The Third Wave
a book by Alvin and Heidi Toffler
(our site's book review)
This book is the mother lode of information and insight on civilizational change, historical/current/future waves of transformation, and the social evolution of mankind, written from a futurist’s point of view. Actually, as of the writing of this book, Alvin Toffler (with Heidi Toffler’s help) became more accurately THE futurist rather than A futurist. He seems light years ahead of other social commentators, authors and academics. One reason for that would be that while these others specialize in their chosen fields and are too close to these fields to be able to back up and look at the totality and direction of all social evolution at once, Toffler isn’t.
Seeing only the part—not the whole
They are analysts; Toffler is synthesist first and analyst second. They deal with the parts; Toffler deals with the whole. And deal he did. The book received worldwide acclaim and was called magnificent, mesmerizing, provocative, powerful, masterful, rich, stimulating, breathtaking, seminal, courageous, imaginative, brilliant; his book has been called an extraordinary synthesis, a powerful book, a contemporary classic, must reading, a bold projection and a blockbuster.
The author lets us know that if we read his book and finally make sense out of the chaos of the modern world, and cease searching for artificial security in obsolete beliefs and contexts of the Second Wave, and welcome and accommodate the Third Wave as the next stage of social evolution rather than trying to avoid it, pretend not to see it, or put our heads in the sand, then we can all look optimistically towards the future and look forward to exciting times ahead. But if we decide that change is bad, try to keep things just as they are (or, worse, try to return to past times like certain conservative nostalgics are known to want to do), and fight the future as it arrives, then devastation awaits. It’s a pessimistic book for people who’ve stagnated but an optimistic one for people who are open-minded, alive and receptive to life’s challenges.
Head in the sand
No other book has helped so many understand late 20th century chaos and confusion so well as The Third Wave. No other book has given so many people, thinkers, leaders, countries and groups so many opportunities to understand, integrate, plan and then act on their new contexts in wise and beneficial ways. No other book has helped guide the world through times of trial as much as this one has. And finally, no book has ever allowed so many decision makers to become so prescient and proactive with regards to the fast-changing world; leaders have so often had to be content with being guessers and hopers who must take a reactive stance to world/national/local events.
In short, Alvin Toffler (with Heidi Toffler’s help) has single-handedly given more people a chance to be at cause in their lives, rather than at effect, than anyone ever has before. To the degree we understand what’s happening, we can run our lives rather than having our lives run us. And existentially-speaking, that places The Third Wave as the defining book at the top of the scale. It’s as good as it gets. Other books can prove how smart authors are, can thrill us with some new ideas, can entertain us with what-if scenarios, and can be springboards for a bit of thought or action. But how many books have ever done all of the above and been so incredibly useful and helpful and enlightening at the same time? No one who read the book was able to avoid one key question as s/he read: How the heck did this guy (and his wife) figure all this stuff out????!!!!
The change from consumer to prosumer is exemplified by growing food instead of buying it; and creating a video about a product, putting it on YouTube, and then the company uses it on their website
It would take a book to even summarize all the information in this book, but to skim over a few of the high spots: the three waves of change and the struggle between them, mass society versus diversified/decentralized society, beyond mass production, from consumer to prosumer, the electronic cottage, telecommuting, the electronic expanded family, parental malpractice, from hierarchy to ad-hocracy, from vertical to horizontal, from bureaucracy to autocoordinated matrix network (or is it networked matrix?), from community to telecommunity, from pseudo-representative democracy to semi-direct democracy, and from profit-only economics to ecologically aware/responsible economics.
The electronic cottage
We intend, in this review, to show a connection between the subjects his book tackles and the MCs (microcommunities See Why Register for an MC?) which we feel are critical for our future.
Registering for MC search and match
Most of us are already engaged in either resisting or creating the new civilization, says Toffler. Change can produce fear of the new and unfamiliar, and the conservative impulse to protect what you’ve managed to get can produce resistance to the new and unfamiliar—which can bring new threats to what one has or plans to get. 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, and social isolation, which he sees as very negative, decreases significantly. 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.”
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, and 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, and/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 U.S. statistics have shown us for decades. Cross-cultural studies, especially ones done on societies that have recently adopted steep-gradient nurturance after centuries of flat-gradient nurturance, totally confirm and verify all we’ve said here. 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. See the last paragraph of The Rapids of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Turbulent Times.
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 and not-so-silently screaming for help for many years. And its 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. 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 with 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.
Childcare at a center
One vital characteristic of the core of Second Wave/mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm thinking (which Toffler likes to call “indust-reality”) 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) 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?.)
