There have also been efforts to integrate the role of imagined futures into the field of general sociology. Most prominent, perhaps, are the works of Alfred Schütz (1962), Niklas Luhmann (1976), and Cornelius Castoriadis (1998). More recently, Ann Mische (2009, 2014) embarked on the project of a sociology of the future, critiquing sociological approaches that explain present action only in light of past occurrences.
Finally, in specialized sociological fields such as innovation and technology studies, there is a vibrant discourse on the role of projections of the future in the development of new technologies. These move forward through imaginaries, which are a “cultural resource that enables new forms of life by projecting positive goals and seeking to attain them” (Jasanoff and Kim 2009: 122). This book builds on these formative contributions, arguing that imaginaries of the future are a crucial element of capitalist development, and that capitalist dynamics are vitally propelled by the shaping of expectations.
Institutional trajectories from the past are not irrelevant to explaining outcomes, of course, but, based on the contributions mentioned above, sociologists would do well to shift more of their attention to the future, particularly to the images of the future that actors nourish. Furthermore, temporal orientations and perceptions of the future are relevant far beyond the economic realm investigated here, and may indeed underpin a fresh paradigm in sociology. This, then, is the core hypothesis of this book: “history matters,” but the future matters just as much.