Реферат: Three Waves of Alvin Toffler. The Basic Points

<span Arial",«sans-serif»;mso-bidi-font-family:«Times New Roman»">I.          Introduction. Impressions about thebook.

            Reading the book “The Third Wave” byAlvin Toffler left a very deep mark in my memory. There are only a few peoplein the entire world that have the kind of mind that allows them to look atregular life differently, analyze it and make assumptions that regular peoplewouldn’t even notice. I think that Alvin Toffler is one of these people.

            Eventhough I don’t agree with the author on some matters, I want to admit that “TheThird Wave” is the book that was written by a man who really cares about theissues he is exploring and who is also a great expert in his field of study.Even if I did not know Alvin’s biography, after reading the book I could assumethat exploring human evolution, social issues and history has always been agoal of his life.

            Basically, the book tells us aboutthe author’s seeing the evolution of the human society. I can imagine how freshand outstanding seemed his idea of dividing the flow of human history anddevelopment into several phases that he called “waves” twenty years ago whenhis book was first published in 1980. Since that time “The Third Wave” has beentranslated into all major languages and became very popular all over the world.

            While reading “The Third Wave” Ikept asking myself the question: “What would Alvin change if he wrote this booknowadays”. I don’t want to judge him for some of his forecasts that never cametrue especially because he urged the readers not to filter out single items,but look at the system in its entirety.

            Lots of changes have happened sincethe book first saw the world. World Wide Web brought a piece of informationalfreedom into almost every house, the big empire U.S.S.R collapsed (even Alvindid not believe in this p. 314), finally, we met the new millenium. We are nowmuch deeper in the third wave and this Alvin’s work is still popular and veryactual. Moreover, it became a reference frame for the future research and isbeing studied in colleges like DeVRY.

            Anotherissue I want to point out here is the importance of the Alvin Toffler’s work.Even if there were still some people who do not want to look back and toexplore our history, they would probably want to know what is going to happento them tomorrow or after a certain period of time in future. At the verybeginning of the book, in the introductory part, Alvin warns the readers aboutexpecting any kind of prognosis or predictions throughout the entire book so itwould not look like a Nostrodamus prophecy or an encyclopedia of the future. Heis aware that he does not have enough information and/or knowledge to make somejudgements and purposely leaves this type of questions wide open for dispute.The author gives the reader or the future explorer directions, the basicoutlines that should be filled up by them. “Sometimes it is better to ask theright question rather than to give the right answer to the wrong one”(6).


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<span Arial",«sans-serif»; mso-bidi-font-family:«Times New Roman»">II.         ThePrincipe of the evolution according to Alvin Toffler

            Thebook consists of two major parts where the author describes the first two wavesthat the human society came through and also the third wave. It is the wavethat we are living in right now. But first, let’s take a look at the wholetheory that Alvin tries to explain in his work.

            Accordingto the author, the human evolution is not stepless but it consists of severalstages. So far, the society has experienced three of them. When there is acoincidence of several factors, we can witness the shift between the waves. Theshifts are the most painful moments in the human history. Most of the Civilwars happened at those times. “The Civil war was not fought exclusively, as itseemed to many, over the moral issue of slavery or such narrow economic issuesas tariffs. It was fought over a much larger question: would the rich new continentbe ruled by farmers or by industialazers, by the forces of the First Wave orthe Second?” (23)

            Alvin Toffler considers energydependency to be a fundamental principle of any civilization. The need for anew kind of energy is one of the causes of shifting to a new wave. For example,during feudalism people used horse power or even human power in agriculture orin construction, which was also considered to be a source of energy. “Theprecondition of any civilization, old or new, is energy. First wave societiesdrew their energy from “living batteries” – human and animal muscle-power – orfrom sun, wind and water”(25). “As late as the French Revolution, it has beenestimated, Europe drew energy from an estimated 14 million horses and 24million oxen”(25).

            The increase in human populationevoked the need for bigger fields and more buildings, which could no longer beachieved by using the existing tools. In order to move forward, people needednew tools, such as tractors, trains, cars etc.

