Moral Economies of the Future

–The Utopian Impulse of Sustainable Prosperity

Will Davies

The field of ‘moral economy’ explores the ways in which seemingly amoral economic institutions are normatively and politically instituted. However it has tended to neglect the question of how economic actors make commitments to the long-term future, of the sort that are implied by the idea of ‘sustainable prosperity’. Work by Jens Beckert and Elena Esposito has brought a dynamic perspective to economic sociology, and helps pinpoint the precise problem posed by neoliberalism, namely that it seeks to channel all forms of futurity, hope and promise into market-based mechanisms, such as credit, risk, derivatives, business models and so on. This way of instituting ‘the future’ presents a blockage to all alternative forms of planning, design or imagination, where the latter seek non- economistic, potentially incalculable forms of long-term commitment (for instance to future generations). Challenging the neoliberal framing of ‘the future’ requires a rediscovery of the forms of futurity, utopianism and hope that were present in modernism, but now need reinstating in ways that are not predicated on environmental degradation. Anthropocenic utopias are urgently required.


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