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Not Quite So Revolutionary January 19, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books, Reviews.

When my dad mentioned that he found a copy of futurist Alvin Toffler’s latest book, Revolutionary Wealth, my immediate reaction was to ask, “You mean he’s still alive?” As some might recall, Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi had penned such titles as Futureshock, The Third Wave, Powershift and War and Anti-War only to drop off the literary radar before the turn of the century. So it goes without saying I was intrigued. Now, having just read the book, I can honestly say that it is vintage Toffler — and by “vintage”, I mean that the length of the authors’ absence from the publishing scene shows.

Revolutionary Wealth builds on the body of ideas that the Tofflers have been writing about throughout their careers, to wit: societal shifts from being agricultural to industrial to knowledge-based. As the title suggests, this time around they focus on the new sources of value that exist in knowledge-based societies, as well as the many issues that involve adapting to and obtaining such wealth. In this regard, the book is old hat, and true to form offers a fascinating framework that elaborates upon the “deep fundamentals” (time, space and knoweldge) of modern-day economies.

The problem, however, is that the book also comes across as somewhat dated — not in the content, but in the presentation. The Tofflers are right on the mark with much of their discussion, and they do employ a fair amount of information that is relatively current. Yet — and here’s where the book falls very short — other authors have written much the same with greater parsimony and panache. There is nothing contained in Revolutionary Wealth that hasn’t already been discussed at length by the likes of Kenichi Ohmae, Chris Anderson or (my personal favorite) Thomas Friedman, to name a few. By comparison, the Tofflers’ offering is unremarkable and, quite frankly, rather boring.

In all, Revolutionary Wealth will most likely appeal to the serial Toffler reader, not to mention the odd individual with a knack for poring over titles about technology, the information age and globalization. But be warned: as insightful as the book is, it is also dry reading. True, the Tofflers may have kept up with the times and have managed to continue being relevant. In fact, they may still be the best futurists around. It’s a shame their style hasn’t aged nearly as well.



1. Wikinomics « BRAIN DRAIN - January 28, 2009

[…] The Long Tail. Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s Revolutionary Wealth (and to think that I didn’t particularly like this book, considering). More, I think […]

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