Toffler, Alvin 1928-
Toffler, Alvin 1928-
Home and office—Toffler Associates, Headquarters, 302 Harbor's Point, 40 Beach St., Manchester, MA 01944; fax: 978-526-2445.
Writer, journalist, and educator. Washington correspondent for various newspapers and magazines, 1957-59; Fortune magazine, New York City, associate editor, 1959-61; freelance writer, 1961—; Toffler Associates, Manchester, MA, founder. Member of faculty, New School for Social Research, 1965-67; visiting professor, Cornell University, 1969; visiting scholar, Russell Sage Foundation, 1969-70. Member of board of trustees, Antioch University. Consultant to organizations, including Rockefeller Brothers Fund, American Telephone & Telegraph Co., Institute for the Future, and Educational Facilities Laboratories, Inc.
American Society of Journalists and Authors, Society for the History of Technology (member of advisory council).
Award from National Council for the Advancement of Educational Writing, 1969, for The Schoolhouse in the City; McKinsey Foundation Book Award, 1970, and Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger (France), 1972, both for Future Shock; Playboy magazine best article award, 1970; Doctor of Laws from University of Western Ontario, D.Litt. from University of Cincinnati, D.Sc. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and D.Litt. from Miami University, all 1972; Doctor of Letters, Ripon College, 1975; Author of the Year Award, American Society of Journalists and Authors, 1983; American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow, 1984; Centennial Award, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 1984; Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1984; Doctor of Laws, Manhattan College, 1984.
The Culture Consumers: A Study of Art and Affluence in America (Literary Guild selection), St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1964.
(Editor) The Schoolhouse in the City, Praeger (New York, NY), 1968.
Future Shock, Random House (New York, NY), 1970.
(Editor) The Futurists, Random House (New York, NY), 1972.
(Editor) Learning for Tomorrow: The Role of the Future in Education, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.
The Eco-Spasm Report, Bantam (New York, NY), 1975.
The Third Wave, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.
Previews and Premises, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.
The Adaptive Corporation, McGraw (New York, NY), 1984.
Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature, Bantam (New York, NY), 1984.
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.
(With wife, Heidi Toffler) War and Anti-war: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993, published as War and Anti-war: Making Sense of Today's Global Chaos, Warner 1995.
(With Heidi Toffler) Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, Progress and Freedom Foundation (Washington, DC), 1994, reprinted with a foreword by Newt Gingrich, Turner Pub. (Atlanta, GA), 1995.
(With Heidi Toffler) Revolutionary Wealth, Knopf (New York, NY), 2006, reprinted with a new foreword by the authors, Currency/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.
Books have been published in foreign languages, including Japanese.
Bricks and Mortarboards, Educational Facilities Laboratories, Inc., 1966.
B.M. Gross, editor, A Great Society?, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1968.
K. Baier and N. Rescher, editors, Values and the Future, Free Press (New York, NY), 1969.
B.M. Gross, editor, Social Intelligence for America's Future, Allyn & Bacon (Boston, MA), 1969.
Cultures beyond the Earth, Vintage (New York, NY), 1975.
Anticipatory Democracy, Vintage (New York, NY), 1975.
Science Fiction at Large, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1976.
Order out of Chaos, Bantam (New York, NY), 1984.
Also contributor to anthologies, including Politics, U.S. A., edited by A.M. Scott and E. Wallace, 2nd edition, Macmillan, 1965; Essays Today, edited by William Moynihan, Harcourt, 1965; and The Sociology of Art and Literature, edited by M.C. Albrecht and others, Praeger, 1970. Contributor to periodicals, including Fortune, Life, Reader's Digest, Horizon, New York Times Magazine, Saturday Review, Playboy, New Republic, and Nation.
Alvin Toffler is a journalist and intellectual who has written several best-selling books about how changing societal dynamics will impact future generations. In Future Shock and The Third Wave, Toffler presents his speculations about future developments in Western society and his recommendations for adapting to the problems and opportunities these changes will create. In the 1970s and 1980s, Toffler became an international celebrity. In the 1990s, Toffler's wife, Heidi, began accepting byline credit for collaborating with her husband on their books.
In the best-selling Future Shock, Toffler stimulated some fresh thinking. He argues in this book that the rate of change in contemporary society is now so fast that many people are being overwhelmed by it. The term "future shock," explained Arnold A. Rogow in the Saturday Review, refers to "a condition of confusion and dislocation" brought on by sudden, massive societal change. Toffler bases his concept on the anthropological idea of "culture shock," the inability of some primitive cultures to adapt when first coming into contact with a highly advanced culture. Applying this idea to our own constantly changing society, Toffler argues that members of our society are experiencing a clash between the culture they grew up in and the emerging technological culture around them, which is replacing and destroying their familiar world. "Future shock is a time phenomenon," Toffler writes in his book, "a product of the greatly accelerated rate of change in society. It arises from the superimposition of a new culture on an old one. It is culture shock in one's own society."
