Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Land of the free, home of the brave?
Article Type: Guest editorial From: foresight, Volume 10, Issue 4
Editing a journal is a bit like doing futures research, in the sense that it is as much an art as it is a science. Producing a worthwhile journal in the end boils down to whether the editor exercises good judgement – since questions of whether material is relevant, worthwhile and of good quality are rarely ever simply black and white. An editor can of course be helped in making those judgements by consulting with external referees and drawing on the advice of the editorial board, and this has certainly been the case in putting this current issue together.
This special issue arose in response to the submission of a provocative essay by Richard Slaughter, which posed the question, “Is America the land of the future?”. Its submission raised numerous challenges for the futures community as well as for the journal and the editorial board. The content of Slaughter’s article was not particularly surprising to me since it is a continuation and elaboration of a theme that has been a growing part of his writing over the past few years. In a nutshell his argument is that the pursuit of American values is ignorant and damaging from a global perspective. Slaughter equates America with the worst excesses of capitalism, a bullying superiority complex, and responsibility for damage to the global environment. Moreover, Slaughter accuses American futurists of complicity in this deliberately selfish venture in pursuit of an American Dream that has turned into a nightmare for everyone else.
Although I have expressed my dismay at American foreign policy in previous editorials, I don’t agree with Slaughter’s unrelenting anti-American view. Nevertheless, as an opinion piece, I thought it worth publishing in foresight since it’s a perspective that seems to be increasingly prevalent. On balance, it would be worthwhile, I thought, to have these views out in the open and discuss them.
The essay had already benefited from comments from one of the journal’s editorial board members but it was right that I consult more widely with editorial advisory board members since Slaughter mentions some individuals and organisations by name and they should be given the opportunity to reply. Moreover, given that American futurists en masse are “critiqued” by Slaughter, it seemed wise to canvass the opinion of the American members of the editorial board with a view to publishing some responses.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a lively discussion ensued with a wide range of views expressed, some strongly in support of Slaughter and others vehemently opposed. Several expressed a desire to respond; others maintained a dignified silence. The idea of inviting others to participate in a special issue grew and this issue is the final result. Thus, following Slaughter’s essay, there is a short rebuttal from Adam Gerber and Michel Godet as well as more expansive essays from Dennis Morgan, Jacques Richardson and Berol Robinson, Susantha Goonatilake, and Stephen Burman.
So, what is the result of all this? As an editor, it has been interesting and challenging putting this issue together because of the strong difference of opinions involved. From my perspective, the result is a lively, interesting and thought-provoking collection of essays and comments that are of value in stimulating discussion in the foresight field. Like road building, creating a foresight community is an iterative process with readers of journals like foresight having a key role to play. They are best placed to debate the legitimacy and accuracy of Slaughter’s position1.
1. Feedback is always welcome. Please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: this editorial does not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Emerald. It forms part of a special issue comprising responses to an essay by Richard Slaughter, “Opinion: Is America the land of the future”?, foresight, Vol. 10 No. 4.