chapter  2
18 Pages

Imagined worlds

The politics of future-making in the twenty-first century
WithSheila Jasanoff

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This chapter analyses how the predictive politics of future-making fundamentally alters existing practices of constitutional democratic government by upsetting three of its foundational attributes: its materiality, its presentism, and its localism. The outcomes of contemporary political struggles are no longer conceived as immediate, tangible, and available for public evaluation and judgment based on outcomes. Instead, contemporary political contestations revolve around collective imaginations of the future in which different, often conflicting, visions are put forward. The ensuing negotiations – what one might term the ‘politics of the future’ – thus continually revolve around possible ‘dreamscapes’, spaces in which promissory visions fuelled by scientific and technological advances germinate and flourish, or are met with resistance. The consequences are far-reaching, because once a certain vision of the future is institutionally embedded and acted upon, it co-produces a trajectory toward specific collective benefits, while necessarily also precluding ‘alternative futures’. It is crucial to understand the power-laden, hierarchically structured nature of these exercises in order to restore and reclaim democratic participation in the politics of the future. But the changes brought about by the rise of science and technology as major forces in world-making go beyond the domestication of the future for present-day political action. Predictive politics also fundamentally changes the objects of governance, the instruments of political intervention, and political subjects and polities. Drawing on rich work in Science and Technology Studies (STS) and political theory, the chapter shows how prediction as a new mode of governance uproots existing practices of constitutional government, brings new questions of trust and accountability into national and global debates, and spurs new movements in political and social thought that amount, in effect, to a re-constitutionalizing of contemporary politics.