Toffler believes there is a limit to the amount of change that human beings can readily accept, and that we may be reaching that limit. "We have," Elting E. Morison stated in the New York Times Book Review, "… discoverable limits, physiological and emotional, to the numbers of signals we can take in from the world to come." The rising rates for divorce, drug use, and crime all point, Toffler states, to the disastrous effects that future shock is having on Western society. However, John Greenway wrote in the American Journal of Sociology that the "limits of change the human organism can absorb are discoverable and are therefore controllable." Toffler suggests several ways to control the ill effects of future shock. Children should read more science fiction, he believes; contemporary rituals should be developed to celebrate technological progress, and the study of the future should be given a more prominent place in our society.
Calling Future Shock "the most prophetic, disturbing, and stimulating social study of this year," Edward Weeks, writing in the Atlantic, agreed with Toffler's argument that "we have it in our power to shape change; we may choose one future over another." Neil Millar, writing in the Christian Science Monitor also saw an optimism in Future Shock. "It over-simplifies some issues," he wrote, "[but] it also opens bright vistas of hope."
This hope is also found in The Third Wave, which extends and develops the ideas first presented in Future Shock. The great changes Toffler warns about in Future Shock are presented in Third Wave as the harbingers of a new and potentially liberating form of civilization. "This new civilization," Toffler writes, "brings with it new family styles; changed ways of working, loving, and living; a new economy; new political conflicts; and beyond all this an altered consciousness as well."
The first two "waves" of history, Toffler explains, were the invention of agriculture ten thousand years ago and the industrial revolution of a few centuries ago. The "third wave" involves the restructuring of industrial civilization along more humane lines. Decentralization, renewable energy sources, high technology, and new forms of participatory democracy are all features of this coming civilization.
Several critics disparaged Toffler's writing style in The Third Wave but believe he does raise some important questions for further discussion. "Toffler's style suffers from evangelism: sonorous, incremental cascades, prose panoramas," Anatole Broyard wrote in the New York Times. "While he is often right, he has the hortatory tone we associate with being wrong." The critic added: "Even so, The Third Wave has many virtues. In his hectic way, Mr. Toffler raises all sorts of good questions." Similarly, Langdon Winner, writing in the New York Times Book Review, believed Toffler "offers many provocative observations about contemporary social trends, especially on patterns evolving in work and family life. But he's in such a hurry to package his ideas in flashy conceptual wrappers that he seldom completes a thought."
Rosalind H. Williams, reviewing The Third Wave for Technology Review, disagreed with some of Toffler's interpretations of present-day trends. Toffler sees, for example, current high-technology industries as harbingers of his "third wave" civilization. Williams, however, believed "these developments would prolong the present order, not alter it radically. New markets do not make a new civilization." Williams added: "Toffler's problem is not that he dares to predict, but that his prophecies overlook possible extensions of the community- and energy-intensive civilization of today." However, Williams still found much value in The Third Wave as "a manual of survival strategies" and as a "stimulus to the imagination."
In the 1990s, Toffler and his wife continued to write about the future. In War and Anti-war: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, the Tofflers warn about the new kinds of weaponry and strategy that will become evident in the future. In Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, the pair update their classic Third Wave by discussing how corporations and governments continue to be stuck in Second Wave habits.
In the mid-1990s, the Tofflers again made headlines when Newt Gingrich, newly elected as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, acknowledged the couple as his mentors. Although they continue to receive significant criticism for their theories, the Tofflers have persisted in mapping out their vision of society's future.
In their 2006 book, Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin and Heidi Toffler focus their attention on what they see as a revolution in wealth that is sweeping the world. "Their new book … builds on the framework of their previous writings, so there's a lot of talk about clashes among First Wave (agrarian), Second Wave (industrialized) and Third Wave (postindustrial, or ‘knowledge-based’) societies," wrote Nick Gillespie in Reason magazine. "They argue convincingly that we are on the verge of a post-scarcity world that will slash poverty and ‘unlock countless opportunities and new life trajectories,’ at least if we avoid the rapidly escalating risks to such progress."
