Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"The End of Business Civilization"

Certainly reading H.G. Wells it can seem that our social imaginations have become very constrained indeed, that we have a very hard time imagining not just different political or economic forms from those we have now, but even the possibility that there might be such forms, desirable or undesirable. At most we imagine the present forms rotting away or collapsing toward some Mad Max scenario (e.g. eco-catastrophe), or we picture ourselves transcending it toward something entirely different, less through any social evolution than our technology somehow leading us along (the "s" word--Singularity). Otherwise, even if we do not claim to believe that we actually are at some "end of history," we think as if we did.

Nonetheless, one does not have to go so far back as the pre-World War II era to see the difference. The '70s, with its ambitious, Gerard K. O'Neill-style space development schemes and proposals for New International Economic Orders, itself appears a whole other world.

At my other blog I discuss one such conception, economist Robert Heilbroner's case that we were looking at "the end of business civilization" in the book by that name. The End of Business Civilization is outdated in respects, and in hindsight quite implausible, but like a great deal of seemingly outdated futurism, still full of interesting and relevant ideas, worth engaging with even if one comes away in complete disagreement about the predictions and prescriptions.

My Posts on H.G. Wells
My Posts on Futurology

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