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Imagined Futures and Capitalist Dynamics (Fall 2019 Heuss Lecture)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm

Wolff Conference Room, Room D1103, Albert and Vera List Academic Center 6 East 16th Street, New York, NY 10003, Room D1103

In a capitalist system, consumers, investors, and corporations orient their activities toward a future that contains opportunities and risks. How do actors assess the future if this future is open and uncertain?

In this talk, Professor Beckert attempts to add a new chapter to the theory of capitalism by demonstrating how fictional expectations drive modern economies--or throw them into crisis--when the imagined futures fail to materialize.

Collectively held images of how the future will unfold are critical because they free economic actors from paralyzing doubt, enabling them to commit resources and coordinate decisions even if those expectations prove inaccurate. Since they are not confined to empirical reality, fictional expectations are a source of creativity in the economy.

The talk is based on Prof. Beckert's recently published book "Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics" (HUP 2016).


Presented by Prof. Jens Beckert, Director, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (Cologne), and 2019-20 Theodor Heuss Professor at The New School for Social Research (NSSR).


Prof. Beckert received his MA in Sociology from NSSR and his Ph.D. from the Freie Universität Berlin. He was a visiting researcher at Princeton, Harvard, Cornell and SciencesPo in Paris. In 2018, Prof. Beckert was awarded the Leibniz-Prize, the highest research award in Germany. Prof. Beckert works in the fields of economic sociology and investigates primarily questions of market development. His book “Imagined Futures” (HUP 2016) examines the role of expectations for economic growth and crises.


Reception to follow

Sponsored by The New School for Social Research.

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