I propose that a key avenue of research in the humanities and social science needs to be the implications of modernisation (broadly, the pursuit of economic development alongside the formation of liberal-democratic state institutions) for humanity’s relationship to its future. I outline how the institutions of late modernity are all subject to a crucial contradiction between the increasing power to create the future that accompanies them and our capability to take responsibility for the consequences of this power.
The crucial question that therefore arises – how are we to conceive of our responsibility towards the future? – is, I argue, an effect of a crisis within the assumptions that underlie the concepts and images that have allowed us to believe in the future in the first place, and in whose production the humanities, and later, the social sciences have historically played an important role. In the European context of modernisation, I survey briefly some ways in which these assumptions have historically evolved, before looking at how, from the 18th century onward, they gradually took on forms whose unintended consequence has been to make the future appear as a space for the present to endlessly colonise.
|Keywords:||Futures, Social Futures, Utopia, Modernity, Technology, Risk, Open Future, Benjamin, Walter, Berman, Marshall, Economics, Natural Philosophy, Social Science|
Research Associate, 'In Pursuit of the Future', School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
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