This kick-off conference launching our Max Planck Partner Group was held at the Staszic Palace in Warsaw on 15-16 February 2018. It focused on investigating the notion of expectations as a topic of social research. It brought together the top young scholars working on this topic in the field of sociology, anthropology, and history.
Topic and goal of the conference
The starting point of the workshop was the theory of “fictional expectations,” recently developed by Jens Beckert. Beckert has argued that in contemporary highly complex and uncertain world, expectations regarding the future should be understood as “fictions.” These fictions have important implications for social, political and economic outcomes; in fact the continual production of these fictions is the driving mechanisms behind the dynamics of contemporary capitalism. Taking this theory as a vantage point, the workshop investigated the role of expectations in economic and social life, as well as the specific temporal order of capitalism. The questions asked during the workshop included: What role do expectations regarding an uncertain future play in social life? How are expectations shaped by social factors and how do they in turn shape social outcomes? How are expectations influenced by moral considerations? What methods can social scientists use to study expectations? What theories have been used to explain and understand expectations and how do they relate to other theories within the disciplines of economic sociology and political economy? These questions were investigated from various theoretical perspectives and in the context of different empirical settings: from household decisions regarding budgeting, questions regarding taking a mortgage, to questions regarding work and consumption, as well as struggles over environmental policy. (With keynote lecture The exhausted futures of neoliberalism by Jens Beckert).