Post-Crisis Utopias? - Future Orientation and Sociological Imagination

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Danny OTTO, University of Rostock, Germany
Guy Standing’s "Politics of paradise", Göran Therborn’s "Decisive Battlefields of future (in)equality" or the "Convivialist Manifesto" of Les Convivialistes are only few examples of post-crisis utopias in the social sciences. With this term I am referring to socio-political scenarios for future development published after and in reference to the financial crisis (2007/2008). Rather than outlining a new form of utopias, contrasted to pre-crisis types, I want to zoom in on offers of orientation through social scientific research in times perceived as critical junctures. Much like diagnoses of time this kind of “sociological imagination” (Mills) is a contribution to broader contexts beyond “academia” and aims at societal and political influence.

Besides the interest in a comparison of the imagined scenarios, it is worth looking at the ways in which different authors/author collectives conceptualize their visions to make them powerful. To do so I want to pronounce the “how” in the analysis of these interpretations: How are the ideas configure and promoted? How do they gain plausibility and potentially stability? Metaphors, subject positions, connections to social movements or relation to prior interpretations are examples of associations that might be involved in these processes. For this task I combine a theoretical framework based in Science and Technology Studies (ANT, Post-ANT) and an empirical approach that links content and rhetorical analysis.

My goal is to gain further insights into sociologists’ involvement in public affairs, something that is commonly seen as marginal, while retaining a critical perspective on the production of knowledge in the own discipline. For this session this is highly relevant since social scientists can be spokespersons or inspiration for social movements based on their outline of desirable futures. They are (or rather want to be) involved in the shaping of possible futures – an involvement that needs further elaboration.