Futurist Party and Political Coalitions
حزب آینده نگر و
ائتلاف های سیاسی
If all parties work hard to find allies to achieve their ideals, futurist parties even before being formed, have so many political allies, who support the vision of futurists, in different realms of emerging post-industrial societies. This fortunate reality has caused almost total disregard of futurists to become an independent political party, in the most advanced country of the world, the United States, where the futurists have one of the longest histories of presence.
Futurists in the U.S. have either supported Republicans such as Newt Gingrich to represent our ideals in the U.S. Congress, or had our hopes in Democrats like Al Gore, to represent our perspective in the Whitehouse. And we have put so much efforts in various NGOs, public television or other social and cultural associations, without any independent futurist identity. At best, we have kept our membership of WFS (World Future Society), which is the biggest futurist association in the world. In other words, no Futurist Party has been formed in the U.S., and therefore there are no representatives of such a party, to work for a futurist platform in the U.S. Congress, or in other elected offices of the United States, when the postindustrial developments in centers like Silicon Valley of California are debilitating.
This is not only true about the U.S. I have detailed the same issue with regards to Iran in my paper entitled "Why Futurist Party for Iran". The Iranian Futurists have done just like the futurists in the U.S., working inside alliances within the Iran National Front (Jebhe Melli), within the newly forming unions for a secular republic in Iran, and also in many NGOs, but hardly having any independent political presence as futurists. Unfortunately these coalitions, although useful endeavors, cannot fully address the needs of post-industrial development, whether in the U.S., in Iran, or in any other part of the world.
United Front vs a Political Party
A united front, whether that of traditional Jebhe Melli or the newly formed unions for a secular republic in Iran, may achieve a secular republic by ending the Islamic Republic, and may even prevent the return of monarchy and stop formation of another despotic and religious republic. Nonetheless would such united fronts, by themselves, be able to ensure the building of a post-industrial 21st Century society in Iran, without the active presence of a Futurist Party in these coalitions, whether during the change of IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) or afterwards? Certainly not! In Iran, for decades, the political leadership of the country has been pushing it backwards to the Medieval world, and a new political leadership, focused on a post-industrial plan, will have to fundamentally change course, to form the Futurist Iran.
A detailed plan, such as the Iranian Futurist Party Platform that I proposed in 2001, is needed to drive a program for 21c postindustrial development. It is interesting that since I wrote the proposed platform, a number of people have commented on this document, when discussing postindustrial visions for political parties of our times, without even knowing me. They have not even been aware that my vision for such a party, does *not* mean building the postindustrial society in Iran, with the current Islamic theocracy, and in my view, the first step is to remove this regime and to replace it with a secular republic. Nonetheless their discussions of the platform are very interesting appraisals of the central theme of the document, which is about the possibility of a third world country like Iran, to take off for a postindustrial alternative.
The differentiation of united front alliances and futurist party is true for the United States too, although the forces are different, and the issues of alliances are not necessarily the same as those for a country like Iran. Nonetheless, in the U.S. too, political coalitions by themselves cannot properly address the needs of postindustrial development.
Early developments of the technology centers, such as the Silicon Valley of California, occurred without the futurists being an independent political force, thanks to the absence of any substantial resistance from pre-industrial enterprises. But the mounting of crisis of industrial society translated to the attempts of political representatives of old industries, to use government subsidies, to keep their moribund industries alive, rather than to reinforce new-sprung postindustrial centers. And thus as time has passed, it is becoming more and more apparent, that any alliances with Republicans or Democrats, without the active presence of a futurist political party, cannot effectively drive the high tech postindustrial production, because the old parties favor saving the old agricultural and industrial enterprises.
Of course, after forming futurist parties, the futurists will still continue to have alliances with parts of the Republican and Democratic Parties (or the Green Party and others), but their independent presence will make the impact of futurists different from the days of chasing Newt Gingrich or Al Gore, inside the Republican or Democratic Parties, as the only way to drive the postindustrial development in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
History of Modern Futurism and Politics
Modern Futurists in the last 50 years were proven right in their analysis of the world, because as early as Ossip K. Flechtheim in Germany, and Bertrand De Jouvenel in France, in the years after WWII, founders of futurism predicted formation of a new civilization beyond capitalism and socialism, a civilization which years later, Daniel Bell, called the post-industrial society. In reality the post-industrial information society was a right prediction. From a political analysis of the modern world, both Flechtheim and De Jouvenel reached the conclusion that one needs to go beyond capitalism and socialism, to take humanity to the next step beyond the industrial society, as they saw both liberalism and socialism no longer to be viable solutions for our future.
