeger Studies on the 21st Century. Westport CT: Praeger, June 1995. 232pp $62.95; $22.95pb.

Our habitual mode of perception (focusing on “me and my group,” here and now), more than any external threat, is driving our species to the edge. We require a different principle properly deployed at the social level: the foresight principle. Foresight is the act of looking forward and prudent action in reference to the future, constantly repeated in different contexts and in different ways. It is a deliberate process of expanding awareness and understanding through futures scanning and the clarification of emerging situations. It expands the boundaries of perception forward by assessing possible consequences of actions, anticipating problems before they occur, considering present implications of possible future events, and envisioning desired aspects of future societies.

Chapter topics: 1) looking back: origins of the Western industrial worldview, costs of industrial progress; 2) looking around: why our institutions are out of step with the times, defects of governance and economics, problems of commerce and the media; 3) looking forward: what we can know about the future, the interdisciplinary futures field, organisations and networks, methods and tools, social movements and innovations, the outlook for the next 20 years; 4) how foresight is now understood and used: fragmented foresight at the social level, barriers to wider use (future discounting, the empiricist fallacy, fear of foresight); 5) becoming more far-sighted: ideas in decline, resurgent ideas, promoting the economics of permanence, futures workshops.

6) Extending foresight through analysis, imagination, and social imaging: alternative social futures, the QUEST technique for assessing strategic options, dealing with fears; 7) institutions of foresight: profiles of seven institutions such as Australia’s Commission for the Future; 8) Creating Positive Views of Futures with Young People: six strategies to help the many young people for whom the future looks bleak (changing fears into motivations, exploring social innovations, designing your way out of the industrial era, etc); 9) cultural reconstruction in the postmodern world:encouraging social learning, developing a global and systemic view, recovering a sense of the future; 10) Aspects of a Wise Culture: the transpersonal perspective, a broader map of knowledge, nurturing wisdom.

Concludes with a critically annotated bibliography of 200 items. Highly recommended authors include J.G. Ballard, Gregory Bateson, Thomas Berry, Lester Brown, Susan George, Steven Jay Gould, Willis Harman, Hazel Henderson, Aldous Huxley, Mary Kaldor, Joanna Macy, Jerry Mander, Eleonora Masini, Donella Meadows, Lester Milbrath, Lewis Mumford, Neil Postman, Theodore Roszak, and Ken Wilber.

(NOTE: Ambitious futurism with an attitude.)

From: Future Survey, Volume 17, Number 11, November 1995.