CREATING A NEW CIVILIZATION: THE POLITICS OF THE THIRD WAVE
Alvin and Heidi Toffler
Foreword by Newt Gingrich
Turner Publishing, 1995, 112 pp.
Newt Gingrich claims that "Alvin and Heidi Toffler have
given us the
key to viewing current disarray within the positive framwork of a
exciting future" (p. 14). The book, he thinks, "is an
empower citizenslike yourself to truly take the leap and begin to
invent a Third
Wave civilization" (p. 17).
Though of course reluctant to disagree with so august a
personage as the
Speaker of the House, I cannot share his high opinion of this
Tofflers, like Karl Marx, think that technology determines
history. But Marx
got the details wrong. The Tofflers claim that industrial
development does not
inevitably pave the way to socialism, as he thought; instead, the
computers and other types of "open knowledge" will
lead to a new type
of society. "Third Wave" thinking has now superseded
industrialism, on which both old-fashioned capitalism and
socialism are based.
(First Wave or agricultural civilization is even more
In predicting the increased importance of computers, the
Tofflers occupy the
firm ground of those seers who prognosticate by projecting the
into the future. But they nowhere show that growth in information
revolutionary effects on society that they postulate. Why
in technology alter the structure of the family, make nationalism
require us to abandon traditional morality?
They condemn those who "appeal to nostalgia in their
culture and values, as though one could return to the values and
morality of the
1950sa time before universal television, before the
before commercial jet aviation, satellites and home
returning to the mass industrial society of the Second Wave"
(p. 77). How
do satellites change morality? The all-determining influence of
operates in the Tofflers' system as an unquestioned axiom.
If their predictions are banal, and their social theory
simplistic, their recommendations for political change are more
than a little
sinister. Although constantly calling for decentralization, they
that we are "politically primitive and undeveloped" at
level." Decisions must be transferred "up" from
(p. 100). Translating the Tofflers' Third Wave argot into
English, this is a
call for global government. Not surprisingly, those who oppose
prisoners of the outmoded Second Wave.
Although our authors say some commendably harsh things about
by no means advocate the free market. Massive job retraining and
new forms of
collective bargaining are the order of the day: to think
otherwise is of course
to be enmeshed in Second Wave Thought (p. 53).
But what exactly the anticipatory democracy that they, and
see in store for us consists of, they mostly leave vague. To
demand specifics is
no doubt to fall victim to the discredited analytic approach,
Descartes (p. 60). These Third Wave thinkers, who take a
integrative view," have transcended old-fashioned logic.
Creating a New Civilization contains many more gems. We
that St. Augustine thought that those who could add or subtract
had made a
covenant with the Devil (p. 35). But enough. Readers will have no
gauging the quality of the Tofflers' intelligence, or the
intelligence of those
who recommend them. This is not a book, but a symptom.