ABSTRACT

Interest in the future is nothing new. Prophecy seems to be an integral part of many religious, literary and political practices. However, the emergence of futures studies as a special field of interest for research institutions, governmental commissions and professional journals is largely a phenomenon of the last two decades. Futures studies can be characterized by the general ambition to support decision-making by supplying information of relevance in a long-range perspective (Boucher, 1977, pp.6-9). Thus, futures studies cannot be associated exclusively with any specific technique of analysis; they should be regarded rather as a task encompassing a series of activities and often calling for a broad approach. Nevertheless, these studies exhibit a number of distinguishing features and give rise to certain special problems. Generally speaking the function of futures studies, namely to provide information relevant in a very long-range perspective, accentuates many problems already familiar from various forms of policy analysis and planning. Important characteristics of futures studies can be described in the following dimensions.