In their book, the authors write about how tomorrow's wealth will be created and who will have access to this wealth. However, the authors describe this "wealth" as being more than just about money and that future wealth is not to be understood in terms of industrial-age economics. "Here they explain the modern economy, one based on knowledge, that is, the power of the mind and information over physical work and how it will contribute to creating a new kind of wealth in the near future," noted Andres Hernandez Alende in Latin Trade. Focusing on everything from childhood to education to China, the Tofflers explore what they call peoples' "third jobs," that is, the unnoticed work people do for no pay but that nevertheless boosts the economy. Richard Drezen, writing in the Library Journal, noted that "the patient reader can learn much from the Tofflers' new paradigm."
Toffler stressed to Charles Platt in Dream Makers, Volume II: The Uncommon Men and Women Who Write Science Fiction that in all his work he has promoted the idea of citizen participation in the decisions regarding future technological developments. "These decisions," he explained, "can no longer be left to scientific, business, or political elites." Toffler explained: "If you do not give people that voice, you are not giving them a voice in the selection of their own future." He believes his own role is "to open up the reader's mind to other ways of conceptualizing our political and social structures. I think that that helps people adapt; and to have a repertoire of alternatives is necessary."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Platt, Charles, Dream Makers, Volume II: The Uncommon Men and Women Who Write Science Fiction, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1983.
Toffler, Alvin, Future Shock, Random House (New York, NY), 1970.
Toffler, Alvin, The Third Wave, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.
American Journal of Sociology, July, 1971, John Greenway, review of Future Shock, p. 179.
Atlantic, August, 1970, Edward Weeks, review of Future Shock, p. 112.
Booklist, March 15, 2006, David Siegfried, review of Revolutionary Wealth, p. 4.
Book World, September 6, 1970, review of Future Shock, p. 4.
California Bookwatch, July, 2006, review of Revolutionary Wealth.
Christian Science Monitor, August 6, 1970, Neil Millar, review of Future Shock, p. 11.
Commentary, October, 1971, review of Future Shock, p. 61; July, 1995, Daniel J. Silver, review of Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, p. 32.
Economist, June 21, 1980, review of The Third Wave, p. 111.
Futurist, July-August, 2006, review of Revolutionary Wealth; November-December, 2006, review of Revolutionary Wealth; March-April, 2007, review of Revolutionary Wealth.
Latin Trade, August 1, 2006, Andres Hernandez Alende, "Back to the Future," review of Revolutionary Wealth, p. 50.
Library Journal, May 15, 2006, Richard Drezen, review of Revolutionary Wealth, p. 109.
Maclean's, April 14, 1980, Barbara Amiel, review of The Third Wave, p. 64.
Nation, January 25, 1971, review of Future Shock, p. 117.
New Republic, January 9, 1995, Gary Chapman, "Wired," p. 19; February 27, 1995, Mickey Kaus "Cyberpunk. (TRB—Alvin Toffler and Robert Wright on Electronic Democracy)," p. 6; October 9, 1995, John B. Judis, "Newt's Not-so-Weird Gurus: In Defense of the Tofflers," p. 16.
New Statesman, October 2, 1970, review of Future Shock, p. 419.
New Statesman & Society, January 28, 1994, review of War and Anti-war: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, p. 41.
Newsweek, August 24, 1970, review of Future Shock, p. 68.
New York Times, March 22, 1980, Anatole Broyard, review of The Third Wave, p. 19.
New York Times Book Review, July 26, 1970, Elting E. Morison, review of Future Shock, p. 3; March 30, 1980, Langdon Winner, review of The Third Wave, p. 3; May 7, 1995, review of Creating a New Civilization, p. 9.
Observer, January 23, 1994, review of War and Anti-war, p. 18.
Psychology Today, April, 1980, Frank Trippett, review of The Third Wave, p. 110.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2006, review of Revolutionary Wealth, p. 74.
Reason, May 14, 2006, Nick Gillespie, "The Future Is Now," review of Revolutionary Wealth.
Saturday Review, December 12, 1970, Arnold A. Rogow, review of Future Shock, p. 27; March 29, 1980, review of The Third Wave, p. 51.
Technology Review, October, 1980, Rosalind H. Williams, review of The Third Wave, p. 15.
Time, March 24, 1980, review of The Third Wave, p. 86; January 23, 1995, Karen Tumulty, "Inside the Minds of Gingrich's Gurus," profile of author and wife, p. 2.
Times Literary Supplement, August 8, 1975, review of The Eco-Spasm Report, p. 894; October 31, 1980, review of The Third Wave, p. 1242.
Alvin Toffler Home Page,http://www.alvintoffler.net (July 8, 2008).
Gartner,http://www.gartner.com/ (July 8, 2008), Ken McGee, "Author and Futurist Alvin Toffler," interview with author.
Toffler Associates Web site,http://www.toffler.com (July 8, 2008).
Washingtonpost.com, June 20, 2006, "Revolutionary Wealth," discussion of book by author.