Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
The Subject as the Source of the Future. From an Absence of Meaning to a Sense of Meaning; or, the Birth of the Subject
Many agree that our society has no sense of direction, no search for meaning. Worse, says Chantal Lebrun, we are getting deeper into non-sense. Consumerism and the welfare state have given us the habit of passive dependence; we expect everything to come from outside.
We are stuck in a childlike state of dependency on an obsolete past which is dominated by a faith in progress and reason that we should abandon. The contemporary challenge is not to forge ahead in a search for substitute meanings, but to become ourselves the subject and rehabilitate the concept of desire. A sense of freedom to desire will give us the strength to escape from our dependence on needs and to thereby become responsible for our own future.
Let us therefore bury our past, stop being paralyzed by the uncertainties of the future and rely on our values as a resource for renewing ourselves. We shall then be able to conceptualize a desirable future which can give us the passion and energy necessary to rebuild, from a realistic perception of major trends, shared values and dreams.
On the strength of Lacan's theories, Chantal Lebrun is engaged here in a true psychoanalysis of modern society, and especially of the individuals which compose it. She invites them to be fully participant (as subjects) in a desirable future which demands courage, audacity and determination.
Employment in Europe in the Year 2015. Demographic Evolution and Ebb of Unemployment
Géry Coomans analyses here the incidence of change in the working population - and more specifically the population of working age (15-64 years) - from changes in employment and unemployment in the European Union.
He shows that the increase in workers aged 15-64 years - whose numbers and work schedules varied according to country - explains in part the changes in unemployment and under-employment during the last twenty years.
Showing then that this population category will go on decreasing to the year 2015 (at the exit of the Baby Boomers and when the Baby Busters, the low-birth-rate generation, reach working age), unemployment would be bound to decrease and labour shortages occur.
He stresses however that prospects differ according to country and region because of the very different levels in the rate of occupation (employment rate), that - in other words - pools of workers remain able to work in places where these rates are the lowest. He thus outlines two scenarios one based on the geographic mobility of the workforce, the other on investment which results in showing a comparison of prospects for development in the different regions.
One thing in any case seems evident to the writer: the scarcity of workers aged 20-29 years will lead - apart from a labour shortage - to a re-assessment of their salaries, benefiting all levels of qualification.
The United-States : Employment in the Year 2006
Periodically the US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes ten-year forecasts on the economy and employment in the United States. Charles du Granrut presents here the main results of forecasts to the year 2006 which were produced last year by the BLS.
These forecasts reveal that American economic growth should continue in the medium term and should generate sufficient jobs to contain unemployment at its current level. They show the differences by sector (decline in industrial employment, rise in jobs in the tertiary sector), the level of qualification and remuneration which, overall, would be in accordance with recently recorded trends.
Commenting briefly on these forecasts, the author thinks that the anticipated high performance in the American economy would more likely result from a happy conjunction of factors rather than from the advent of a "new era". He underlines on the other hand how the performance of the United States in the matter of creating jobs differs from that of France and reveals the very different methods of regulation which are at work in these two countries.
The Uncertain Future of Senior Citizens
Today, people of 50 or over (often known from now on by the term "senior citizens") represent practically a third of the French population. They receive around 45% of incomes and hold about 50% of the net property of households. "Their rise in power, over fifteen years, has been indisputable" even if they have not - as some people anticipated -fundamentally created a new social dynamic.
Their number and proportion in the total population is destined to rise. But this increase and their demographic influence is in no way sufficient reason, asserts Alain Parant, to believe that the market which they represent will be tomorrow's Eldorado.
Many uncertainties remain regarding the future of the income of this population whose performance within the society of tomorrow could be quite different from what it has been up to now.
The Patrimony of the French
Extracted from a work by Louis Dirn (the pseudonym of a group of sociologists who have been meeting for 15 years at the French Economic Research Institute, OFCE), "The French Society of Trends 1975-1995," this text relates to the evolution over the last twenty years of French patrimony.
He reveals the changes occurring on the one hand at the level of the accumulation and debt behaviour of households (in particular under the effect of interest rates and inflation rates), and on the other hand, of the composition of patrimony (consisting of housing and financial assets).
