What Makes an Imaginary Credible?

Jens Beckert

In capitalist economies, actors base their decisions on imaginaries of future outcomes. Decisions are anchored in projections of the future that provide rationales for decisions in the present. At the same time, fundamental uncertainty stemming from genuine novelty and the complexity of situations prevents the expectations of actors in the economy from being understood as probabilistic foreknowledge of the future. The future is open and uncertain, and in part it is made through the imaginaries on which actors base their decisions. To provoke decisions, images of the future need not be true (in the sense that they portray the future present), but they do need to be credible. Actors must believe that it is at least sufficiently likely that events will indeed play out in the way portrayed by the narrative. The research question in this project is: Where does this credibility come from?

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