The Rise and Fall of the Future: America’s Changing Vision of Tomorrow, 1939-1986.
Gordon Arnold‘s new book traces the story of America’s evolving thinking about the future, from the wondrous visions on display at the 1939 New York World’s Fair to dystopian visions of the 1970s and 1980s. It’s a story of the nation’s optimism–born of faith in itself, in technology, and in consumerism–and of a pessimistic turn that ushered in a sense of foreboding and visions of a world gone wrong.
How we think about the future matters, especially now in this new era of uncertainty. Americans once dreamed of bright, utopian tomorrows and lives of comfort and ease. It would be a world of jetpacks, flying cars, household robots, undersea cities, routine space travel, and gadgets that would improve life without ever exacting negative consequences. Problems would be solved. Lives would be peaceful. Illnesses would be conquered and crime reduced. Consumerism would deliver a life of plenty for everyone.
Where did this spirit of optimism go? As it turns out, America’s age of optimism for the world of tomorrow had hidden shortcomings. It failed to take into account social inequalities and the potential limits and downsides of new technologies. And before long, America’s dreams of a bright future seemed naive and misguided.
The giddy futurism that held sway in mid-century America is now long-gone. But the story of its rise and fall reveals much about where America has been, where it is now, and where it may be going.
- New York readers, you can order The Rise and Fall of the Future from the Upper West Side’s Book Culture here.
- Boston and Cambridge readers can order The Rise and Fall of the Future at Harvard Book Store here.
- International readers and friends, The Rise and Fall of the Future is also available from Lehmanns (Germany), Booktopia (Australia), Saxo (Denmark), Mighty Ape (New Zealand), Waterstones (UK), Eurospan (UK), Foyles (UK), Bol.com (Netherlands), and other bookstores.
- The Rise and Fall of the Future — Available direct from McFarland Publishing here.
- You can also get the book from online booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million.
Book Jacket: McFarland Publishers.
Inset image: Space Age artwork created by Rick Guidice for NASA. Public domain.