Its author, Louis Chauvel, furthermore underlines how inequalities are increasing (10% of the most wealthy households concentrate 50% of the patrimony of households and receive 70% of the income which it generates), particularly between age categories and between generations.
Although more and more wealthy in monetary terms, industrial societies are still unable to find a solution to scourges such as unemployment and poverty and to the ecological challenge brought by pollution and the exhaustion of natural resources. By introducing his argument with this indictment against the free-market economy Maréchal may not be very original, but we must recognize that his argument stands out today even more starkly than before, because these classic concerns have been pushed to the back burner by the apostles of growth.
Jean-Paul Maréchal is not content with incantations of social progress and sustainable development. He calls for the development of a bio-economics which would embrace the full range of the indispensable exchanges required for a society to be not only viable but also perennial.
The challenge is by no means new, but we do need reminders of its urgency. Clarifying the stakes involved in such a wholesale change of paradigm is without any doubt a salutary effort.
The Inequity of Poverty Lines. The Standard of Living by Household
Even though the GNP per capita of the members of the EU is among the highest in the world, it had, according to Eurostat, 7 million poor people in 1993. Their proportion relative to the total population may vary from 5% in Denmark to 18% in Greece and Portugal with some 10% in France. All these countries have adopted various measures intended to guarantee the poorest a minimum standard geared to ensure at least their most basic needs. This article by Jacques Bichot and Dominique Marcilhacy describe these minimum standards in France while showing the maze resulting from the layering of measures adopted one after the other without any harmonization.
The authors then undertake a comparison of the standard of living of the households dependent on these minima according to their status: single, couple with or without children, broken down by the age of the children. They can show that the present legislation is paradoxically biased in favour of singles to the detriment of families, especially those who have several children, the more so with teenagers. They strongly denounce this penalization of families which grows with the number of children. They argue in favour on the one hand for the simplification of the current measures and on the other hand for greater equity between households, whatever their statuses.
The Political Economy of Unmeasured Values
Are reproduced here some long extracts from a text on the political economy of unmeasured values by Bertrand de Jouvenel which were published in the Virginia Quarterly Review in 1959 and reprinted in his book Arcadia: Essays on a Better Life.
The text begins with a long quotation from Pigou reminding us that the progress of economic science demands that it be limited to those phenomena which can be measured in money terms, even though other factors (good and services given for free) are necessary to a human existence.
This text, in print for almost forty years, calls attention to the limits of national accounting (and by extension, to the value of economic indicators in general) while at the same time addresses issues of what today is called sustainable development.
La crise financière qui secoue l'Asie de l'Est depuis l'été 1997 a entraîné, à en juger par les médias, un renversement complet de la perception de l'avenir de cette région dont le développement rapide fascinait les Occidentaux et dont les récents déboires alimentent maintenant, au contraire, un discours alarmant. La Conférence des Nations-Unies sur le commerce et le développement (CNUCED) et la Chambre de commerce internationale viennent toutefois de conduire une enquête auprès des grandes entreprises ...
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The relative level of development of countries is frequently compared by reference to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, and their progress is gauged as a function of growth in this value, which can account only for phenomena which can be measured in terms of money. It is nevertheless quite obvious that this indicator can hardly tell us the level of development of countries, much less the well-being of their population, their state of health, level of education, comfort and satisfaction.
Each discipline which focuses on a particular aspect of existence has developed, like economics, specific indicators which are periodically weighted to establish what are called synthetic indicators. Thus, the United Nations Development Program has been working on an Index of Human Development since 1990, which has been subjected to serious critical review.
More generally, Jean Baneth shows what the UNDP synthetic indicators are in this article. They imply some arguable trade-offs for they have to be gauged from data which are not always perfectly reliable and the correlations even less so. He underlines that the exercise is perilous, if not systematically biased by the arbitrary (even idealogical) character of choices made by the authors. Finally, having put in evidence certain abberations that these exercises contain, he shows how it is illusory and eventually dangerous to pretend to measure the level of development of countries by means of synthetic indicators.
The Asian Crisis : A Victory for America ?
Last January Futuribles published an article which minimized the impact of the financial crisis in Asia. Its authors explained that after a phase of "instable adjustment", a new dynamic of growth was foreseeable.
