Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (what a great name!) was a French political writer and historian who travelled through America in 1831-32.
He made the following prediction about how a despotism might one day come about in the emerging modern era:
I wish to imagine under what new features despotism might appear in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of men, all alike and equal, turned in upon themselves in a restless search for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, living apart, is almost unaware of the destiny of all the rest. His children and personal friends are for him the whole of the human race; as for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he stands alongside them but does not see them; he touches them without feeling them; he exists only in himself and for himself; if he still retains his family circle, at any rate he may be said to have lost his country … Above these men stands an immense and protective power which alone is responsible for looking after their enjoyments and watching over their destiny. It is absolute, meticulous, ordered, provident, and kindly disposed. It would be like a fatherly authority, if, fatherlike, its aims were to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks only to keep them in perpetual childhood; it prefers its citizens to enjoy themselves provided they have only enjoyment in mind. It works readily for their happiness but it wishes to be the only provider and judge of it. It provides their security, anticipates and guarantees their needs, supplies their pleasures, directs their principal concerns, manages their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances. Why can it not remove them entirely from the bother of thinking and the troubles of life?What did he get right? He correctly predicted that men would be cut off from each other, i.e. they would no longer have a sense of themselves acting together as part of an historic nation or tradition, but would fall back instead to the sphere of family or circle of friends. He correctly predicted too the tendency to reduce life to relatively trivial aims ("a restless search for those petty, vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls"). Finally, he foresaw the soft rule and the encroachments of the managerial state, a state which seeks to limit the permissible ends of life to those which can be readily managed within a system of "equal freedom" (de Tocqueville saw these ends as being personal enjoyments; they might be listed in modern society as being career, travel, shopping and entertainments such as TV and computer games).
De Tocqueville made some other interesting predictions:
There are now two great nations in the world, which starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans... Each seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world.That comes from a book published in 1835; it describes well the world situation from 1945 to 1990.