The two political parties are, metaphorically, fighting for possession of the deck chairs on the Titanic
Especially sagacious is his metaphor of the two political parties fighting for possession of the deck chairs on the Titanic, which is a more colorful way of saying that they are each trying to squeeze whatever advantage remains from a declining industrial system.
Pushmi-pullyu—a metaphor for the pathetic farce that is U.S. politics
Against the backdrop of the Third Wave, we can now begin “sorting out our priorities and framing sensible strategies for the control of change in our lives,” as he terms it. A decade after writing these words in The Third Wave, Toffler wrote the trilogy’s conclusion: Powershift. With the help of this additional book, we can soon see what a sensible strategy for the control of change in our life would be like: Use the highest quality power source, which is knowledge, only using coercion or money (the lower quality power sources) as a last resort.
For politicians, this means good, knowledgeable Third Wave leadership that helps to shape the fast-arriving new civilization rather than more sleight of hand tricks that help us avoid it or pretend it isn’t there; and it means focusing on using knowledge and wisdom to underwrite policy and statesmanship, rather than focusing on buying votes, lying, being dictated to by special-interest money, and issuing not-so-veiled threats about what will happen to you if you vote for the other guy. It even means helping to correct misinformation from agenda-obsessed special interests that are aiming at getting people gut-reacting to misleading emotional ploys. The citizens are sick and tired of being treated like foolish, naïve children.
For individuals, this (aligning one’s orientation with Third Wave, high-quality knowledge rather than force or wealth) means ceasing to try to buy happiness with money, ceasing authoritarian relationships defined by force, threats, and bribes, whether in the parenting or spousal area, and applying the best relationship and lifestyle knowledge available to you to your life and relationships.
The MC movement is specifically designed to furnish the information and strategies needed to empower this, all in a Third Wave, new paradigm context that uses the highest quality power of knowledge to create the highest quality relationships, parenting and communication. Even though, as the author says, we cannot know exactly what the new Third Wave civilization will look like, we can know that it will be one that finally begins using the high-quality power of the knowledge it has acquired to help us make better lifestyle, relationship and communication decisions than in the past, when such things were decided by default by conforming to neighbors’ and parents’ and friends’ and society’s statistically “normal” expectations, doing what your parents did with you regardless of how successful it turned out, and choosing whatever reduced the most tension and made one feel the most powerful—even if the power was merely power over others. Toffler says that “if we are to maintain a sense of self and the ability to manage our own lives through the intensifying crises that lie ahead, we must be able to recognize—and create—Third Wave innovations.” If the MC movement is not one of these, then the sky ain’t blue and it don’t rain in the rain forests.
Tree in rain forest
He examines the unwritten code of industrial civilization with specialization, standardization, synchronization, concentration, maximization and centralization at its core, and how these epitomize the Second Wave. When there are conflicts in businesses, schools or governments, the Second Wavers will be arguing in favor of this code; the Third Wavers will be against it. But to the Second Wavers who transform to Third Wave thinking will come a new lease on life—they were heading for obsolescence, irrelevance, and obscurity but they managed to turn it around. They’re certain to proselytize vigorously for the new civilization, all filled with the thrill of rebirth. Even if they become Third Wavers grudgingly and slowly, one day they’ll wake up and it will dawn on them that they merely “feel” that they like the old ways better (which comes from being used to something and not necessarily valuing it all that much). In truth, people who are slow to adopt Third Wave ways will like that the new ways work much better than the old ways, and they will recall that they didn’t like that the old ways kept failing people/society. Perhaps this will be called “getting it,” an old est phrase from the 70s!
Toffler examines how industrialism—the transition from First Wave to Second Wave—broke knowledge into specialized disciplines, jobs into fragments, and families into smaller units. “In so doing, it shattered community life and culture,” he states. But he also notes that many characteristics of Third Wave civilization—such as the electronic expanded family—will help us restore some of what was shattered by these Second Wave forces, since some Third Wave realities will closely resemble some of the best First Wave realities.
“Today I believe that we stand on the edge of a new age of synthesis. In all intellectual fields, from the hard sciences to sociology, psychology and economics . . . we are likely to see a return to large-scale thinking, to general theory, to the putting of the pieces back together again.” He wrote this in 1980. Many years later, his predictions have been confirmed. Synthesis, integration, cooperation, ecology and eclecticism are all systems terms, represent systems thinking, and epitomize the new, ecological-holistic paradigm. Many other great thinkers—and scientific trends of many types since 1980—have confirmed beyond any doubt these beliefs that Toffler is expressing.
