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

4.0 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book as I am fascinated by imagining how the world may look like in half a century or more. I was not disappointed. The author pulls together much data and historical context to paint a pretty convincing picture. Or did he?

I simply loved the historical context of his "forms" representing power centres such as Venice and later Amsterdam, London, Boston etc. Attali represents a clear succinct case to identify what created these centres and their ultimate fading out. Very satisfying reading particularly when one is drawn into the current era and can see why for example Japan failed to carry through its meteoric rise (not open to foreigners).

He then begins to paint the picture over the next forty or more years. The growth of individualism, the breakdown of geopolitics and the collapse of the public sector. Whether they are strictly true, that is up to the reader to conclude but the fact that Kissinger and Toffler put their names as endorsement on the front cover speaks.

I can understand why Atalli received some mediocre reviews, painting a picture of how the future may look like will be confronting for some and there will naturally be arguments to be made why those projections are wrong, well, read this book with an open mind I suggest. Boundaries are teased and with that, some people will feel confronted. A future of transhumans, hyperdemocracy,hmm well - a possibility I guess.

That said I found myself annotating parts. Page 49 the outsourcing of jobs will lead to a decline of income? Hmm our politicians may promote that thought but that is not the experience in today's world. Page 50, (America) will "succeed in keeping its agriculture going, " wow, given world shortages, that's hardly headspinning.
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