François Raillon disputes this point of view. He first revisits the causes of the crisis to show that beyond strictly financial and monetary factors, it is in reality the "Asiatic model" which is thrown into doubt.
He shows that two forces are opposing each other in the Pacific region. One is American liberalism, expressed by the International Monetary Fund, the other by the apostles of an Asiatic model founded on symbiotic relationships between the State and the market. These relationships are perceived as virtuous, but they are also ambivalent, hostile to an equitable free exchange.
Concentrating on the case of Indonesia, the author denounces the perverse effects of IMF interventions. At the same time, though, he underlines how much the lack of solidarity among the Asiatic countries has made these countries vulnerable to the risk of liberalism without rules.
Finally, he underlines that the "Asiatic model" is itself in doubt, its future depending on the establishment of a new equilibrium between market forces and government intervention on one hand, and on the other, the capacity of the countries in the region to form a bloc within ASEAN.
La fiscalité, le chômage, la retraite anticipée, le changement climatique, les réformes japonaises et l'impact de la crise asiatique sur la compétitivité commerciale sont les grands thèmes du numéro 63 des Perspectives économiques de l'OCDE. Concernant les problèmes du vieillissement démographique et l'action à mener pour préserver la prospérité, ce numéro s'attache à un aspect essentiel : la décision concernant le moment du départ à la retraite. Le rapport du nombre de retraités au nombre de salariés ...
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The Japanese Gambling Economy
Along with the United States and the United Kingdom, Japan is one of the hardest working of the industrialized countries. Its leisure industry is nevertheless particularly well-developed, representing 17% of Gross National Product and 28% of household expenditures (compared to 6% in France). Within the leisure sector, gambling has a fundamental role, particularly pachinko, which alone brings in 1.4 times the revenue of the Japanese auto industry.
Thierry Ribault provides a socio-economic analysis of this activity which he considers to be very representative of the modern merchandising industry: capitalistic, highly productive, and providing lots of jobs.
He demonstrates the subtle marketing strategies of the sector, how they articulate themselves into the socio-economic context, and the demand for games of chance. He describes briefly the conciliatory attitude of the public authorities and the more restrained response of the financial sector to the rise of such an important activity.
At a time when the lack of jobs in commerce is deplored, particularly in France (cf. the note of Thomas Piketty of the Fondation Saint-Simon and the regular warning of massive layoffs which could hit the banking sector), the question which comes to mind is obviously to know whether gambling is a distinctively Japanese phenomenon, or a sector which will be part of the future of all the industrialized countries.
Ce numéro 56 de Repères prospectifs développe un sujet qui préoccupe tous les pays : l'entrée massive de nouveaux capitaux dans leurs économies est en train de modifier en profondeur le rapport des entreprises à la société, le rôle des États, les politiques sociales, les équilibres entre les institutions classiques et celles, nouvelles mais puissantes, qui mobilisent ces nouveaux capitaux. Ces bouleversements sont dus à la nature de ces capitaux : la manne potentielle que représentent les fonds de pension incite ...
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Is Capitalism Too Productive ?
Paul Krugman vigorously denounces the rise of an economic doctrine which he calls "global glut" and the inauspicious policies it inspires, which prefer to throttle the growth of production and share scarcity more equitably.
This doctrine, he says, is based on the idea that we suffer from an excess of supply relative to demand, thanks in part to productivity gains in the industrialized countries and the assurance of continued growth of output from the newly industrialized countries. It is a lacklustre doctrine all the same.
It is a doctrine which cannot withstand analysis, says Krugman.
- First, because if production capacity is in fact growing in OECD countries, it is still less than the rate achieved in the thirty glorious years.
- Next, the idea that demand would be insufficient (for lack of income or the saturation of needs) is negated by the dynamism of supply, which assures that people always consume, if not the same old products, then the new products and services.
- Finally, because the newly industrialized countries, regardless of their growing contribution to total supply, are far from having attained self-sufficiency. On the contrary, their needs are immense, and as their economies grow so also do purchasing power and consumption, more rapidly even than production.