These beliefs represent what MC movement thinking derives from. Economics is seeing that the systems they are dealing with are more complex and more interrelated with other social systems (especially ecology) than John Keynes or Adam Smith ever would have imagined. Psychology is seeing that identifying a family scapegoat as “the problem” and sending him to the shrinks for fixing is reductionistic poppycock; family therapists and systems therapists are seeing the family as a system, and they’re doing exactly what Toffler suggests: putting the pieces back together again. All family and social environmental elements factor into problem etiology, and reducing it down to an individual’s psychological problems is not as effective as addressing the system in which the problem developed.
The eclectic wisdom of Winning Family Lifeskills, which draws on the best aspects of the entire knowledge base of psychology, self-help, P.E.T., self-esteem findings, child development science, as well as relationship, communication and problem solving wisdom, is a perfect example of what he means.
Toffler saw the forest through the trees—then wrote about it
The reason he sees that his books have gotten it right where others have tried and failed is that others looked at parts to explain the whole—they were analytical, while he used a potent combination of deduction and induction, analysis and synthesis, and standing back and looking at the whole pattern—the whole system—in order to get a full understanding. Winning Family Lifeskills combined with P.E.T. knowledge represents this same sort of synthesis trend and is a vital part of MC thinking. These two plus all the rest of the wisdom on this website represent a full synthesis of all the important systems thinking and patterns of thought in science and the new paradigm as they apply to the areas of: lifestyle choices, child-raising, communication, relationships, responsibility, character development, self-esteem, self-help, problem solving, win-win versus win-lose personality development, nurturance patterns and enhanced communication patterns and technology—such as PSBs.
The Personal Status Board (PSB™)
Toffler’s home-centered, electronic expanded families in electronic cottages are the ultimate complement for MCs. The more MC people can telecommute or simply work at home, the more stable, effective and empowered will be community life, and the less the demons of alienation, steep-gradient nurturance, isolation, TVs replacing real life, codependencies, overdependencies, addictions to people, abuse of people and substances, and a whole host of other social problems will predominate. Regarding workers who want to work at home, Toffler says “and, to the degree that this relocation of work is seen as strengthening family life, their demand will receive strong support from people of many different political, religious, and cultural persuasions.”
Working at home, to the degree that it is seen as strengthening family life, will receive strong support from people of many different political, religious, and cultural persuasions
He sees this as a “new, more satisfactory future for the family.” He sees this trend towards rootedness, connectedness, less mobility, and greater neighborhood participation as a way to make human relationships less transient and superficial, a way to put TVs aside and make life be real life rather than virtual, a way to accommodate the widening variety of family styles and configurations, and a way to improve parent-child relationships. He also sees that when groups have a common mission, it welds them together and vastly improves their chances of long-term survivability. In the case of MCs, very few groups will have as much in common and as many similar interests as computer-matched MC people—who become best friends before they create their MCs. Their common goal of a lifestyle that really works, friendship-wise and parenting-wise, will bind them together in an inspiring social network. But when shared business activities are added to cement the relationships even further, it’s easy to begin to see the end of the age of rootless mobility. Toffler sees much of this coming:
“Indeed, we may find expanded households linking up to form networks. Such networks of expanded families could supply some needed business or social service, cooperating to market their work or setting up their own version of a trade association to represent them. . . . They might be childless or child-ful. In brief, what we see is the possible resurrection of the expanded family. Today some 6 percent of American adults live in ordinary extended families. One might easily imagine a doubling or tripling of the number in the next generation, with some units expanding to include outsiders. This would be no trivial event but a movement involving millions in the United States alone [emphasis ours]. 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.” And lest we forget, there's a current trend toward more multigeneraltional and matrix families.
He also foresees services, software, or both that deal with scheduling the socializing that people do with friends. MCs may use such software to keep their socialization scheduling organized, but if they have a number of younger kids and/or babies in their MC, they must use such software as the MC scheduler to schedule childcare because it would get too chaotic otherwise. When it comes to computers interfacing with friendships, MC people would rely on PSBs for the monitoring of personal statuses so that the people most compatible with each other’s current personal status would invite each other to share activities, conversations, feelings or care, and a dozen or so (temporarily) situationally noncompatible people would not be disturbed in any way, as would otherwise be likely.
But for scheduling social calendars—which are about events many hours or days distant—Toffler has a good point about the need for schedule organizing services or programs. (He wrote about this in 1980. Since them social calendar software has actually evolved—e.g., Lotus.) He is prescient in his description of schedule-networked friends pushing a button to check the status of friends’ schedules so one can know before bothering a person what would work in their schedules. This is complementary and analogous to the PSB’s opportunity to check on friends’ personal statuses in order to share immediate contact: PSB’s are the immediate-contact facilitator and the “Pers-Sched” and “Friend-Sched” innovations of Toffler would be for non-immediate contact. One senses a synergy here between Toffler-think and MC-think!
