a book by Alvin and Heidi Toffler
(our site's book review)
This is the third book in his trilogy (which includes Future Shock and The Third Wave) about changes in human civilization as the 21st century unfolds. Toffler writes from a futurist’s perspective, and is the best-known futurist ever—and the most influential. Power shifts are transforming all areas of life. The actual nature of power itself is changing. And there is a new system of wealth creation. Knowledge is the key raw material now for wealth creation.
The book describes the power triangle, with the lowest quality power sources—force and wealth—on the bottom, and the highest quality power source—knowledge—on the top. Knowledge includes art, science, moral values, information and misinformation.
The book joins the parade of books advocating our adopting the new, ecological-holistic paradigm as opposed to retaining the old, mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm. The Third Wave and the new paradigm overlap extensively. He calls for us to welcome and usher in the Third Wave quickly because of all the social dysfunctionality which is caused by hanging on to the old, anachronistic paradigm out of habit and a quest for security and simplification. Second Wave politics is a case in point—it’s totally out of whack. Look at what is happening to the U.S.!
The book’s advocacy of high-quality power (he also discusses the maximization of the other two forms of power via the use of highest quality power) also parallels other authors’ call for positive power rather than negative power. A case in point is Philip Slater, who defines negative power as the ability to control (through wealth or threats), force, invade, terrify, imprison and kill others, while positive power is the ability to influence and inform others (as with knowledge, advice, science, art , moral values), to arouse love and respect, to love, and to get one’s needs met.
Part of Second Wave thinking is reductionism in which understanding is attempted via the study of the parts rather than the whole or the system. Another part is what could be called social reductionism, wherein isolated nuclear (or single-parent or step) families reduced to few social resources within and few social networking resources without try to cope with spousal, sibling and parental relationships in a comparatively resourceless condition, attempting to use Second Wave isolated nuclear (or single-parent or step) family set-ups in a world that’s rapidly becoming Third Wave.
Toffler sees Third Wave expanded families of the future in which the personnel numbers go up and the networking with other families increases as well. He sees this as a good thing and a resurrection of the expanded and extended families that were a lot more prevalent in the First Wave and the earlier part of the Second Wave. “For community life, for patterns of love and marriage, for the reconstitution of friendship networks, for the economy and the consumer marketplace, as well as for our psyches and personality structure, the rise of the electronic expanded family would be momentous.” (This was in The Third Wave.)
The electronic expanded family home—the electronic cottage
The most insidious Second Wave social reductionism force, mostly left unexamined and invisible due to its omnipresence (in the U.S.) and unwitting social acceptance, is steep-gradient nurturance in which mothers are faced with exclusive nurturing of a child or two, and children are faced with being exclusively nurtured by one person—usually their mother, unconnected to any other social resources or networks. Because of all the authoritarian/patriarchal/conservative brainwashing on this subject (which usually totally ignores the fact that flat-gradient nurturance has been the historical norm for thousands of years and steep-gradient nurturance is merely a recent historical anomaly and failed experiment), many people actually see nothing amiss with the bizarre idea of sticking mother and child in a situation where each is the other’s sole resource for weeks, months, or years at a time!
Unless the mother is well-networked with other mothers and shares childcare with them (see Smart Mom's Baby-sitting Co-op Handbook), or the father gets into the picture and does a significant portion of the childcare, this situation—of isolated, resourceless attempts at nurturing with little respite and few or no alternative caregivers—is a recipe for dysfunctionality, as hordes of statistics have shown us for decades. Abuse of people and substances, depression, psychological problems, stress, and later serious social dysfunctionality for many of the young so raised—these are the well-demonstrated legacy for steep-gradient nurturance.
One of the most benevolent and significant side effects of Toffler’s expanded family idea, above, is that it empowers all concerned to have more flat-gradient-nurturance relationships, which is a godsend for a situation that has been silently screaming for help for many years. This addressing of social needs with a system of individuals rather than a single designated individual is part of Third Wave and ecological-holistic paradigm thinking, replacing the outmoded Second Wave reductionism wherein a single person is the ruggedly heroically individualistic total answer to another person’s full array of needs.
The heroic individualist
Childcare centers have been some help in these matters, but are staffed with people who don’t really love and often even care about the kids who are placed there; also, there’s high turnover because of low pay, so centers get quite a few individuals of inadequate or questionable credentials, and even some with questionable intentions, so most parents are very hesitant to leave their precious children in the care of centers. Centers are no long-term solution to childcare dilemmas, that’s for sure. Toffler’s expanded family idea is much closer to the creative answer such a problem demands.
