Friday, February 21, 2020

A Future History of the 21st Century: how we overcame the crisis of civilization'

Guest post by Federico Tabellini

In this age dominated by the here and now, discussing the future is a rare thing. When we do discuss it, most of the time it is to point out how badly things could go in the next few decades. And yet, what I want to present to you today is a book about the future. About a prosperous future (for a change), and the path that – if taken – could link it to our present. Here are some of the reasons why I really think you should read it.

First reason. It contributes to the solution of well-known problems: the environmental crisis (in a broad sense), limits to growth, technological unemployment, over-consumption; the list goes on. In the book, the analysis of these problems and the description of how we might overcome them are both based on consolidated academic approaches. Some of these approaches are often considered incompatible with one another in the social imaginary. The most significant achievement of the book is perhaps its attempt to integrate these different approaches into a coherent, organic framework. I believe it’s a successful attempt, but I will let readers judge for themselves.

The first section of the book (chapters 1 and 2) offers an ‘overall picture of the situation’, describing the profound nature of many of the issues dealt with on this blog, while the second (chapters 3-7) proposes possible scenarios for the implementation of solutions to the contemporary crises. It also describes the mutual interaction between these solutions, as well as their plausible consequences on society.
The focus is on the long run, and the approach is global, as are the challenges we face. The solutions proposed are also global, and are considered not only in their short term implementation but also in their long term effects. We could draw a comparison with the popular book by Tim Jackson, ‘Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet’, but my approach has a somewhat broader scope. As Jackson did in his book, I describe in detail several macro-economic and institutional reforms we should implement to counter the crises, but I also discuss issues such as the role of education and the social dynamics that link the various actors that would carry out the change.
Second reason. The book adopts a systemic approach in both the arguments it presents and the conclusions that it draws from those arguments. The premise is simple, almost banal:

'The final goal of any society is to produce the greatest possible well-being for human beings in the long run.'

On this premise, appropriately problematized (what does ‘well-being’ mean? What do we mean by ‘long run’?), a series of logical steps are inserted, which illustrate how the solutions to many of the great crises of our age become far more obvious once we abandon a sectorial approach and embrace a systemic analysis of the problems. Doing so also sheds new light on the deeper connections between the various challenges we face. These connections mean that efficient solutions to each and every one of them can be successfully implemented only if carried out simultaneously and synergistically.

To conclude, a final note. ‘A future history of the 21st century: how we overcame the crisis of civilization’ is an essay, but it is built around a narrative device: the reforms and proposals that it describes are presented from the perspective of a fictional author writing at the end of our century. It’s a little like reading a history book, but instead of the past, it describes the future. I think this small detail, aside from making the read more pleasant, adds a level of realism to the dissertation.

The book is available worldwide on Amazon. All in all, I truly believe that you won’t regret reading it. And if you do read it, please share your opinions – I will be happy to answer and discuss any of your queries.




Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)