Yvonne Curtis

The Knowledge Base of Futures Studies

Series Editor Richard A Slaughter

Volume 1 Foundations; Volume 2 Organisations Practices Products; Volume 3 Directions and Outlooks. ISBN 0 9586654 0 0 (set). Futures Study Centre, Kew, VIC., Australia. 1996.

Reviewed by Yvonne Curtis, Editor, Futures Times, The Futures Trust, Wellington, New Zealand

I will not pretend that I have read all three volumes of this series. They are not that kind of resource. They are something that you dip into on frequent occasions to enjoy an essay at a time, and also for reference when tackling other projects. To me they are unique for at least three reasons. First, as Future Studies comes of age as an academic discipline, this is one of the first publications alongside, for example, Wendell Bell’s 2 volume Foundations of Futures Studies (reviewed Future Times 1997/4), which will form a basic knowledge base for the discipline.

Second, unlike Wendall Bell’s volumes, which give a very sound grounding filtered through his experience, these volumes contain essays by a wide variety of practising futurists of the Twentieth Century. This gives the reader an insight into the diversity of futurists, future thinking techniques and possible futures of the Twentieth Century in a very practical way. This could be rather bewildering to someone new to the topic, but if the resource is used skilfully I think this multiplicity of voices is a valuble expression of the diversity of our possible futures. It also gives a very clear picture of the interaction of futures thinking with all other disciplines.

Third, as a New Zealander, and a fellow Southern Hemisphere inhabitant, it is exciting to find that an Australian has had the courage to undertake this grand enterprise when, because of history and sheer number of people, most of the futures literature and futurists are based in the Northern Hemisphere. I find the Southern Pacific voice hard to hear in many of the futures suggested from the Northern Hemisphere perspective.

In each of the volumes the editor has chosen the authors and the topics to best present that particular facet of the story of modern future studies. Some authors feature more than once. I was going to name some of the authors but I think would be unfair as all make an equally valuable contribution. The title of each volume gives a very good indication of topics addressed in the volume. For example Volume 1 called Foundations contains three essays on the origins of Twentieth Century Futures Thinking, three on Futures Concepts and Metaphors, three on Futures Literature and four on the Foundations of Future Studies. All the essays have extensive notes and bibliographies listed at the end of the volume.

All the volumes include an extensive glossary of Futures Terms compiled by the editor. Hence the series is a must for a beginner in any field of study. These volumes are an essential part of any resource base for groups involved in futures studies and long term strategic planning.