This article is part of my Master’s Thesis - Future Imaginaries. Previous Chapter: 3.3.4 Vision

What applies to other terms in this thesis, such as imaginaries and myths, also applies to the concept of the “Leitbild” (guiding principles): there is no uniform, cross-disciplinary definition. Katharina Giesel has examined the many different meanings and their developments and used them to recast the Leitbild approach. For this purpose, she essentially distinguishes between implicit and explicit guiding principles.1

“Implicit models are socially shared, mentally anchored, and internalized patterns of orientation based on ideas of a future that is both desirable and considered feasible. They shape the perceptions, thoughts, and actions of those who share them. They express political future orientation, arouse emotions, and intentionally direct thought and action. They refer to long-term, overarching value or goal concepts or blueprints for the future, with which complex, more or less visually tangible ideas are associated.”2

Thus, implicit Leitbilder share many characteristics with Future Imaginaries, but they have a much more active character concerning desirable futures. Leitbilder are no expectations but ideas about the future that are “considered both desirable and feasible.”2 Although not all actors must always be fully aware of them, they can be formulated and thus become explicit mission statements.3

External Leitbilder emerge from a deliberate process to shape a development. The focus is on bringing together different actors – sometimes from other contexts – with their ideas and bringing these ideas together through the process. External Leitbilder also place a particular emphasis on feasibility. Therefore, they are repeatedly adapted to new research findings or changes to remain achievable.4

In many ways, external Leitbilder are the conceptual counterpart to Future Imaginaries. They attempt to shape future imaginaries that are not yet there or not yet shared among the desired actors. Explicit Leitbilder are meant to be a precursor to implicit Leitbilder. These, in turn, can become Future Imaginaries if they can be sustained and spread until they have moved into the background understanding.

Next Chapter: Megatrend

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

  2. Translated from ibid., p. 246  2

  3. ibid., p. 247 

  4. cf. Dignum, M. (2013). The power of large technological visions: the promise of hydrogen energy (1970-2010). ’s-Hertogenbosch: Uitgeverij BOXpress., p. 18 

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