Bertrand de Jouvenel The Art of Conjecture

ISBN 13: 9781412847483

The Art of Conjecture

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9781412847483: The Art of Conjecture
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Commissions of experts regularly meet to reply to questions such as: What will be the population of the country, or even of our planet, in ten, fifteen or twenty-five years? In what proportion will production have increased, what modifications will its composition and utilizations have undergone? The attraction of efforts to forecast the future continues. That is a fact. How does it proceed? That is a problem, one on which de Jouvenel focuses on in this book.

The Art of Conjecture clearly explains what the "study of the future" can mean. De Jouvenel emphasizes the logical and political problems of forecasting and discusses methods in economics, sociology, and political science by which the future can be studied. More importantly, he discusses the fallacies to which the "study of the future" is peculiarly likely to give rise. The author argues that it is natural and necessary for the population to have visions of the future. Without this, he states, we would only be able to set one opinion of the future against another. If the origins and meanings of these predictions remained obscure, only the event could decide among the opinions.

If any man can be said to have created the serious "study of the future" in our time, it is Bertrand de Jouvenel. Futuribles, a periodical he created, continues to represent a major turning point in contemporary social science. Jouvenel aimed to show how "the art of conjecture" could inform prudential judgment and allow citizens and statesmen to detect troubles before they arise.

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About the Author:

Bertrand de Jouvenel (1903-1987) was a French philosopher, political economist, and futurist known for his many works in political philosophy. He taught at many universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, and the University of California. Unlike many other French intellectuals at the time, de Jouvenel acknowledged the early twentieth-century movement of economic theory and welfare economics that emerged in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and Austria. His many books include The Pure Theory of Politicsand The Ethics of Redistribution.

Review:

“Philosophers are accustomed to arguing about prediction in the social sciences as if the question were au fond one about free will. It is therefore arresting to meet, in M. de Jouvenel, an author for whom conjecture about human affairs seems a necessary form of activity if only to ensure that we retain our freedom of action, in a world where social change is accelerating.”

—C. Blake, The Philosophical Quarterly

“[I]n preaching the necessity for “futurists,” de Jouvenal goes further than anyone else in discussing the future of ideas themselves.”

—Bertram M. Gross and Theodore J. Gross, American Sociological Review

"A tremendously important work that will profoundly affect our thinking about the shape of things to come."

—Daniel Bell, Harvard University

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