Toffler also, looking into the far future, predicts what Carl Sagan once predicted: direct brain-to-brain communication. Because of the potential invasiveness of this, we would suggest that he’s right, but only to the degree it’s in the voluntary context offered by PSBs. PSBs allow a subcommunity of individuals to experience A.T. (artificial telepathy) in which each person allows only their current personal status to be communicated and only if and when s/he wishes for others to know it. This offers all the opportunities described on this website without any of the invasive, involuntary liabilities and vulnerabilities in minds directly tuned in to each other.
Toffler says that as we incorporate the ecological-holistic and systems paradigm, we “move from a Second Wave culture that emphasized the study of things in isolation from one another to a Third Wave culture that emphasizes contexts, relationships, and wholes.” He goes on to look at the vital role feedback plays in systems processes and thinking, using a home thermostat as an example.
MC thinking parallels his again: PSBs provide a microcommunity system constant feedback so that relationships are optimally timed and in harmony with the efficiency and synergy required for Information Age, Third Wave communication and relationship systems, precluding invasiveness (e.g., phones and beepers and knocking) and time wasting. Feedback is also the vital system-corrective factor in case someone in an MC was to attempt to indulge in any abusive practices. Kids are free to choose alternative caretakers so the system corrects itself immediately (and spouses have friends to go to at any time, obviously), but, what’s more, others see that some or all young people choose to avoid a certain individual relative to caregiving, and they can ask a few questions and help the errant friend through his negative power experiments sensitively, with lots of active listening and such, and eventual sending of the person in the direction of counseling if by some chance (unlikely) their efforts prove insufficient. Abuse, statistically common in non-MC society, would be rare and extremely short-lived in MCs—the MC is a cure for this malady. Feedback of the positive variety obviously is in operation constantly as people choose whom to be with, be open to and share feelings with.
One of the best and most wholesome aspects of the “good old days” was its self-correcting (via feedback) community characteristics in which people felt like they were part of a community and they resisted antisocial, abusive, violent and rude impulses because of the Golden Rule and because they genuinely cared about what their community felt about them. Today’s disconnectedness, “every man for himself” and dog-eat-dog community styles have pushed crime rates and abuse of people and substances through the roof compared to the “good old days.” As many wise people have been saying for decades (e.g., Louv, Bellah, Blankenhorn), it would be good if America could get back its community connectedness but at the same time avoid resorting to the 50s context of conformity for conformity’s sake just to please others and for indirect self-acceptance à la Putney and Putney's The Adjusted American.
Toffler points out that Second Wave industrial society, with its alienation, disconnectedness, centralization, standardization, assembly-line factories, assembly-line schools, fractured families, isolated families, and ineffective parenting and nurturance patterns turns out to be a 300-year historical aberration that resembles no other era of human history, before or after, while both the First Wave and the Third Wave are part of a 10,000-year pattern of human civilization. (And both did/will stress flat-gradient nurturance.) “. . . Third Wave civilization turns out to have many features—decentralized production, appropriate scale, renewable energy, de-urbanization, work in the home, high levels of prosumption [which means participating in the producing of what you consume], to name just a few—that actually resemble those found in First Wave societies.”
Work at home
“I believe that the home will assume a startling new importance in Third Wave civilization. . . . [It will be] a unit with enhanced rather than diminished economic, medical, educational and social functions.” The author has outlined how this will occur in many structural and functional ways, with an increase in prosuming, a surge of electronic cottages and expanded families, new organizational structures in business supporting these, the automation and de-massification of production (which allows the home to play a part, either productively or prosumtively), etc. And society will be networked in connectivity, not power-gradient-layered via hierarchies.
“If what I have said about positive feedback is correct, often a little ‘kick’ to the system can bring about large-scale changes. . . . Little changes can trigger large consequences—in corporations, schools, churches, hospitals and neighborhoods [emphasis ours]. And this is why, despite everything, people—even individuals—still count.” (Precisely the position of MC thinking with regards to the effects of MCs.)