Although they did not know the basic economic characteristics of this new society that was being formed, their approach was not like Tito and some other third world leaders in late 40's and early 50's, who tried to have a middle road between socialism and capitalism, as a political alternative in the post-WWII era. Modern futurists knew that one had to go fundamentally beyond the whole industrial society, in both its socialist and capitalist forms, to address the dilemmas of our times.
In other words, moderating or mixing up solutions that had worked for the industrial society, was not going to be the answer for the upcoming civilization, and they looked at a fundamental break with the past, in all areas of life, and not just politics. Nonetheless early futurists never neglected politics, and were very political, especially after their own recent experience of dealing with Nazi fascism in Europe, they had learned about the resistance and return of old political forces. Nazism was some kind of returning to the past, as an alternative to the crisis of industrialism in late 20's and early 30's.
Next major futurist who finally defined the fundamental characteristics of the post-industrial society was Daniel Bell. Daniel Bell's book "The Coming of Post-Industrial Society" is a classic of futurist thought, and I do not think any other book has impacted the modern social thinking as Daniel Bell's legendary book of 1973. He defined knowledge-based post-industrial economy in contrast to the labor-based economy of industrial production, and later in the foreword to the same book in 1999, he fully elaborated his definition of codified knowledge.
Daniel Bell's paper on The Break Down of Time, Space, and Society clarifies how the service industry of a post-industrial society is different from a service sector in a backward economy, the main differentiation being the codified knowledge. What Daniel Bell called codified knowledge, can be easily seen today, defining the basic barrier to entry for complex ASIC designs in modern semiconductor production, where the codified knowledge is inherent in the design, and such designs distinguish a real post-industrial economy from service-oriented old economies and I have discussed their valuations elsewhere.
Among the three main kinds of Modern Futurism, i.e. analytic, visionary, and participatory; futurist organizations of the last few decades, mainly focused on analytic futurism, with excellent contributions in forecasting and trends analysis, and related methods, such as Delphi or context analysis, to define what *may* happen, and the achievements of analytic futurism in the last 50 years are enormous and it is taught in most universities today.
As far as visionaries, we are also in a better position in comparison to the past, and today there are great visionaries like Ray Kurzweil, whose contributions equals to a Buckminster Fuller plus an Einstein, tackling the questions of what *can* happen, i.e. visionary futurism, when examining our far-reaching horizons. And even with regards to issues like social justice, futurists have a lot to offer in contrast to both the left and right of old industrial society. Thus even in the area of visionary futurism, we are way ahead of visions of the past.
In the area of participatory futurism, when a futurist asks what *should* happen, the actions of futurists in NGOs, businesses, educational institutions, or mass media, have made important impacts in the world.
Yet in the political arena, participatory futurism has relied on the allies of futurists to represent our platform, and in that arena, we have failed.
True that analytic futurists like John Naisbitt and Tofflers have addressed political trends ,but as far as being involved in participatory futurism, their involvement with business leadership took precedence over creating a new political alternative. None cared to strive for forming a new futurist party in the U.S. or elsewhere.
Platform of Coalitions & Issues of Post-Industrial Development
Many programs proposed by the old parties to solve the issues of post-industrial technologies are old solutions of old industries. For example, Howard Dean, the U.S. Democratic Party candidate today, is trying to solve the unemployment problem of Silicon Valley, by stopping the jobs from going to India and Taiwan, through bringing down the cost of production to the same level as those countries, to encourage high tech companies to hires in the U.S. If this plan even works, by using tax incentives or not, it basically means bringing down the compensation levels and environmental standards of the Silicon Valley to those of India and Taiwan and not vice versa.
This is so much like the way the Democrats tried unsuccessfully for decades, to stop the loss of auto industry jobs in the U.S., from going abroad. These are the type of ways the old smoke stack industries and their representatives, tried to compete with similar industries abroad, when they were not competitive anymore, and their use of tax incentives, trade protectionism, or government subsidies, only prolonged the demise of unviable industries, rather than creating blossoming new production.
