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Imagined futures. Fictionality in economic action

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  • Beckert, Jens

Abstract

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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    Cited by:

    1. Bernhard, Stefan, 2018. "Wie wird man eigentlich ein Marktteilnehmer? : Qualitative Studien zur Gründung und Einbettung von Marktakteuren," IAB-Discussion Paper 201823, Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB), Nürnberg [Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg, Germany].
    2. Mélix, Sophie, 2022. "Renderings: Bildwelten zur Legitimation von spekulativen Stadtentwicklungsprojekten in Lagos und New York [Renderings. Visual worlds for the legitimization of speculative urban development projects," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 10(1), pages 97-126.
    3. 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.
    4. Grahame Thompson, 2014. "From Artisan to Partisan," Journal of Cultural Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(1), pages 95-120, February.
    5. Martin B. Carstensen, 2013. "Projecting from a Fiction: The Case of Denmark and the Financial Crisis," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(4), pages 555-578, August.
    6. Mützel, Sophie, 2013. "On coordination: Stories and meaning making in markets," economic sociology. perspectives and conversations, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 14(2), pages 4-9.
    7. 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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