Working paper

No more imperial cities: on futurology in social science

Working Paper No. 57
Cities and towns Social issues Los Angeles New Zealand
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apo-nid120546.pdf 2.88 MB

This paper considers the dangers for social science when the predictive urge extends to prophesy, the conviction that the future is already knowable. Seen from a spatial perspective, futurology frequently relies on the theoretical aggrandisement of contemporary places to press its claim that the future of space has already been foretold in contemporary events. Two cases are essayed as cautionary tales: first, the inflated claims made in the social sciences during the 1980s for Los Angeles as a preview of an inevitable post-modern future for global capitalism; and second, the more recent, and no less extravagant, commentaries which have trumpeted contemporary, neo-liberal New Zealand as the future the world must have. The misleading claims of futurologists are exposed in both instances through empirical analyses of actual events. It is concluded that futurology is a deceptive, and therefore non-scientific, gaze which occludes social and natural contingency.

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