Condensation of Future Imaginaries

This article is part of my Master’s Thesis - Future Imaginaries. Previous Chapter: 3.1 Observations from the examination of futures and imaginaries

To this day, there is still no general definition for imaginaries. Just as imaginaries are expressed through social action, the term is also defined through the discourse surrounding it.

The initial understanding of future imaginaries, on which this work is based, sees them as collective expectations of the future that have become so self-evident that they influence social behavior largely unconsciously and without reflection. They are a sociological phenomenon. Building on this, the understanding can now be deepened.

Future imaginaries can be described as a specific form of Grunwald’s formulated present futures in social debates (cf. chapter 2.1.1). They are expectations of the future in the present composed of knowledge and assumptions and contain normative aspects. What distinguishes them from other futures is that groups and even entire societies share them.

Thus, future imaginaries are at the same time a specific form of the imaginaries described by Taylor and others. They describe how parts of society imagine the future of a topic and what expectations this gives rise to in terms of social behavior. Future imaginaries organize how society deals with the future. In doing so, they often cannot be explicitly formulated because they are part of the background understanding cited by Taylor (cf. chapter 2.2.2). Instead, they manifest themselves in stories and actions.

From the development of the understanding of imaginaries over the last decades, it can be deduced that there is not only one future imaginary in a society or a group, but that there are different future imaginaries for various topics, which sort themselves into a fragmented network of diverse imaginaries with different scope and effectiveness.

In this paper, future imaginaries are not understood as a generally applicable concept but as a specific consideration of a form of future expectations in society from the perspective of (critical) futures studies, comparable to fictional expectations in economic sociology and socio-technical imaginaries in STS. In terms of a basic constructivist-interactionist understanding, the term not only highlights aspects of reality from the perspective of futures studies but thus also constitutes a phenomenon that can only be perceived after it has been constructed1.

Next Chapter: 3.2.1 Characteristics of Future Imaginaries

  1. Giesel, K. D. (2007). Leitbilder in den Sozialwissenschaften: Begriffe, Theorien und Forschungskonzepte (1. Aufl.). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. 

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