HABIT AND HABITAT by Robert Theobald

HABIT AND HABITAT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In both these books, Theobald criticizes other ""futurists"": he rejects the assumption of Herman Kahn, et al. that the future will inexorably bring more of the same, and he also rejects Charles Reich's assumption that there will inevitably be drastic transformations. To these approaches Theobald counterposes what he calls ""systemic thinking."" The notion never becomes very clear, but it seems to stress the study of interconnections instead of straight-line projection of discrete trends. Theobald further believes that human beings can actively and deliberately shape the future. But neither the connections nor the conscious activity are developed here. Habit and Habitat settles into ordinary punditry, with too little to get one's teeth into, especially on the economic matters the book centers around. Theobald is best known for publicizing the view that automation and cybernation now permit a society where few have to work, so that a guaranteed annual income is appropriate. This proposal is reiterated in Habit and Habitat, but various subjects with direct bearing on it (welfare cutbacks, fiscal crises, forced-work programs) are ignored, and the Nixon Administration's version of ""guaranteed income"" is not dissected. There is far too little empirical backup, moreover, for Theobald's claim that, for example, automation and cybernation are the chief cause of current unemployment. At least Theobald acknowledges that his plan is unsuited to backward regions, and proposes rapid economic growth ""in the short run"" to help them. Futures Conditional is a collection of articles, poetry, cartoons and so forth dealing with the study of possible futures, although Theobald observes that he was unable to find much material distilling his own ""systemic"" point of view. In addition to samplings of Kahn and others, he includes Arthur Waskow's ""1990 Constitution,"" a sketch of a Proudhonian society consisting of federations of ethnic, occupational, and special-interest groups. An excerpt from Theobald's own Teg's 1990 (1971) has the merit of trying to describe a changing consciousness and social context, instead of making a disjointed utopian leap. The rest of the book is lightweight in the extreme, including two inferior science fiction stories. The reader is left to ""imagine"" possible ""futures.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1972
Publisher: Prentice-Hall