Michael Marien

Futures for the Third Millennium: Enabling the Forward View. Richard A. Slaughter. St. Leonards, NSW, Australia: Prospect Media, June 1999, 381pp

Michael Marien, Future Survey, World Future Society, MD, USA

There remains a vast disjuncture between the needs of all societies for commitments to meaningful purposes and goals, and the so-far minimal investment in creating and applying the forward view by leading bodies and public institutions. As a result, we continue to plunge into a most unstable and difficult time, without the tools of understanding that are needed to deal with the ‘civilisational challenge.’

These 23 collected essays, first published in the 1984-1999 period are arranged into six parts. (1) Futures Studies as Disciplined Enquiry: long-term thinking and the politics of reconceptualisation (on the need for national 21st century studies), the knowledge base of futures studies as an evolving process. (2) Context and Critique: the Western industrial worldview and the resulting social and ecological dilemmas in Bermuda, futures workshops and imagining different futures. (3) Futures in Education: a rationale for futures in schools, supporting proactive school leadership, technology and violence in young people’s media, creating positive views of futures with young people, critical futures studies as an educational strategy for post-graduate courses. (4) Foresight Institutions and Practices: barriers to the wider use of foresight, lessons from Australia’s defunct Commission for the Future, foresight and the rise of nanotechnology, a national foresight strategy for Australia.

(5) Critical Futures Methods: an overview of the futures field (encompassing futures research, futures studies and futures movements), the American mindset, an outline of critical futures study (‘the best futures work is concise, economical and iconoclastic, revealing aspects of our world that we had overlooked’), the six elements of a structural overview of the next 20 years (main continuities, major trends, important change processes, serious problems, items in the pipeline, main sources of inspiration and hope), environmental scanning and the Futurescan process, a critique of the two Naisbitt megatrends books, developing strategic foresight (‘a high-quality, coherent and functional forward view’). (6) Beyond the High-Tech Wonderland: from individual to social capacity in futures studies, the nuclear threat, implications of Ken Wilber’s transpersonal metanarrative for futures studies 9seen as providing a renewed world story, and a critique of the systems approach as holistic flatland) and the rationale for dissenting futures.

Slaughter is the most prolific champion of critical futures thinking today, and this book offers a fine overview of his writing, as well as an impressive personal bibliography of some 150 books, reports and articles.

From: Future Survey 21, 10, October 1999, p 16-17.