sardinia_FM_Conference_Paper_301009.doc - B Adam Sardinia...

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© B Adam – Sardinia FM Conference Paper 301009Future Matters: Challenge for Social Theory and Social InquiryBarbara Adam,Cardiff UniversityAbstractSocial action is performed in the temporal domain of open pasts and futures. It is bothmindful of the recoverable and lived past and projectively oriented towards anintangible future. It sets processes in motion that ripple through the entire socialsystem, across space and time, to eventually emerge as facts. This futurity of actiontends to get lost in analyses that concentrate primarily on empirically accessible,factual outcomes of plans, decisions, hopes and fears. To encompass this ‘not yet’ ascentral component in the production of social facts requires changes to social theoryand the logic of social inquiry. It necessitates an openness to rethink the subject matterof sociology, its epistemology and its methodology. The paper presents a broad-brushsocio-historical analysis of changing approaches to the future as foundation totheoretical considerations of necessary conceptual changes to the discipline in orderthat social futurity may be accorded its appropriate place in the study of social life.IntroductionContemporary daily life is conducted in the temporal domain of open pasts andfutures, mindful of the lived past while projectively oriented towards the ‘not yet’. Wemove in this temporal domain with great agility, pirouetting and swivelling to faceboth past and future, twisting and turning in the knowledge realms of perception,memory and anticipation. We operate with equal confidence in the action domains ofchoice and planning, where we are engaged in future making and future taking.Without giving much thought to the matter we alternate perspectives betweenfuturepresentswhich we anticipate andpresent futures1which we enact. While our practicalunderstanding includes the future orientation as an inescapable feature of socialexistence, for the study of that life the future poses major challenges because it lacksthe tangible materiality needed for empirical study. This difficulty should not be takenas an excuse to place futurity outside the social science frame of reference. Rather, itneeds to be acknowledged and understood in order to adapt our modes of inquiry.If the future is an inescapable aspect of human being and social life through actionthat is purposive, intentional and motivated, as well as goal and value orientated thenthe future isde factoa subject matter for the study of that life. If some of the keyinstitutions of social life are future orientated, such as religion, education, politics,economics, work, family, science, business and organisations then this futureorientation isde factoa subject matter for institutional analysis. Finally, if theproduction of the future is the purpose of economic, political, scientific, educational,environmental activity, then it isde factoa subject matter of the study of these social

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Term
Fall
Professor
Iorii
Tags
Sociology, Barbara Adam, Sardinia FM Conference, FM Conference Paper

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