Futures Studies for Tomorrow

The WFSF since its inception has encouraged and supported a pluralistic approach to futures studies. This pluralism will be reflected in the diversity of resources developed within this project.

What is Futures Studies?

Although thinking about the future has always been a part of human culture (e.g., soothsayers, prophets, and later 'utopians') it has only been in the past four to five decades that it has produced the academic research field known as Future Studies.

The WFSF uses the plural term “futures” studies rather than the singular “future” studies to counter the notion of only one future, the latter having both conceptual limitations and political implications. This pluralisation of futures opens up the territory for envisioning and creating alternative and preferred futures. While it is commonly thought that futures studies is an attempt to predict the future based on extrapolation from present day trends, this is only one of at least five approaches to futures research described below.

A Pluralistic Approach to Understanding Futures Studies

There are many ways that the development of the futures studies field could be characterised. One broad contextual approach is to identify five traditions currently operating within the field, each of which represents different epistemological, or even ideological, underpinnings.

  • the empirical tradition, which focuses on trend analysis and prediction, originated in the USA. It was supported by the formation of the World Future Society in the 1960s;
  • the critical tradition originated in Europe and grew out of a critique of what was perceived as an overly empirical approach to futures in the USA. This led to the foundation of the World Futures Studies Federation in the early 1970s;
  • the cultural tradition arose in large measure from the work of those WFSF members who sought to include non-Western cultures and to invoke a deeper consideration of civilisational and planetary futures;
  • the empowerment-oriented, prospective, action research approach began in Europe in the nineties and has been taken up by some Australian researchers;
  • the integral/transdisciplinary futures approach is newly emerging and appears to have potential for authentic multiperspectival and planetary inclusion, providing it remains open.

These are not mutually exclusive approaches, nor should this contextualisation imply a linear developmental model. These are all suitable pathways to futures research and pedagogy depending on the context. Well-informed futures researchers and educators may utilise any or all of these traditions depending on their operational context.


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Futures Conferences 2009

5th European Futurists Conference: Lucerne October 14th - 16th, 2009

The European Futurists Conference Lucerne (EFCL) aims to be the foremost annual gathering of futurists, analysts and decision makers with long-term perspectives working with scientific methods for futures studies in Europe. It is dedicated to the professional needs of futurists AND long-term decision makers in Europe.