Future Visions and Social Theory

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Gabor KIRALY , Department of Economics and Social Sciences, Corvinus University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Balint BALAZS , Environmental Social Science Research , Budapest, Hungary
Gyorgy PATAKI , Department of Environmental Economics and Technology, Corvinus University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Alexandra KOVES , Corvinus University of Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Social sciences in general and sociology in particular are facing a challenge of conceptualising the relation between environment and society in ways that assist the dialogue and multiple attempts for creating visions of a sustainable society. Thinking about the future always involves thinking about the future of society. However, in future studies little attention has been paid to how underlying social theories affect our future visions. Since backcasting is a special approach in future studies which starts with a normative vision of the future and elaborates a strategy to reach this normative vision, this issue is even more pressing. Our paper aims to reveal and reflect upon the role of these underlying social theories in the construction of future visions in backcasting practices.

In the first part of the paper we will present four different ways to think about society and social change. These are structural functionalism, conflict theory, symbolic interactionism and actor-network-theory. We argue that these are not only present in academic papers but also can be thought about as general ways of thinking about society. Furthermore, these underlying models of society also affect the various ways future is presented in public discourses.

The second part of the paper especially focuses on the various methodological approaches to involve social theories in the elaboration of future visions in backcasting practices. Methodologies such as functional analysis of institutions, stakeholder mapping, living labs, narrative approaches and system mapping will be discussed both in relation to the above-mentioned social theories and the future vision which can be created by utilising such methodological approaches. We argue that by consciously reflecting upon both theoretical and methodological issues in thinking about the future can enhance the quality of the normative future visions created in backcasting practices.