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The Future as a Social Fact: The Analysis of Perceptions of the Future in Sociology

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Beckert,  Jens
Soziologie des Marktes, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Suckert,  Lisa
Soziologie des Marktes, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Beckert, J., & Suckert, L. (2020). The Future as a Social Fact: The Analysis of Perceptions of the Future in Sociology. Poetics, (published online December 9): 101499. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2020.101499.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-917D-9
Abstract
A small but growing share of sociological research recognizes the importance of perceptions of the future for explaining social outcomes. This article, taking a sociology of knowledge perspective, provides a systematic study of sociological scholarship dealing empirically with perceptions of the future. It is based on a qualitatively driven mixed methods analysis of 571 sociological research articles published between 1950 and 2019 and distinguishes between three clusters of scholarship: in the first cluster authors consider future orientations as either dependent or independent variable; in the second cluster they analyze the multifaceted ways in which actors imagine the future; and in the third cluster they are interested in the politically contested construction and diffusion of future orientations. By investigating these clusters, the article demonstrates how sociologists pay attention to future orientations in a broad spectrum of sociological fields, using a variety of methods and asking a wide set of questions about assessments of the future. The future is increasingly a realm of sociological analysis. We show how this field of research is structured and has developed over time. Elaborating on different facets of research that so far operate largely in isolation from each other, we aim to contribute to the development of the field. Sociology could benefit from more systematically integrating perceptions of the future – as they are reflected in actor expectations, aspirations, and future beliefs – into the discipline's empirical investigations and explanatory models and from integrating the existing knowledge on these issues better.