Alvin Toffler's Third Wave provides the student a comprehensive, but more easily understandable and, perhaps, more optimistic analysis of the changes in life, culture, economy, and politics throughout history. Toffler employs the metaphor of "wave" to describe the changes and transitions in civilization that occur before they really become apparent. Also, like a wave these changes gain size and momentum. That is, as one reader writes,
...the change builds up and travels through civilization, transforming social structures, understandings of reality, even our sense of ourselves, in their wake.
In his profoundly insightful work, written thirty years ago, Toffler describes the First Wave as that of the beginning of an agricultural civilization in which wealth was mainly measured in land.
The Second Society is the transition of developed countries into Industrial Society which began in the early 1800s, an era in which wealth was measured in three-fold: land, labor, and capital, all of which needed to be combined for success. Cities became crowded with poor people from the countryside who moved in order to find work in factories that produced machines. This period culminated in World War II with the atomic bomb.
The Third Society springs from efforts not of muscle, but of mind, producing a modification of people's lives, a wave that, indeed, transforms societies. In this Third Society, wealth is not measured in physical resources; rather, knowledge is the source of wealth. In his critique of The Third Wave, Michael Finley writes,
Economics has been lovingly defined as 'the science of the allocation of scarce resources.'
Thus information processing and knowledge production take the place of the machines and resources of the Industrial Age. Also, there is a new intelligence. In people, the recognition of multiple intelligences contributes to new societies and the artificial intelligences of cyberspace also play integral roles in societies.
In addition, in the Third Wave there is a dissolution of the nation-state as countries of name disappear or merge into other nearby nations. For example, Toffler has predicted the European Union and the changing character of democracy.