Common Sense

This article is part of my Master’s Thesis - Future Imaginaries. Previous Chapter: 3.3.2 Myth

Probably the most significant overlap Future Imaginaries have with the concept of Common Sense. The cultural anthropologist Geertz defined Common Sense as a cultural system whose contents are identifiable and interpretable and which can differ enormously between peoples and societies.1 Following his description, (Future) Imaginaries also belong to this category.

Geertz describes the perception of common sense as a …

“… catalog of realities so compellingly self-evident that they virtually force themselves upon anyone who is in his or her right mind.”2

Common Sense does not distinguish between the “perception of pure facticity” and “the simple everyday knowledge, the judgments, and assessments of this facticity.”3 The constituent characteristic is the belief to “present reality accurately.”4 From this, common sense derives its authority and the self-image of not having to justify itself further.

To this end, Geertz observes that common sense as a belief is so strong in everyday life that experiences that challenge common sense are silenced. Geertz describes for Common Sense a comprehensive claim to interpret everyday life experiences and justify actions.5

Future Imaginaries and Common Sense have self-evidence in common. However, Common Sense’s intensity seems even higher than that of Future Imaginaries. Future Imaginaries are no longer reflected upon in everyday life but can still be questioned. Common Sense, on the other hand, usually leaves no room for doubt.

Even beyond self-evidence, Future Imaginaries and Common Sense have much in common. Both are dominant in discourse, performative in their development, and not the preserve of elites. Thus, it is surprising that there is virtually no preoccupation with Common Sense among the authors on Imaginaries. Only James and Steger mention Common Sense in the context of considering Taylor’s background understanding:

“These imaginations set the common-sense background of lived social experience.”6

Here, an interplay between imaginaries and common sense is emerging. The former provides the material for the social aspects of common sense. According to Geertz, common sense is “the result of inferences that the mind derives from certain presuppositions.”7 Imaginaries might be among these presuppositions.

In terms of futures, Ahlqvist and Rhisiart give the example of how expectations of the future become common sense in administrative apparatuses:

“Many of these kinds of more mundane futures endeavors are actually future turned into ‘taken-for-granted-futures’, that is, futures turned into an administrative axiom, a ‘self-evident fact’, into a governmental common sense and routine.”8

Based on this connection between “ [[ mundane futures ]]” and common sense, formulate a task for critical futures studies:

“We argue that critical futures research should develop theoretical and methodological approaches for studying the construction of these kinds of mundane futures, both at the level of organisations and companies, and at the level of civil society.”8

Next Chapter: 3.3.4 Vision

  1. Geertz, C. (1983). Dichte Beschreibung. Frankfurt a.M: Suhrkamp., p. 265 

  2. ibid., p. 263 

  3. ibid., p. 264 

  4. ibid., p. 265 

  5. cf. ibid., p. 276 

  6. James, Paul & Steger, Manfred. (2016). Globalization and Global Consciousness: Levels of Connectivity. 10.4324/9781315562834-3, p. 31 

  7. ibid., p. 275 

  8. Ahlqvist, T., & Rhisiart, M. (2015). Emerging pathways for critical futures research: Changing contexts and impacts of social theory. Futures, 71, 91–104., p. 99  2

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