             However, the need for a new kind of energy wasnot a sufficient condition to make a shift. Many agricultural civilizationslike China, Rome or Greece died and never moved to the next stage. The needshould be backed by developments in science and technology which manifests thecoincidence needed for the civilization shift. A good example of that was theinvention of the steam engine in the 18th century when theagricultural civilization received a great push that moved it into theindustrial age later.

            Allother issues, such as technical progress and even political, economical andsocial sides of the society are only the consequences and they are beingchanged in order to fit the new reality. “Industrialism was more thansmokestacks and assembly lines. It was a rich, many-sided social system thattouched every aspect of human life and attacked every feature of the First Wavepast” (22).


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<span Arial",«sans-serif»;mso-bidi-font-family:«Times New Roman»">Firsttwo waves.

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<span Arial",«sans-serif»;mso-bidi-font-family:«Times New Roman»">Firstwave.

Accordingto the author, the people of the First Wave were the first civilization thatever existed on the face of the Earth. He does not deny that people did existbefore that, but I did not find any evidence that he considered those people tobe a civilization. In his book he talks of “civilized” people, those whoadopted the agricultural style of life, and the rest of the population, peoplecalled “primitive”, the ones who could not switch to the progressive way ofliving and were left behind in barbaric world. “During the long millennia whenFirst Wave civilization reigned supreme, the planet’s population could havedivided into two categories – the “primitive” and the “civilized”. Theso-called primitive peoples, living in small bands and tribes and subsisting bygathering, hunting, or fishing, were those had been passed over by theagricultural revolution”(21).

Thedistinctive feature of the agricultural society was the decentralization ofpower. People still had to live together mostly in small groups because it wasthe only way to feed themselves and to survive. But there was no centralizedgovernment over them that would lead them or try to organize people for biggerprojects. Brutal physical force was used as a method of solving either privateor social conflicts. ”In most agricultural societies the great majority ofpeople were peasants who huddled together in small, semi-isolated communities.They lived on a subsistence diet, growing just barely enough to keep themselvesalive and their masters happy” (37). The trading was developed very poorly andthe market itself did not exist at all. Even though that there was some simpledivision of labor and several communities specialized in producing a particularkind of food or simple labor tools, mostly they just naturally exchanged theirproducts with the other groups. Money did not exist in the agricultural era.

As I already mentioned in thebasic principles of the Alvin Toffler’s theory, the social life of the peopleis a secondary issue and is subordinated to certain civilization rules. Theagricultural age was a nice example. The family structure was alsopreconditioned by the human needs for survival. Lots of relatives lived at thesame place mostly because it was easier to cultivate land and grow theirharvest this way.

The social life of the majority of people was quitemonotonous due to the lack of travelling. An average person living inagricultural age probably met fewer people during his or her life than we do inone month or even a week.

The agricultural era was and, probably, will be the longestin the history of the human society. It took more than a 1500 years for severallittle currents of the first wave to come together and form the big stream thatwold later grow into the Second Wave.

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<span Arial",«sans-serif»;mso-bidi-font-family:«Times New Roman»">SecondWaveCauses ofshifting into the second wave

            Like I said before there should havebeen a coincidence of several factors to come together in order for acivilization to come into the next stage. After a series of unsuccessfulattempts the human society finally made the move towards its future and startedthe big clock of history again. According to Toffler, it happened in the 18thcentury (All Second Wave societies began to draw their energy from coal, gas,and oil – from irreplaceable fossil fuels. This revolutionary shift, comingafter Newcomen invented a workable steam engine in 1712, meant that for thefirst time a civilization was eating into nature’s capital rather than merelyliving off the interest it provided”(25).

            Thefuture need for new kinds of energy later conduced to the development inindustry and technology. Finally, all the sides of the human life in the newage were changed in order to get more efficiency out of new industrialformations such as manufactories, factories, plants etc. At this stage thecivilization needed entirely new methods of organizing people, totally neweconomical and political systems.

