Futures Drifting Apart: Brexit and the Importance of Divergent Imaginaries of the Future in Crises
In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, the world was puzzled: Why did so many British opt for a future laden with radical uncertainty and prophesized to be disastrous by leading academics, economists, politicians, journalists, and intellectuals? This socio-economic research project expands existing explanations by considering Brexit with a focus on divergent imaginaries of the future. Economic crises cause tangible economic dysfunctions, but they also affect actors’ perception of the future. The future appears less palpable, and the established consensus of the imagined future becomes fragile. The Brexit, as a political struggle about the "better future" for Great Britain, needs to be considered against the backdrop of these changing ideational conditions. The research project maps imaginaries of the future of various British social groups and shows in what ways they have diverged along the course of the crisis. Both individual (i.e. concerning one’s own situation) and collective (i.e. concerning the national or European economy) imaginaries of the future are considered. These findings are contrasted with publicly debated narratives of the future. The project is based on multivariate analysis of statistical data as well as the quantitative and qualitative tools of discourse analysis. Project duration: February 2016 to February 2020.