Imaginaries of the future are thus a crucial component of social and economic order. By coordinating action, they also contribute to the dynamics of capitalism, since the correspondence of expectations, or “frame alignment” (Snow and Benford 1992), anchors decisions for investment and innovation. A second, related implication is that there are real- world consequences of expectations. Because expectations can help actors coordinate their efforts, they are able to affect the future. Sociology has used the idea of the self- fulfilling prophecy— generally known today as performativity—to describe this phenomenon (Merton 1957) with reference to economic theories and models.
It has been the subject of important discussions in social studies of finance (Callon 1998b; MacKenzie 2006). Whereas the performativity approach likens economic theory to the social world in its claim that economic theory shapes the economy, this book understands the performative effects of expectations more broadly and in several ways. Economic theories are not the only framing of a situation with the potential to influence outcomes, and expectations do not necessarily lead to the anticipated future; rather, in a world characterized by uncertainty and an open future, the influence of theories is manifold and unpredictable.
The contingency of expectations is also a source of innovation in the economy, giving rise to new ideas despite—or, even better, because of— uncertainty. Because they are not confined to empirical reality (although the actors who hold them may claim the opposite), expectations can represent radical departures from the present, and become a creative and stimulating force within the economy (Bronk 2009; Buchanan and Vanberg 1991; Esposito 2011).