Theorists Views on Variations in Futures & Their Confrontation with Evidence

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:45
Location: Hörsaal 30 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Charles CROTHERS, AUT University, New Zealand
To the considerable empirically-orientated sociologies of the varieties of capitalism and of welfare states there can be added an emergent – more theoretically intense - sociology of the varieties (or multiplicities) of modernity and likely trajectories into the future. This literature encompasses an array of social theorists’ attempts to depict the essential features of the contemporary and its futures and to conceptually isolate possible trajectories.  Not only does this array of views require more attention than available summaries seem to provide, but reaching out towards more systematic empirical research would be helpful in advancing this highly important face of sociology.

Theoretically-charged conceptualisations of the contemporary often exaggerate its emergent future features in order to state their thinking more dramatically. Examples include discussions of late/liquid modernity, pure intimacy, ‘risk society’, mobilities etc. and more generally various views of the processes of globalisation, Westernisation, Americanisation and Europeanisation.

Relating these theories to contemporary social reality through marshalling available evidence is useful in:

-          helping pin down the meanings of the theories

-          estimating the actual extent to which the phenomena pointed up pertain contemporaneously

-          establishing what people want to see in their future societies.

In this paper the work of relevant theories is combed to reveal the evidence they produce and recourse is then made to data concerning contemporary realities and future preferences from surveys including the Pew Global Attitudes and trends surveys, the World Values Survey and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (My World) Survey.

The result is a theoretically-based, but empirically-informed set of views about the cotemporary social world and its possible trajectories into the future.