The future starts in the mind. For sustainable development, we need to become more aware of the long-term consequences of our actions.
The future starts in the mind. For sustainable development, we need to become more aware of the long-term consequences of our actions. istock/wdstock

Headline: Politicizing the Future

Futures are ever present. We encounter futures in scientific analyses and the rationales for diverse policy measures. Futures underpin budgetary and investment decision-making. They shape both individual and societal visions. Futures take many forms and fulfil many functions. They can be produced by linearizing historical and current trends in order to develop forecasts: Climate scenarios, for example, provide a means to highlight the scale and urgency of climate change in the present day. But the future is also synonymous with a desire for change that finds expression in visions and utopias. Open to interpretation, these imaginaries can also inspire hope and fuel motivation.

Futures emerge or are produced in spaces within which relations of power exist and social orders are (re-)produced. Rarely is it made explicit which notions of the future will be taken into account in decision-making processes or who will be granted the agency to more closely define these ideas. This is evident, for example, in political processes where the concept of sustainable development is often defined exclusively in technical and economic terms rather than with reference to people's needs.

In addition to analysing the production of futures in the politics, philosophy, education and economics, IASS researchers also consider how citizens can be better involved in shaping our common future. The development of orientation knowledge for participation processes is a particular focus of this research group.