            Unlikethose of the Third Wave, the economical issues of the Second Wave can be talkedabout with quite a great deal of persistency. For almost three hundred years,we have had enough time to witness and analyze the process that took place and,finally, formed the economy of the industrial society.

            Now we can definitely say that themain concept that made the industrial production different from theagricultural one was the division of labor. Establishment of the firstmanufactories is considered to be one of the first steps of transferring intothe industrial age. The further development of the Second Wave economy waspreconditioned in many aspects by this principle.

            Accordingto Toffler, there are six basic fundamentals the economy of any industrializedsociety stands on: Standardization, Specialization, Synchronization,Concentration, Maximization and Centralization. Not getting into details, allof them meant to optimize the economy of an industrial society by raising theefficiency of labor, decreasing the production costs, speeding up the processetc.

            The main point that proves theaccuracy of Toffler’s theory is that these principles work in any kind ofindustrialized society whether it is a capitalistic, socialistic or even thecommunistic one. With some margin of error, they could be found in theeconomics of either USA, former USSR or China. Countries with absolutelydifferent history, human nature, traditions or, what is the most important,different kinds of governance, still had to come through the same economicalcycles as they entered the industrial stage.

            The economic rules were not the onlyones that were developing in a similar way in different industrializedcountries. The political and the social part of life also obeyed the strictlaws of the Second Wave.

            Even though the political systemswere rather different, they all had one attribute that differentiated theindustrial societies from the agricultural ones. It was the strongcentralization of power that made possible the establishment of bigcorporations and, as a result, the realization of big projects.

            Theauthor raises a very interesting issue about the force that really makes thepower decisions and integrates the whole system in the industrial society. Thatforce was the product of the narrow specification and expansion of production.The representatives of that force became managers of all levels. They were theones who got between the owners and the workers and made the thing run when theowner could no longer control the technological process. ”In the larger firmsno individual, including the owner or dominant shareholder, could even begin tounderstand the whole operation. The owner’s decisions were shaped, andultimately controlled, by the specialists brought in to coordinate the system.Thus a new executive elite arose whose power rested no longer on ownership butrather on control of the integration process”(63).

According to Toffler, the “executive elite” is the force thatreally has control over the industrial society. Even though the real tools ofthe industrial production like plants or factories belong either to capitalistsor to the state in communistic societies, neither the owners, nor the state hasthe real power in the Industrialism.

 “Executive elite” is the people who aresurfing on the edge of the Second Wave that came with the Industrialism. Thoseare the people who really rule and have the power. They make corrections to thelaws through their representatives in parliament or through their people in theheadquarters of the communist party, they settle and stop wars, they are incontrol of destiny of the whole peoples in the industrial age.

Anyway, we should admit thatindustrial era made our lives much more exiting. People got an incrediblenumber of opportunities they couldn’t dream of during the agricultural age. Wecan travel anywhere in the world within reasonable amount of time; telephonealso made communication between people much easier; the achievements inmedicine helped us to get rid to many of fatal diseases and have greatlyextended the human life, mass-media made the distribution of information mucheasier too. Nevertheless, the industrial era kind of human beings were stillused only as a tool for achieving certain aims. It was still not considered tobe a primary link in the chain of the human existence.


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<span Arial",«sans-serif»;mso-bidi-font-family:«Times New Roman»">ThirdWave

Thechapter where the author asks more questions that provides answers. Alvin givesthe reader the right to decide which answers will most likely fit the system.Anyone who can answer them will probably be able to obtain a clear picture ofwhat is going to happen to us in the near future.

In this chapterI found the most places where I want to argue with the author. It was notsurprising for me because this part of the book was meant to describe thefuture structure of the society. Like I mentioned before, I have beenwondering, what would be different in this book if it were written now, nottwenty years ago. On the other hand, even now we still do not have enoughexperience to decide whether Toffler's theory is right.

