Working towards a publishable future

This is a new blog, for a new project – The Rough Guide to the Future.

The book of that title is due for publication in Autumn 2009. Sometime between and now and then I have to write it. It follows The Rough Guide to Genes and Cloning, which Jess Buxton and I recently did together, but the subject is trickier. I’m pretty excited that Rough Guides have agreed to take it on as part of the branded series because it makes such a cool title.

This Blog will offer thoughts on matters arising, and (quite often) pleas for help. Here’s the first.

I’m trying to pin down how attitudes to the future changed in that period we tag variously as the renaissance/enlightenment/scientific revolution. Obviously something to do with direction, change, and improvement in the conditions of life. I wonder who gives the best broad brush account of this?

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6 Comments on “Working towards a publishable future”

  1. alice Says:

    I haven’t a specific suggestion, but I wonder if it might help bibliographic searches if you include related terms like progress (or nostalgic tendancies of romanticism, which arguably is a reaction in some ways to futuristic discourses).

    Also, did you know Joan Leach is looking at scientists and rhetorical futurit? Plus you’re welcome to my paper on kids and sci fi futures at any point (its sitting waiting for review at a cultural studies journal at present), though can’t imagine it’s that relevent.

  2. Oliver Says:

    Might there be something along these lines in Lasch’s The True and Only Heaven?
    Simon Schaffer’s paper on comets in the book of the Darwin lecture series on prediction might be of use — and it also strikes me that there could conceivably be some insights in hacking’s “Rise of probability” — though frankly its an outside chance…

  3. jonturney Says:

    Yes definitely thinking along those lines a bit – read the Schaffer the other day and am probably (no joke) going to revisit Hacking, and Gigerenzer’s Empire of Chance.

    Don’t know the Lasch, though. I’ll check it out. I recall reading his Culture of Narcissism in the early 80s I think it was – I may still have it around here somewhere. Only thing I really remember is it was the first time I came across someone who described himself unblushingly as a “cultural critic” and thought, that sounds really cool: where do I apply? Nowadays everyone seems to be a cultural critic… what blogs are for I guess.

    But the best piece on all this I’ve read recently was an essay of Loren Eiseley in a book I took on a trip to read purely for pleasure. And in The Chresmologue – a word few use, to say the least – there he is writing about futures, prediction, modernity, religion and all. I should have known. Or perhaps I have subliminal recall, which would be nice.

  4. richard turney Says:

    jon, have you read john gray’s latest book, Black Mass? Am reading it currently and keep thinking that you might find it interesting. It deals with visions of the future from Zoroaster onwards, analysing utopian and eschatological beliefs, how they overlap, how they have shaped human endeavour. Particular to your question above he mentions the enlightenment and how science changed (or didn’t change) visions of the future, and also how he believes christianity is solely responsible for our inbuilt teleological view of history. As i read the book the distinction you make in the blog about optomists and pessimists keeps resonating with this idea of utopians and millenarians.

  5. jonturney Says:

    no, haven’t seen that – though there are days when I have a sneaking sympathy for Gray’s (“the Enlightenment was rooted in delusion”) role as resident curmudgeon of political philosophy – what fun to do that and get paid a professorial salary. Must take a look… thanks


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