Anticipatory Democracy and Aspirational Futures

by Clement Bezold


Anticipatory democracy is Alvin Toffler’s prescription for humanity’s response to the challenges of the future in his 1970 bestselling book, Future Shock. A few years after Future Shock was published, he asked me to edit a book, Anticipatory Democracy, which reviewed experiments in looking ahead and involving the public. In his introduction Toffler wrote: “The simplest definition of anticipatory democracy … is that it is a process for combining citizen participation with future consciousness” (Bezold, 1978). In Future Shock, Toffler argued that representative government was the key political technology of the industrial era and that new forms must be invented in the face of the crushing decisional overload – or political future shock – that we were facing. Anticipatory democracy is a collection of tools and practices that allow the public to more effectively steer legislation. At the Institute for Alternative Futures, as we promoted anticipatory democracy we have developed “aspirational futures” approaches that help communities create the future they really want (Bezold, 2009).(continue…)

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