The needfor a new kind of energy and further discovering of irreplaceable fossil fuelswas the reason of shifting into the second wave. But as we all know, thereserves of fossil fuels are not endless on the Earth and moreover, with thecurrent consumption rate we are going to have them for a hundred more years.All this plus the increasing need for more powerful energy have created thepotential situation for transferring into the next era or “The Third Wave”. ”In1973, when the Yom Kippur War broke out and the Organization of PetroleumExporting Countries suddenly stepped out of the shadows. Choking off theworld’s supply of crude oil, it sent the entire Second Wave economy into ashuddering downspin”(131).

I foundthe author’s opinion about the nuclear energy power surprising. He considersboth nuclear energy and the fossil fuels to be obsolete, and he is looking forsomething else in terms of new era’s energy. “In short, though nuclear reactorsor coal gasification or liquefaction plants and other such technologies mayseem to be advanced or futuristic and therefore progressive, they are, in fact,artifacts of a Second Wave past caught in its own deadly contradictions”(138).

In myopinion, deriving energy from nuclear fuel cannot be called obsolete. On thecontrary, this kind of energy is only at the very first stage of being used byhumans. There are still lots of problems like the poor safety of nuclearreactors or technical impossibility to create a compact nuclear engine at thecurrent stage, but we should not forget, that the efficiency of the steamengine was also very poor and comprised less than 5%!

Ofcourse, new sources of energy will be discovered by human beings in future, buttoday the use of nuclear energy is very advanced. I think that this the ThirdWave civilization kind of energy. Moreover, I tend to think that the beginningof the new era should be considered in connection with the discovery of nuclearpower rather than with the potential exhaustion of fossil fuels. 

In termsof economic and political issues, the author’s conclusions seem to be prettyclear and logical. New discoveries in technology contribute to free informationflow. Such a great popularity of the Internet in many countries all over theworld is a very nice proof for Alvin’s ideas about semi-direct democracy as thepolitical structure of the new society.

There isno doubt that the existing political system will not work after the shift intothe new era. Terrorism became an every-day word in our language. Big andpowerful countries like former U.S.S.R and now Russia are struggling trying tokeep their territory together. Separatism became a very important problem inmany other countries in all parts of the world. This all indicates that theexisting political system is already obsolete and the governments no longerkeep the situation under control. ”No government, no political system, noconstitution, no charter or state is permanent, nor can the decisions of the pastbind the future forever. Nor can a government designed for one civilizationcope adequately with the next”(417).

Alvinsees the solution in an absolutely new political system where, unlike in anindustrialized era, the minorities have the power and form the structure of thesociety. “The first, heretical principle of Third Wave government is that ofminority power. It holds that majority rule, the key legitimating principle ofthe Second Wave era, is increasingly obsolete. It is not majorities but minoritiesthat count”419.

Implementingthe minority power principle into our life is supposed to change the wholepolitical system and end up as a new kind of a democratic society – semi-directdemocracy.

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<span Arial",«sans-serif»;mso-bidi-font-family:«Times New Roman»">Watchingthe Shift. Conclusion.

If we look back at our history, we can easily notice that thetime during the transition into the Second Wave was the most violent andbrutal. We are now observing another transition, now into the Post-industrialcivilization.

            It took us less than three hundredyears to jump from Second Wave into post-industrial society which much fasterthan agricultural civilization could make it into Industrialism. This couldmean not only acceleration in social development or the technical progress; the«wave glitch» we are living in may turn out to be a bigger drama than it usedto be three hundred years ago.

            One of the questions that Alvin didnot raise in his book is that the people themselves could be in control ofcivilizational changes. All the achievements in technical, political andtechnical sciences should not only be used as a self-developing tool, butpeople can and should use that knowledge in order to control the development oftheir history. We do not want to think that the civilization we are enteringnow is going to be the last one on the face of the Earth. Our children and thechildren of our children have the same right to leave and enjoy their lives aswe do now. We are the ones who have to make sure that the human history willnot stop today and the shift into another era will be completed.                            

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