Toffler talks about social symptomatology in terms of “the crack-up of the psycho-sphere.” He says that “fully one fourth of all citizens in the United States suffer from some form of severe emotional stress.” And he cites National Institute of Mental Health personnel who state that almost no family is free of some form of mental disorder. He also says that “Millions of people are terminally fed up. . . . Meanwhile, millions of individuals search frantically for their own identities or for some magic therapy to re-integrate their personalities, provide instant intimacy or ecstasy . . . There is a sick odor in the air. It is the smell of a dying Second Wave civilization.” Then he looks at basic needs: “To create a fulfilling emotional life and a sane psycho-sphere for the emerging civilization of tomorrow, we must recognize three basic requirements of any individual: the needs for community, structure and meaning. Understanding how the collapse of Second Wave society undermines all three suggests how we might begin designing a healthier psychological environment for ourselves and our children in the future.” (emphasis ours)
He sees social isolation as a key player in the dysfunctionality game. And he sees the absence of institutions which are worthy of people’s respect, affection and loyalty. The empowerment of individuality and diversity, good as that is, has caused human contact to be more difficult: “For the more individualized we are, the more difficult it becomes to find a mate or lover who has precisely matching interests, values, schedules or tastes. Friends are also harder to come by. We become choosier in our social ties. But so do others. The result is a great many ill-matched relationships. Or no relationships at all.” He looks at how the breakup of mass society spreads the pain of isolation: “If the emergent Third Wave society is not to be icily metallic, with a vacuum for a heart, it must attack this problem frontally. It must restore community.” And the way to do this, he says, is to recognize that loneliness is not an individual problem but a social disintegration problem—we must expand the shrunken functions of the American family. Care of the elderly would add more personnel to this faltering institution. Businesses could overtly support the cottage industry movement.
He is prescient once more in the area of services using computer-matching of people for not just dating and marriage but friendships as well. (This is essential for the right combination of MC people to meet each other. Many or most people have probably met few if any people in their lives that they’d want to be in an MC with, with the possible exception of their spouse or children.) Without greatly expanded options, many people either opt for TVs to replace relationships or settle for mismatched friends, lovers or spouses, as Toffler mentions (see above).
TV in place of relationship
He explores telecommunity, which is virtual community. He prefers (as do MCs) that computers help us create community rather than replace it with virtual community. He sees, in the future, “warmer, more bonded families and a closer, more finely grained community life. The electronic cottage may turn out to be the characteristic mom-and-pop business of the future. And it could lead, as we have seen, to the new work-together family unit involving children (and sometimes even expanded to take in outsiders as well).” He sees TV as worst, real community as best, and virtual community over the Net as somewhere in the middle; at least it gets people away from paralysis and stupor in front of the boob tube.
He advocates that Third Wave society helps people create structure and meaning in their lives, because Second Wave forms often fail people; he says we need people who can help people but who are not therapists but just helpful people. “. . . we probably need fewer psychotherapists burrowing mole-like into id and ego, and more people who can help us, even in little ways, to pull our daily lives together.” Experienced social workers would agree. People need “life organizers,” says Toffler. MCs are specifically created to give the needed structure and meaning lacking in so many modern lives.
The above was written in 1980, and many people are using software programs to organize things to do, appointments, childcare, etc. Programs remind us of important dates, commitments, and chores (clean pool, clean furnace filter, exchange storm windows for screens, turn on or off water before pipes freeze, do a breast self-exam, check on grandpa at the old folks home, get rugs cleaned, wash windows, etc.). Many people use paper notebook styled organizers; others use electronic ones with little keyboards, but dedicated computer programs can do it best.
Using a computer
He expects the children of electronic cottages to be drawn at an early age into the family’s work tasks and given increasing responsibility—the way they did in the First Wave. Peer pressure won’t be such an impediment to their maturity, and they’ll not only take their parents naturally as examples to emulate, they’ll also be trained at something even before they’re out of high school. These are things our country needs to happen very much, and it’s pleasing to see Toffler make such predictions. It is also pleasing to see him avoid the liberal trap of advocating social engineering and the conservative trap of giving a morals lecture, but then taking no action. He wants us to revamp the U.S. Constitution for the Third Wave, carefully and thoughtfully, and then empower democracy in various ways that includes semi-direct democracy, etc.
But he advocates no massive changes imposed from the top; rather he would choose “thousands of conscious, decentralized experiments that permit us to test new models of political decision-making at local and regional levels in advance of their application to the national and transnational levels.” He calls for a serious effort to avoid authoritarian solutions from demagogues attempting to use the chaos for their own ends. He says we can only revamp politically by use of a vast process of social learning. And he says that without great amounts of grassroots pressures from below, we shouldn’t expect our leaders and politicians and representatives to challenge the very institutions that put bread on their tables and keep them in power. The transition to 21st century democracy can be bloodless, but only if the pressures from below are irresistible and expressed peacefully. If ever a book deserved to be required reading for high school students, this is that book!
Note: Heidi Toffler co-authored this book.