social forecasting

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An approach to social theory which attempts to outline the probabilities of a range of historical tendencies. The classic example is Daniel Bell 's The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973), which carries the subtitle ‘A Venture in Social Forecasting’. Bell distinguishes his enterprise from earlier (discredited) attempts to formalize rules of prediction pertaining to particular social circumstances. Social forecasting, by contrast, attempts only to outline probabilities, and is possible only where ‘there are regularities and recurrences of phenomena’; or where there are trends whose direction ‘can be plotted within statistical time-series or be formulated as historical tendencies’; and where ‘one can assume a high degree of rationality on the part of the men who influence events’. Since (as Bell admits) these conditions rarely obtain, social forecasters are often restricted to specifying the constraints within which certain policy decisions can be made effective, rather than predicting the results of particular decisions.

Subjects: Sociology.

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