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Imagined futures. Fictionality in economic action


  • Beckert, Jens


Starting from the assumption that decision situations in economic contexts are characterized by fundamental uncertainty, the paper argues that the decision-making of intentionally rational actors is anchored in fictions. 'Fictionality' in economic action is the inhabitation in the mind of an imagined future state of the world and the beliefs in causal mechanisms leading to this future state. Actors are motivated in their actions by the imagined future and organize their activities based on these mental representations. Since these representations are not confined to empirical reality, fictionality is also a source of creativity in the economy. Fictionality opens up a way to an understanding of the microfoundations of the dynamics of the economy. The paper develops the notion of fictional expectations and applies it to investments, consumption and money. The last part relates the notion of fiction to calculation and social macrostructures as two other devices of decision-making and hints at the relevance of fictionality for the macrodynamics of capitalism.

Suggested Citation

  • Beckert, Jens, 2011. "Imagined futures. Fictionality in economic action," MPIfG Discussion Paper 11/8, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:mpifgd:118

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin Hellwig, 2009. "Systemic Risk in the Financial Sector: An Analysis of the Subprime-Mortgage Financial Crisis," De Economist, Springer, vol. 157(2), pages 129-207, June.
    2. Beckert, Jens, 2000. "Economic sociology in Germany," economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 1(2), pages 2-7.
    3. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
    4. Michel Callon & Fabian Muniesa, 2005. "Economic markets as calculative collective devices," Post-Print halshs-00087477, HAL.
    5. Patalano Roberta, 2003. "Beyond rationality: images as guide-lines to choice," CESMEP Working Papers 200305, University of Turin.
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    Cited by:

    1. Priddat, Birger P., 2014. "Entscheidung als zeitliche Setzung: Über Narration, Fiktion, Erwartung und Zeitlichkeit in der Ökonomie," Wittener Diskussionspapiere zu alten und neuen Fragen der Wirtschaftswissenschaft 28/2014, Witten/Herdecke University, Faculty of Management and Economics.
    2. Mützel, Sophie, 2013. "On coordination: Stories and meaning making in markets," economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 14(2), pages 4-9.
    3. Bronk, Richard, 2013. "Hayek on the wisdom of prices: a reassessment," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 50371, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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