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A Brief History of the Future: A Brave and Controversial Look at the Twenty-First Century Hardcover – March 11, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Attali (Millennium), cofounder and first president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, offers his predictions for the 21st century in this clunky futurist fantasy. Positing that history flows in a single, stubborn, and very particular direction toward man's progressive liberation, the author projects that course with surprising results. He predicts that the mercantile order that prevails today will exhaust itself within a generation or so and be replaced by a unified and stateless global market—a super-empire controlled by an innovative class of selfish hypernomads. This super-empire will lead to extreme imbalances of wealth and poverty that will cause its collapse by 2050—perhaps accompanied by a round of planetary warfare. Humanity will emerge chastened from the wreckage and erect a utopia of hyperdemocracy led by a class of transhumans —a new breed of altruistic citizens of the world. Attali's utopia relies on illusory historical laws, and his thesis proves more entertaining than plausible. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Acclaimed for his Millennium: Winners and Losers in the Coming World Order (1991), Attali here boldly extends—and revises—his global predictions for the decades ahead. But before mapping out the future, Attali grounds his chronology in patterns he perceives in the past. At the center of these patterns stand impulses that have persistently fostered democratic governance and marketplace economics—in thirteenth-century Bruges, in sixteenth-century Genoa, in nineteenth-century London. In Attali’s analysis (lucidly translated from the original French), Los Angeles emerges as the nexus of capitalist democracy today. However, Attali anticipates an unraveling of American hegemony as transnational corporations perilously sever the ties linking free enterprise to democracy by creating a polycentric empire of commerce that dissolves traditional nation-states. If this process plays out as scripted, nomadic enterprises will enrich a few while immiserating many. World tensions will then be primed for the horrific warfare of armies, mercenary and religious, fighting for resources and dominance. Implacable jihadists have already deployed for such a struggle. Yet Attali remains astonishingly optimistic about long-term prospects for an enlightened world democracy that will safeguard the rights and well-being of all. A readership anxious about the trajectory of world events will find much here to ponder—and debate. --Bryce Christensen

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1st English-language Ed edition (March 11, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559708794
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559708791
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,440,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By GUSTAVO PRADO RGUEZ on March 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Almost 30 years ago Alvin Toffler published 'The third wave' there he says history was a tide with three waves: an agrarian age, and industrial age, and then a third, 'post-industrial' for which he coined the word 'information age' and he said for example 'through telex and long distance communication people will work, buy, have social relations from home..'. He was absolutely right, even when he can't really name the new technologies, he get quite well which would be the tides and changes, opening wide the eyes in order to catch the actual zeitgeist of his time he then be able to make an honest and logical prediction about the times to come.

At this particular moment we have the brightest of this kind of prediction in the form of the scientist-futurist Ray Kurzweil -'The Singularity is near', 'The age of spiritual machines- where he foreseen not only the next 50 years, but the entire history of human race through technology. To answer this we have Francis Fukuyama, whom through a philosophical 'must' he tries to embrace technology into a humanistic frame.

In this case Jacques Attali, a former adviser to president Miterrand and also President of the European Bank of Development in the 90's, bring another side to the figure: political and sociological forces. He mainly divide human history 'a la Toffler' in three main stages: a theological one, a militaristic one, and then the one we are: an economic driven one. In it, capitalism unbounded has grown from the vitality of 9 main 'hearts' -as he called them- Brugess, Venice, Antwerp, Geneva, Amsterdam, London, Boston, New York and finally Los Angeles.

Each was a pole of development and creativity, becoming the world's motor in their own age.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael on September 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
What do you expect when the cover of the book declares it "Brilliant and provocative" by none other than Henry Kissinger? And at the bottom of the cover Alvin Toffler tells us it is a "sweeping, controversial look at the future?" Thus we are given Jacques Attali's A Brief History of the Future.

I guess, if you're like me, you'd wonder why the starlets of the 1970's had to be dragged out to boast about a book about the twenty first century. It doesn't get a lot better.

Forgive me, but on first reading this was about the most boring and pompous clap trap that I've read in ages. Take claims like this:

"There will of course be attempts to produce a little time by prolonging the human life span. The target will be an average 120 years, for a work week of twenty-five hours"

Says who? Jaques Attali the author, and if he has such a perfectly predictive crystal ball then he should share it around. Where did 120 years and 25 hours come from? No doubt he has some obscure source, but wow - I wish my crystal balls were as trustworthy as his. Most of his book is little more than unfounded claims and old fashioned conservative economics. Sure we want to live longer, and some folk want to work less, but where did these magical figures appear from?

Attali does a masterful sleight of hand. He states many truisms that appear profound: "no war can be won unless the people waging it believe it just and necessary..." so the "chief weapons of the future will be propaganda, communication and intimidation". Amen, I say. Ever has it been so. But so what? Attali mingles this ancient military truisms with tightly claimed predictions such as "Around 2035 or 2040, the Alliance will realise it lacks the means to maintain the mercantile order".
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By jjolla on October 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have found books normally have some value, even the bad ones. I have always kept every book I have bought in a bookshelf somewhere at home ... except this one. I felt so embarrassed to have this book in sight that I had to put in in the garbage bin.

When I bought this book I was always expecting controversy. One cannot predict the future, but I was hoping so see some reasoning presented, in the hope of making me think about the issues. Unfortunately, this author just fills his pages with a torrent of sweeping statement about what "WILL" be .. without any discussion about his thinking behind it.

I could have forgiven it if the statements, even without justification, had some merit. Not so! Everything this author states is almost laughable (some I can see happening ... but that's my view formulated from other observations, and certainly not because of Attali's writing).

In reading other reviews of this book, I was captivated by the allure that the author spends a good deal of time looking at our past. Unbelievably, Attali commits the same crime with the past as he does with the future. It is full of sweeping statements about what "DID" happen ... how he could describe with such resolve what happened in pre-historic times is beyond belief. I knew I was reading rubbish early on when he becomes fixated with "cannibalism", focusing on it on four different age spans.

This book represents everything that is bad in writing. The cover also has a blatant lie written on it ... Henry Kissinger states that it is "brilliant". Lies by politicians and a con-job by the author, also a politician. I am now convinced the positive reviews on this site are disingenuous remarks made by the connections, and should be disregarded by reviewers thinking about buying this trash.
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