Finance 2005: Four Scenarios. The Evolution of French Financial Services from 1996 to 2005
Disintermediation, computerisation, ephemeralisation, globalisation, have all been used for years in forecasting tremors in French banking and insurance. For a change, we have a text here which reveals that while French financial services may not be sheltered by important structural changes, their future for the next dozen years is largely open.
Basing themselves on a more or less liberal, social-Keynesian evolution in the socio-economic context and the French acceptance of change, especially if it is technological, the authors sketch four scenarios for the years to 2005. They have characterized them as "cautious liberalism", "social harmony", an "exploratory society" or "blocked society".
The thought processes are not detailed, but four images are briefly described, each time in three dimensions (values and lifestyles; household incomes, consumption and savings; the socio-economic context), inferring consequences for banks and financial institutions. The possible futures for these institutions, according to the authors, remain very diverse and ultimately much more dependent on domestic variables than we usually imagine.
Globalisation and Governance: The Challenge of Planetary Public Regulation
Globalisation is not a new phenomenon, but it has now attained unprecedented amplitude, manifested particularly in economic and financial domains. At the same time it is asymetric rather than universal. Deep inequalities are a consequence, accompanied by a major challenge: governance in a context of interdependence.
The inequalities are particularly gripping, says Valaskakis. For not only do we have a divergence between rich and poor that is all the more shocking given the general level of opulence, but also a growing disparity between those who are able to participate in the system and those who are excluded. These extremes are inducing a dangerous fracture.
It is happening amid a sense that we are powerlessness to manage interdependence, reflected, for example, in the planetary ecosystem and global cyberspace.
The author has nonetheless sketched three scenarios to illustrate possible modes of regulation:
- The first of these seems most probable today. It is characterized by the decline of traditional regulatory structures maintained by the state, the rise of transnational, stateless enterprises and the development of a merciless competitive rivalry which must be suicidal in the end.
- The second would be characterized by the creation of mechanisms and institutions of governance on a planetary scale. But, observes the author, intergovernmental institutions form a mosaic of little coherence, paralyzed from the inside.
- The third scenario would be characterized by the adoption of governance systems at the regional (supra-national) level, on an appropriate economic and social scale (and with the reservation that those regions endow themselves with a minimum of protection against external aggression).
This third scenario is the one which permits the best reconciliation of the desirable and the possible. The European Union could put it in place and thus prefigure the creation of regional political spaces, which would then negociate a new planetary order among themselves. Nothing is yet in play, though; everything remains to be done.
Le présent article est consacré à une comparaison de la structure, des principales spécifications et des propriétés des modèles macro-économiques de grande taille que cinq institutions (Banque de France, Direction de la prévision, École centrale, INSEE, OFCE) utilisent régulièrement pour réaliser des prévisions et des évaluations macro-économiques. Ce sont les choix de modélisation par domaine ou par variable qui sont à l'origine des principales différences entre les résultats obtenus avec chaque modèle. Ces spécificités sont décrites par découpage des ...
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Thailand, a Salutary Crisis ?
The West, with the World Bank in lead, has maintained two illusions about a Thai miracle : that it was a triumph of capitalism assisted by good governance. In fact, it rose on a wave of foreign investment which stimulated exports and overheated the economy.
The crisis which unfolded over the summer of 1997 should have been foreseen for three reasons which were overlooked by observers:
- They mistook growth for development. The commercial success of the country obscured its industrial and technological weakness, its shortage of skilled workers, and the degree to which corruption was feeding the speculation.
- They overestimated the process of democratization and allowed themselves to be deceived by appearances: referendums and multi-party elections gave the appearance of change without shifting the groups which held power on the basis of more or less corrupt alliances (especially within the middle classes).
- They didn't understand that the accelerated modernization (frenetic consumerism, for example) challenged traditional values and behaviour and left too little time for a deeper social adaptation.
The crisis, though, however deep it may be, could turn out to be salutary in the long term if Thailand makes effective use of three main political, economic and social assets:
- by virtue of its strategic geographic position in Asia it could play a pivotal role in greater regional trade flows, which should receive a boost from the establishment of a free trade zone in the ASEAN;
- the rise of industrial structures and an entrepreneurial middle class blessed by important investments in education is assurance of real dynamism which will restore confidence;
- finally, the rise of a true middle class to make real pressure for not only economic reform but also for socio-political changes to sanitize a public administration system that has up to now been very corrupt.
