Jens Beckert. Imagined Futures and Capitalist Dynamics

Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Imagined Futures  and Capitalist Dynamics

In a capitalist system, consumers, investors, and corporations orient their activities toward a future that contains opportunities and risks. How do actors assess the future if this future is open and uncertain? Jens Beckert adds a new chapter to the theory of capitalism by demonstrating how fictional expectations drive modern economies—or throw them into crisis when the imagined futures fail to materialize. Collectively held images of how the future will unfold are critical because they free economic actors from paralyzing doubt, enabling them to commit resources and coordinate decisions even if those expectations prove inaccurate. Since they are not confined to empirical reality, fictional expectations are a source of creativity in the economy. In the talk Beckert will develop the notion of fictional expectations and relate it to the operation of investments, innovation and consumption. The talk is based on Beckert’s new book “Imagined Futures. Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics” (HUP 2016).

Jens Beckert is the director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, Germany