futurology


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

futurology

the study or prediction of the future of mankind

futurology

  1. the purported science of prognosis (Flechtheim, 1965).
  2. any attempt to undertake longterm, large-scale social and economic FORECASTING. Rather than being defined as a separate science, efforts to illuminate the future are better seen as one aspect of the numerous individual social sciences, with sociology often playing a central role.
As indicated by Daniel BELL (1965,1973), the varieties of social-science activity that can be involved in statements about the future must be carefully distinguished. They include:
  1. academically grounded general speculation;
  2. the simple extrapolation of existing trends or tendencies, or probability generalizations, based on the existing behaviour of known populations or natural phenomena;
  3. theoretical general models of the kind associated with Marxism, and developmental social-evolutionary theories of various kinds, including models of exponential growth;
  4. the ‘prediction’ of specific events.

As suggested by POPPER, the distinction must be drawn between ‘prophecy’ (e.g. claims to predict the future made by ‘vulgar’ versions of Marxism or evolutionary theory) and ‘scientific prediction’, which is always a matter of universal conditional statements and ‘if, then’ in form (see also HISTORICISM). Apart from our knowledge of what Bell refers to as ‘structural certainties’ (e.g. the date of the next US presidential election), exact prediction is rare in the social sciences, given the complexity of the variables involved, including human choice, the fact that most social systems are ‘open systems’. The various attempts to chart future possibilities remain valuable, however, as long as the limitations and caveats which must attach to them are not ignored. See also SELFFULFILLING AND SELFDESTROYING PROPHECY.

Futurology

 

a term broadly used to indicate the entire range of conceptions about the future of the earth and of mankind; in its more narrow sense, futurology is that field of inquiry that deals with prospective social processes—a synonym for prognosis or prognostication. In the USSR the term is generally used to designate contemporary non-Marxist conceptions of the future, or bourgeois futurology.

The term “futurology” was coined in 1943 by the German sociologist O. Flechtheim to denote a kind of supraclass “philosophy of the future,” which he contrasted to ideology as well as to utopia. In the early 1960’s the term gained currency in the West, in the sense of “history of the future” or “science of the future,” and futurology was called on to monopolize the prognostic, or forecasting, functions of existing scientific disciplines. But beginning in the late 1960’s, in view of the fact that prospective social processes are studied by many different sciences, the term “futurology,” because of its vagueness and multiplicity of meanings, was gradually replaced by “the study of the future,” a term implying the totality of prognostic theory and practice. It is in this sense—namely, as a descriptive synonym for “the study of the future”—that futurology is still generally understood in the West. The World Future Studies Federation was formed in 1973; its membership includes various scientific societies that make forecasting studies, such as the research committee on futurology of the International Sociological Association.

Several tendencies may be distinguished in bourgeois futurology, including those of the apologists, the reformists, and the left radicals. The 1960’s were dominated by the outright apologists, whose ideas were based on a variety of technological theories (such as the concept of the postindustrial society) and who sought to demonstrate the viability of state-monopoly capitalism and its potential for modernization. Representatives of this trend in the United States are D. Bell and H. Kahn; in France, R. Aron and B. de Jouvenel. The reformist position is based on the theory that capitalism and socialism must converge; its adherents include F. Baade in the Federal Republic of Germany, R. Jungk in Austria, F. Polak in the Netherlands, and J. Galtung in Norway. The left radicals, on the other hand—such as A. Waskow in the United States—maintain that the scientific and technological revolution will inevitably result in catastrophe for “Western civilization.”

The late 1960’s marked the beginning of a critical period in bourgeois futurology. The leading current in the early 1970’s was represented by those who believed a “global catastrophe” to be inevitable in view of the current direction of social development. A group calling itself the Club of Rome, whose membership includes prominent Western scholars, politicians, and businessmen, has played a very influential role in this complex and essentially apologist current. On the initiative of the Club of Rome, computer data were made the basis of a “global modeling” of mankind’s future. Those participating in such research represent two basic tendencies: social pessimism characterizes the ideas of J. Forrester, D. Meadows, and R. Heilbroner of the United States, while the position of the “technological optimists” is based on the possibility of preventing catastrophe by “optimizing” state-monopoly capitalism—as proposed, for example, by A. Toffler, M. Mesaroviɣ, and E. Laszlo of the USA, E. Pestel of the Federal Republic of Germany, C. Freeman and V. Ferkiss of Great Britain, I. Kaiya of Japan, H. Linnemann of the Netherlands, and A. Herrera of Argentina.

