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Book Review :: Future Shock, Revisited

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler book cover image

Guest Post by Claude Clayton Smith

Having read Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Random House, 2018), I reread Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (Random House, 1970), which I’d devoured after the Kent State shootings sparked riots nationwide. “Events were transpiring too rapidly for the adaptive powers of the human psyche.” Hold on! That’s from the Introduction to the Romantic Period in the Norton Anthology of English Literature (1962), reflecting the despair felt as England’s agricultural way of life was ripped asunder by the Industrial Revolution. Compare Toffler: “The normal institutions of industrial society can no longer” [endure the] “rising rate of change in the world,” which “disturbs our inner equilibrium, altering the very way in which we experience life.” Toffler quotes Daniel P. Moynihan (1927-2003), then chief White House advisor on urban affairs, who says the United States “exhibits the qualities of an individual going through a nervous breakdown.”

Toffler (1928-2016) witnessed the Vietnam War, Watergate, the 14.5 percent inflation of the ’80s, AIDS, the Gulf War, dot.com bubble, 9/11, the internet, Afghan War, social media, etc. In passing, Future Shock mentions “alterations in climate.” But Toffler missed Donald Trump, COVID, and January 6th. Where would he begin, if still alive, to update a new edition of Future Shock?

Reviewer bio: Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, Claude Clayton Smith is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of four. For details visit: claudeclaytonsmith.wordpress.com.

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