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Accepted Paper:

Anticipating the future at the National Assembly of Quebec  
Samuel Shapiro (Université Laval)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on how legislative bodies look consistently towards the future from the present through collective debates featuring contrasting visions of the past, present and future. Examples are taken from the author’s fieldwork at the National Assembly of Quebec.

Paper long abstract:

Whilst in opposition, political parties often critique the actions of the current government and their effects on society's present and future. They frequently present opposition bills or motions that shed light on issues they perceive the government as neglecting and promise to overturn previous legislative and executive measures once they gain power. In practice, however, new governments mostly choose less direct methods of challenging their predecessors' political legacy that focus on positively altering the future instead of undoing the past. More generally, the work of parliaments is to discuss, debate and decide on measures written in the present that present a necessarily subjective vision of and for the future. Parliamentary debates bring into dialogue and debate not only visions in and of the present, but also interpretations of history and of the future by which politicians try to anticipate the future and be "on the right side of history" in advance. This paper will focus on such issues by drawing on anthropological fieldwork at the National Assembly of Quebec, the legislative institution of that Canadian province. Whilst it shares the above characteristics with many other parliaments, this Assembly presents the peculiarity that the contours of the political entity it represents remain ambiguous despite being a territorially-defined federated entity that has existed for more than two centuries. This paper will explore both the more general points that such a case study brings out as well as how its idiosyncrasies can contribute to broader theorising.

Panel P110
Anticipatory knowledge: prognostics and prophecy in management and governance
  Session 1