Future Fears: Rationality and the fashioning of fear in the charting of future scenarios
Adrienne Sorbom (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
The paper engages with the ways in which processes of anticipation and foresight in think tank organizations involve the fashioning of fear alongside a cultivation of rationality, and how these two dimensions are simultaneously and variably drawn upon in the creation of future scenarios.
Paper long abstract:
In organizational settings, including think tanks, processes of anticipation and foresight are invested with emotions and rationalities. These are cultivated and used to mobilize around certain services and communicative processes in order to create a sense of direction and authority. For think tanks, providing possible and plausible visions of futures are key activities for attracting attention, gaining credibility, and ultimately for designing present and future actions. They employ a wide range of sophisticated tools, methods and models (metrics, indexes, forecasting and scenarios) to assist them in imagining possibilities, sketching trajectories, and providing a basis for decisions. In this process, a range of emotions are involved and intermingled. This paper is based on ethnographic work in several transnational think tanks involved in the charting of geopolitical future scenarios. We argue that the mapping of global futures to a large extent involves the making of a 'geopolitics of emotion.' In the voicing of 'global problems' and the presentation of 'desirable futures', the cultivation, articulation and management of fear, anxiety, and hope, as well as a reliance on rationality, reason, and evidence, are central components.
Sense and sensibility: investments of emotion and rationality in the charting of future scenarios