This article is part of my Master’s Thesis - Future Imaginaries. Previous Chapter: 3.3.5 Leitbild

The term megatrend, unlike the other terms and concepts considered here, is closely associated in public perception with futures studies. It was formulated in the early 1980s by futurist John Naisbitt in his book of the same name,1. He observed various significant social changes and predicted their development in the future. In this context, the term had a marketing-oriented aspect from the beginning, as Naisbitt’s consulting firm regularly sold trend reports to business clients.2 This might also explain the ideological undertone propagating the benefits of the free market economy, which Richard Slaughter diagnoses in ‘Megatrends’ and its successor ‘Megatrends 2000’.3

The term “ megatrend “ was developed primarily to support companies in their search for potential future business areas. This has not changed much to this day. The term is used mainly by trend research companies to sell reports. The press and media like to pick up on megatrends because they suggest that they offer orientation in a complex world.34

Slaughter’s criticism of Naisbitt can still be applied to many publications and uses of the term megatrend. For example, the term still has no theoretical foundation and is usually roughly defined as a “trend on a large scale, long-lasting with profound changes.”5. Also, the megatrend primarily maps the present, taking current signals (in Naisbitt’s case, from magazine clippings) as its source and extrapolating trends from them. It often acts as a bracket for various smaller trends, the complex interplay of which is not considered in detail.

Thus, statements and publications using the term megatrend are possibly an interesting indication of which future imaginaries are currently occupying groups, institutions, and society. It is striking that many of the frequently named megatrends such as globalization, sustainability, climate change, and digitalization are also cited as examples of Future Imaginaries.46

In this sense, megatrends can be seen as an expression of Future Imaginaries. They can be understood as a form of indication for a Future Imaginary or as an impulse for the emergence or change of one.

Next Chapter: Collective memory

  1. Naisbitt, J. (1982). Megatrends: ten new directions transforming our lives. New York: Warner Books. 

  2. Linstone, H. A. (1983). Book Review: John Naisbitt, Megatrends. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, (24), 91–94, p. 91 

  3. Slaughter, R. A. (1993). Looking for the real ‘megatrends’. Futures, 25(8), 827–849., p. 831  2

  4. Rust, H. (2009). Zukunftsillusionen. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.  2

  5. Pillkahn, U. (2007). Trends und Szenarien als Werkzeuge zur Strategieentwicklung: wie Sie die unternehmerische und gesellschaftliche Zukunft planen und gestalten. Erlangen: Publicis Corp. Publ., p. 127 

  6. Goode, L., & Godhe, M. (2017). Beyond Capitalist Realism - Why We Need Critical Future Studies. Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, 9(1), 109–129. 

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