Toffler: Future Shock
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Toffler has been the best known and most influential exponent of the new trade of Futurology. He was trained as a journalist, and Future Shock (published 1970) was his first book. It sold by the million. Toffler was highly influenced by science fiction writers, and in turn his vision of a society in the grips of an uncontrollable and accelerating plunge into the future was an influence on much science fiction of the 1970s. His later The Third Wave (1980) suggested that a new society structured around information technology was poised to usher in a new and happier society based on a looser and more diverse social structure.

Toffler's views have been increasingly influential in the realm of politics and business. Since becoming famous, Toffler and his wife have been able to build a career as gurus, delivering expensive lectures to corporations and hobnobbing with world leaders. In the early 1990s he won new celebrity as a mentor to self-proclaimed Republican Revolutionary Newt Gingrich (he was associated with Gingrich's Progress and Freedom Foundation and had known Gingrich back in his "history professor" days of the early 1970s). They shared a belief in the evils of strong government, the revolutionary power of "cyberspace" in public life, and the need to reshape government in response to the demands of an information-centric future.

We are reading chapters 2, 16 and 20.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is "future shock"? What assumptions about the nature of technological and social change does the concept involve?
  2. Do you believe Future Shock was a medical condition? (Look particularly at the descriptions on pages 326-331)
  3. How does Toffler construct his argument? What sources of evidence does he use?
  4. What is "Social Futurism", Toffler's proposed solution?
  5. How does Toeffler describe futurology (chapter 20)? As a way of looking at the future, how much does it have in common with the novels, stories and films we have already studied? How does it differ?


bulletHere is the Wired magazine archive page for Toeffler.
bulletToffler Associates keeps its own website.
bulletGingrich was a strange figure -- part futuristic would-be visionary, part libertarian and part conservative. This led at least one right winger of a conspiratorial persuasion to believe that his association with Toeffler (whom the author refers to as an "'ex'-Marxist") and espousal of a Conservative Futurism made him a "Democrat in Drag". There's another denunciation of Gingrich as a closet countercultural communist here.

Page created by Thomas Haigh. Last edited  01/12/2002.