Larry Taub. Photo: YouTube
Larry Taub. Photo: YouTube

In the 1970s, American futurist Larry (Lawrence) Taub gave a series of lectures in Tokyo and made what seemed at the time like outlandish forecasts. Mao Zedong had just died, the Shah of Iran was still ruling Iran, and Leonid Brezhnev was at the helm in the Soviet Union, but Taub predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall, that an Islamic country would experience a religious revolution, and that China and its Confucian cousins would form the most powerful economic region in the world by 2020.

Taub based his daring forecast on three unique models that he synthesized in his book The Spiritual Imperative: Sex, Age, and the Last Caste Move the Future. He published the first English edition in the 1980s and an updated version appeared in the 1990s. A Japanese edition was published in the early 2000s and became a No. 1 bestseller in Japan. Shortly thereafter a Korean and Spanish edition appeared. Interest in the English edition remained limited, primarily because most Western readers are challenged by vantage points not based on a Western-centric worldview.

The Spiritual Imperative predicts not only what happens, but also where it will happen. Conventional futurists who came before him spoke in broad generalities applied to the world as a whole without offering specifics about particular regions and cultures. Fellow futurist Alvin Toffler described post-industrial society, but his model could not predict that China would become a dominant economic power. Samuel  Huntington predicted that the end of the Cold War would give way to a “clash of civilizations,” but he could not predict the Iranian revolution in the so-called religous belt.  Francis Fukuyama saw the collapse of Soviet communism as the “end of history” and the final victory of Western liberalism. His overtly ideological and Western-centric view of the world ignored that China developed a synthesis of socialism and free enterprise to become an industrial powerhouse to rival and even outflank the US and the EU.

Restoring the yin-yang balance

In the world of conventional futurists, women play no role in either the past or the future. In Taub’s macrohistory, women are a key driving force behind the changes in the world today. As he reminds us in his remarkable book, early human society, from its ancient animist past, was characterized by relative gender equality with a predominantly “yin-like” worldview. Patriarchies and a “yang-like” worldview developed from  600 BCE, during the age of Confucius, Plato, Jesus, and Buddha. Taub places the beginning of the end of the patriarchy in the 1970s, with the first wave of feminism.

Feminism changed not only the mindset of women but also of men

Feminism changed not only the mindset of women but also of men. A remarkable diagram in his book illustrates the dialectic of sex, and how it plays a role today and in the future (see the diagrams in the page linked below). In about two decades, women will briefly become the dominant sex and restore the yin-yang balance that was lost in the patriarchal era. The female/male ratio of university students in many countries is one of many indications. By the middle of this century, the battle of the sexes will dissolve in what Taub describes as an androgynous synthesis.

The Spiritual Imperative is testimony to the enormous scope of Taub‘s knowledge of the world and his understanding of the human spirit. His models not only give pride of place to women, but also to the world’s three “source cultures” – China, Europe, and India. He shows that each has advanced the human condition and how they are shaping our future.

Jan Krikke

Jan Krikke is a former Japan correspondent for various media, former managing editor of Asia 2000 in Hong Kong, and author of Leibniz, Einstein, and China (2021).

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