From the 1970s to the 1990s good/excellent quality care went from 26% to 13% in centers; MCs' caregiving costs (free) and gas for transportation (minimal) represent minimized economic expenditures which will be particularly appreciated as childcare costs rise and yet childcare center quality decreases
Childcare centers should house friends, relatives, elders and kids—not strangers and high-turnover workers of questionable competence
One vital characteristic of the core of Second Wave/mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm thinking is its win-lose context, which just happens to be the main personality type that results from steep-gradient nurturance. Win-win contexts come from flatter gradients of nurturance in which more people participate in the upbringing of the young, and such contexts are key elements in Third Wave/ecological-holistic paradigm thinking in which cooperation and systems solutions outstrip reductionistic, heroic-individualist solutions by a mile. So it isn’t merely that the flatter nurturing gradient will create happier families, parents and kids with less stress and hang-ups. It’s also that often missed in discussions of the type of people and relationships needed in the future if civilization is to survive and thrive is the issue of how we are going to insure that such people and relationships result from our social structures.
How can we continue to need one type but continue to produce its opposite? In other words, if Second Wave authoritarian and/or permissive parenting rather than Third Wave, authoritative, (or harmonious) nonpunitive, democratic parenting continues to prevail, and we try to create a win-win, Third Wave civilization with steep-gradient-nurtured, Second Wave, win-lose personalities, we will be undone before we be even begin! (Fortunately, the solutions here are simple, and the MC movement has been set up to represent the very epitome of these solutions. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Registering for MC search and match
Other areas covered in Powershift are: the Gulf War, flex-firms, horizontal and vertical power structures, changes in the workplace, the death of mass society, the weaknesses of the nation-state, Soviet decline, diversity, the power of the media, U.S. cultural exports, the global village, cultures that skip from First Wave to Third Wave, needed models to emulate, eco-fanatics, capitalism versus the Dark Ages, dangers in the new world order, the difference between necessary and surplus order, etc.
He notes that industrial civilization no longer offers any attractive models to emulate for the rest of the world; although others envy Americans’ materialistic wealth and glamorous styles, they often abhor the loose morals, shaky ethics, and crime statistics we take for granted here. This makes people who would have emulated American values and attitudes instead opt for regressive and fanatical factions’ viewpoints and beliefs—groups which at least seem to have solid ethics, morals and infraction enforcement. “What is happening is a sky-darkening attack on the ideas of the Enlightenment which helped usher in the industrial age. . . . secularism is in retreat. What do advocates of democracy have to put in its place? So far the new, high-tech democracies have renovated neither their outdated mass democratic political structures nor the philosophical assumptions that underlie them.”
We need people working on global warming issues, but we instead spend a fortune spying on U.S. citizens and warmongering, making the U.S. look like the Great Satan the Islamics see us as
He says neither religion nor fundamentalism, as such, are world threats. It is the fanatics “who are committed to theocratic control of the mind and behavior of the individual, and others lend them unwitting support.” The obvious implication here is that if Western democracies get their act together, export media products that represent compassion, decency and humanitarianism rather than crime and moral decay, take responsibility for their environmental excesses, and somehow display secularism in a new light that manifests not corruption and decay but its opposite, fanatics will no longer get many supporters because the West will have outlined a viable moral path and no longer will the vulnerable masses of the world feel they need to fight the Great Satan of Western corruption for the good of mankind and as a way of pleasing their gods, some of whom seem to have "72 virgins" waiting in the wings for them.
Of course, such a humanitarian, moral, viable path is precisely the goal of the MC movement—a movement which recognizes that the infamous social engineers of the 20th century did it exactly wrong: They attempted to be superheroes ushering in Utopia via various types of entitlement states, socialistic states, welfare states, etc., using politics and big governments as saviors—or even secular religions. The ugly results help us all realize why there are so many people today seeking new ways of thinking and being and new beliefs. They feel the corrupt West is on the wrong path. But MC people realize that social engineering is the worst way to create “the good society.” As hundreds of our best thinkers have told us for decades, salvation via political agendas is a foolish pipe dream.
Pipe dream: salvation via political agendas
“Good societies” that get imposed, regardless of how sincere the imposer or how inspired are the beliefs that underlie the new paths, are by definition on the wrong track. The only viable way to have a good society is to live in a democracy (and if you don’t, move to one or create one) so that you’re free to choose your lifestyle, and then create a good society through individual responsibility, individual lifestyle choices, individual action and soon a grassroots movement in which there is no political involvement, policies, social “programs” or the like, but instead, as in the systems concepts in Chaos theory, a lot of little “butterflies” flapping their wings in various places on this beautiful planet, slowly “changing the weather” and raising the lifestyle quality for us all, as others, who like what they’re seeing and hearing, adopt MC people’s lifestyles as examples to emulate, and decide to participate themselves. The only thing the MC movement needs from the politicians is to get out of the way, although it would surely help if Second Wave politicians and their systems were to revamp to Third Wave reality as soon as they can.
Note: Heidi Toffler co-authored this book.