In contrast to the varied and contradictory conceptions of bourgeois futurology, the scientific predictions of Marxism-Leninism are based on the theoretical propositions of dialectical and historical materialism.

REFERENCES

Marx, K., F. Engels, and V. I. Lenin. O nauchnom kommunizme. Moscow, 1963. (Collection of articles.)
Kakoe budushchee ozhidaet chelovechestvo? Prague, 1964.
Edeling, G. Prognozirovanie i sotsializm. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from German.)
Budushchee chelovecheskogo obshchestva. Moscow, 1971.
Ozhegov, Iu. P. Problema predvideniia v sovremennoi burzhuaznoi ideologii. Novosibirsk, 1971.
Ozhegov, Iu. P. Sotsial’noe prognozirovanie i ideologicheskaia bor’ba. Moscow, 1975.
Arab-Ogly, E. A. Vlabirinteprorochestv. Moscow, 1973.
Lavallée, L. Za marksistskoe issledovanie budushchego. Moscow, 1974. (Translated from French.)
Jungk, R. Die Zukunft hat schon begonnen. Hamburg, 1964.
Jouvenel des Ursins, B. de. L’Art de la conjecture. Monaco, 1964.
Flechtheim, O. K. Futurologie: Der Kampf um die Zukunft. Cologne, 1970.
Toffler, A. Future Shock. New York, 1970.
Bell, D. The Coming of Post-industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting. New York, 1973.
The Limits to Growth. New York, 1972.
Mesarović, M., and E. Pestel. Mankind at the Turning Point. New York, 1974.

I. V. BESTUZHEV-LADA

References in periodicals archive ?
Some of Futurology would sit perfectly on the band's much maligned second album Gold Against The Soul, while single Walk Me To The Bridge and The View From Stow Hill would not be out of place on the band's commercial high point, 1996's Everything Must Go.
At the same time, that discussion avoided the New Deal's national futurology, evincing deep skepticism of the federal government's promise of inclusionary community.
It's certainly exciting to think that all that futurology is buzzing around your mobile phone each time you use it to ring home and say "I'm stuck in the snow.
The two-day forum will bring together experts and insiders from around the world to talk about topics ranging from futurology and corporate change, innovation, customer relationships, corporate culture and leadership.
Futurology and strategic studies researchers and specialists from several Arab countries are taking part in this meeting organised by ALECSO as part of its preparation for the Arab Congress on the Futurology, due to be held in 2011 in Tunis.
Educational futuristics (also known as futurology or long-range forecasting) promotes the use of a distinctive set of methods, such as extrapolations, scenarios, and trend analysis, within the framework of an optimistic philosophical approach: the future is largely ours to make.
And protest organisations should study it too, particularly since the Hawke Labor government deployed troops against protestors at the Nurrungar joint Australian-United States military satellite base in 1989; not necessarily an isolated event according to Head's informed futurology.
Secondly, futurology concerning scientific discovery is so fraught with peril that venturing into it borders on the ridiculous.
The students' major assessment piece involved applying course content of futurology and contemporary tourism issues directly to a major tourism enterprise, Sovereign Hill.
This is a disappointing departure away from evidence-based reasoning and into the realm of sci fi and alarmist futurology," said an NFU spokesman.
Futurology has become the most important part of businesses as the digital sector becomes more and more crowded, with more and more competitors to keep ahead of.
First, despite its marketers' title, it is not really a stab at futurology but instead an analysis of the foreseeable challenges the world faces in this century, Second, Lord Patten does not possess, and does not claim, any particular knowledge or interest in economics.