Economic Futures: Imaginaries, Narratives
and Calculation

Conference, 17-18 March 2016, Paris

Topic and Goal of the Conference

Modern economies are oriented towards the future, and in many circumstances the future is inherently uncertain. This raises questions about how economic actors form expectations or strategies, assess the likely outcome of their decisions, and learn to exploit the indeterminate future to their advantage. How do economic actors make decisions when the future is indeterminate because it has yet to be created by the innovations they and others will make, or because it is so complex that it cannot be anticipated?
The central role of future orientation in contemporary economies is itself uncontroversial. Investments are made on the basis of expected future returns. Financial investors speculate on the future development of security prices. Product innovations seek to anticipate future technological or market developments but often create unanticipated novelties. Consumer purchases are based on the imagined future satisfaction of wants.
Considerable controversy, though, surrounds how actors actually come to the assessments of future developments on which they rely to make their consequential decisions. Economics usually assumes that expectations conform to certain canons of rationality and are based on probability calculations and the market elimination of systematic errors. In its behavioral variant, economics explores the psychological construction of regular biases in our assessments of the future. By contrast, sociology focuses on social structures, cultural templates, institutions and power to explain economic outcomes but largely ignores the role played by actors’ expectations of the future. In neither discipline has there to date been much systematic investigation into how actors assess or navigate the future when faced with radical uncertainty.
The conference brings together a group of scholars who have worked on questions of future assessment under conditions of radical uncertainty from different perspectives and with different empirical applications. Their work focuses on investment processes, financial markets, innovation but also on instruments of future construction such as economic forecasting, economic theories, risk modeling, accounting technologies, business plans or other market narratives. Discussion might focus on the following questions: How do actors form expectations in conditions of uncertainty and complex interdependence? What is the relative importance of narratives, emotion and calculation in guiding behavior? How far are futures constructed through the use of accounting, modelling and forecasting instruments? Do the narratives and models of certain market players have disproportionate impact on future outturns? We may also focus on the importance in both markets and economic policy making of the social, institutional and historical anchoring of expectations.
The aim of the conference is to present a broad spectrum of work relating to future-oriented economic decision-making in conditions of uncertainty in order to get a better understanding of promising research questions and strategies.

MPIfG: Conference "Economic Futures: Imaginaries, Narratives
and Calculation" | [Last updated 01.02.2016 12:11]