S. Boisseau du Rocher and J.C. Simon are being deliberately optimistic. They maintain that artificial growth could be followed by a true dynamic of development and democratization, emerging from a period of adjustment which is certain to be painful for the short term.
Between the Best of All Worlds and the End of the Nation State
It has become commonplace to predict the decline of the nation state by pointing to the destructive effect - yet another - of globalization. For the American political scientist Roger Masters the problem is more profound. If one examines the evolution since the 16th century of the practical and theoretical knowledge necessary for the operation of a society, one realizes that the innovations that have simultaneously revolutionized the communication of ideas and the use of contraints have worked at the dawn of modernity in favour of nation states and now to their detriment have made them more and more vulnerable internally and externally. The gulf in knowledge between the elite and the general public tends moreover to widen. This can only foster the impression of an uncontrollable future benefiting extremist doctrines with their soothing certitudes. It is, of course, possible to try to restore stability and predictability by even more systematic recourse to biochemical and genetic technologies, but the "brave new world" which would result would be unbearable in the long term.
Masters has not tried to give any details of this outline of an evil alternative, but we eagerly expect what he means by "proto-Western premodern lifestyle" which is the lesser evil we can hope for in the future.
The author of this article is Professor of Political Science at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. The essence of his work uses ethology (science of animal behaviour) to shed new light on major issues in political philosophy. In addition he has made a critical translation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In June 1997 Futuribles published a review by Jacques Richardson on his most recent book Machiavelli, Leornado and the Science of Power.
The Impact of an Aging Population: Commentary on the OECD Report: "Aging in OECD Countries"
Several recent studies have attempted to forecast the effects of demographic aging, especially on public expenditures for retirement and health.
This article presents and discusses briefly the results of the study by OECD published in 1996 entitled "Demographic Aging in OECD Countries".
Readers will notice that boxes in the text provide the results of another study. This one, directed by Gerard Calot and Jean-Claude Chesnais, uses a different methodology, to isolate the "strict effect" of demographic aging in the European Union towards 2050.
Brain Drain, Return and Diasporas
Developing countries have been complaining for a long time about a brain drain to countries of the North. Their scientific elites are attracted by better opportunity, so their young people go North in search of education.
Jacques & Anne-Marie Gaillard point out, however, that the perception of this phenomenon has evolved. Many authors are now aware that these expatriates have the potential of forming diasporas which can be mobilized for the benefit of their countries of origin. They also make the point that the benefit of such diasporas is conditional on the welcome that the elites receive in their home countries when they return. Some of these countries, especially those which are experiencing rapid development, have been able to mobilize their researchers abroad, and even incite them to come back. Others, however, are still suffering from an emigration caused by economic, political and scientific factors.
This text demonstrates the ambiguity of a complex phenomenon which has led to contradictory analyses. It has the advantage of showing how, under some circumstances, a handicap can be transformed into an opportunity.
When the World Bank Wakes up
The World Bank, official leader of the free market chorus, has finally acknowledged in its annual Report on Development for 1997 the usefulness of public institutions and especially of the state, which has played a determining role in the take-off of the rapidly developing countries of South-East Asia.
René Lenoir congratulates the Bank, while encouraging even more effort of this kind from the "gentlemen of Washington". Instead of escaping into financial speculation, they should focus on strategies of development which take into account human needs and local conditions.
Lenoir criticizes in passing the general incoherence of annual reports published by international institutions, and urges them to a collective effort of rethinking development.
Faire émerger un modèle de développement plus économe en ressources naturelles et plus riche en emplois est un objectif majeur de la prochaine décennie. Dans quelle mesure la fiscalité de l'environnement peut-elle y contribuer ? Instruments intermédiaires entre la réglementation et le marché, les écotaxes correspondent assez bien à la tradition française. Elles demeurent toutefois encore peu utilisées dans notre pays, alors que de nombreux pays d'Europe du Nord ont mis en œuvre une réforme fiscale « écologique». Les effets ...
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Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.
- Quels horizons après le choc pétrogazier du printemps 2020 ?
- Le monde d’après : quelle confrontation États-Unis / Chine ?