Yesterday evening we had a nice crowd at a paper session that Chris Muellerleile organized on Political Economies of Anticipation. Nicole Gombay, a geographer from the University of Montreal, gave a wonderful talk on the various conceptions of money, finance, and futures among the Inuit. Chris gave a talk exploring the practice and consequences of speculation in financial derivatives markets. Luis Alvarez Leon, a geographer from UCLA, gave a fascinating talk about the history of resistance to the mechanization of labor, and Susan presented her research on the ‘futuring’ structures of international trade agreements such as TTIP, especially around new service sectors like higher education. The papers provided the basis for a very productive conversation and debate, and we all *anticipate* collaborating further in the future.
Now it is Saturday morning and we have just enjoyed a wonderful talk by Jens Beckert from the Max Planck Institute on “Imagined Futures”, which is the title of his new book due early next year. His basic thesis is that the dynamics of capitalism are utterly dependent on actors’ expectations of what will happen in the future, and therefore to understand contemporary economic change, we must consider how expectations are formed and reproduced. His argument is built on the basic assumption that the future is not calculable in any rational way and therefore “knowing” the future is more or less impossible. In other words, he is interested in “fictional expectations”. From here he dove into fiction in literature, or story telling, as a way to understand how particular expectations become dominant. Not all expectations of the future are equal, and powerful actors are able to produce more influential stories. We must pay attention to how certain stories become dominant and how others fall by the wayside if we want to understand things like financial markets, consumption, central banking, competition, and of course, crisis.
There is one more afternoon of paper sessions and then we will all pack up to head back to Bristol. This has been an extremely thought provoking conference—definitely “outside the box” of normal academic discourse. There are rumors that the 2nd iteration will be held at the University of Bristol in two years, so more to come here and across the Bristol community!
Janja, Susan and Chris