In my opinion, Dean has no effective plans for development of nanotechnology or the last mile fiber to the home. In September 2003, I wrote about Dean's platform and the need for a last mile fiber optics project to the home, and someone from his campaign sent me a note, asking me to take back my word, because he claimed Howard Dean had a plan. I read all the references the man had sent me, and saw that the gentleman did not understand what *last mile* means.
Let me note that I think Lieberman and his team have a lot more respect for democracy and human rights than the team around Howard Dean, because when they are challenged for their *platform* and not personally, they try to bully critics like me, instead of trying to learn about the topic, a topic which is very critical to the future of telecom infrastructure, and consequently to the future of post-industrial development, in the U.S. and rest of the world. I responded to him that this is a democracy and he can publish his ideas and I can publish mine. I still do not think he understood what *last mile* means. Here is a good article about last mile fiber optics for anyone interested.
Let me return to my topic of why an independent futurist political force is needed. It is not just because of a single issue like fiber optics to the home. I am sure there are many people who are allies of futurists on this or on any other issue. The problem is that futurists without a futurist party, cannot be an effective force to be reckoned with, to drive the global postindustrial development, and after Newt Gingrich and Al Gore, we will end up supporting Howard Dean, with no major result for the post-industrial development. The problem is not about cooperating with allies, but the issue is the disadvantage of not having an independent futurist political party.
Today, the Silicon Valley is dead and to change the situation cannot be achieved only by the analysts. Political leaders with a clear postindustrial platform are needed to participate in the political process, and not just new faces with the same failed party platforms of the old parties.
I think our biggest shortcoming is that after 50 years, the futurists still do not have a political party in the U.S., in Iran, or in any other country. Then why are we surprised when the old industries like auto, airlines, and oil are promoted by the government, and even subsidized, while the Information Society is taking the back seat, and the postindustrial technologies are bleeding and suffering in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The early founders of Futurism were very political, but as time passed, futurists focused more on economic, cultural and social issues and lost sight of political arena. It was understandable why futurists made that decision. As long as futurism had not matured, getting focused on politics could have distracted the futurists from developing our own thoughts in different realms of life, and could have turned futurists into an extension of plans and platforms of other forces, that were already well-established in all disciplines. But the situation is different now, and after 50 years, the futurists have developed in all areas of inquiry.
Futurists and high tech technologists of the last five decades, were more like the early enthusiasts of industrial society in 18th Century Europe, who thought the superiority of the new industrial paradigm, would automatically translate to replacing the old agricultural society, which would usher in the new industrial world of their time. It was true that from an unbiased view they had a superior plan to the old feudal system, but that is different from actual winning in the economic, social and political arenas.
There were a few major setbacks particularly in the heart of industrial society in England, to realize that agricultural society was not going to lose its grip on the leadership of the country, and throw in the towel, and would try hard to use the resources of the state, to prolong its life, through subsidies. And the proponents of the new society had to fight a major political battles with the old, to be able to drive industrialization, and to make the industrial paradigm victorious, and the success was not given to them on a silver platter and required a real political struggle. The same is true for the new postindustrial paradigm today.
Any civilization that has succeeded to replace an older one, has done it by the advocates of the new civilization, taking on a political role to challenge the older civilization. One can try to avoid all the pitfalls of the past political forces, for example the error of statism of the socialists, but one cannot think of the need for political leadership to be frivolous, and leave it to representatives of old agricultural and industrial civilizations, and still expect things to work out for the post-industrial information economy. Futurist platform is our way of solving the current crisis in the U.S., Iran, and other parts of the world , and other political forces will not implement our platform.
A new political force in the U.S. could not be started by all the wealth of Ross Peron, but it can be started with the vision of the futurists. In the last 20 years, I have written about the retrogressive development of Iran, following the reactionary 1979 Iranian Revolution. What that event has illustrated, is that the progress of postindustrial society is not automatic, and a reversal even to a Medieval society is possible in this day and age. Therefore the need for a political force that clearly sides with the post-industrial new civilization, anywhere in the world, is a must, to avoid such reversals, and to build a new post-industrial civilization. Existence of such parties not only will not undermine the coalitions of the futurists with the other political forces, it will even strengthen such alliances.
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
January 5, 2004
Proposed Futurist Party Platform
پلاتفرم پیشنهادی حزب آینده نگر
FUTURIST IRAN: Futurism vs Terrorism-Third
ایران آینده نگر: آینده نگری در برابر تروریسم
Future, Futurism, and Iran
آینده، آینده نگری، و ایران