Selling the Future

Selling the Future

by Ariel Colonomos
  • Selling the Future. The Perils of Predicting Global PoliticsSelling the Future. The Perils of Predicting Global Politics

Ariel Colonomos, CNRS Research Professor at CERI Sciences Po publishes "Selling the Future. The Perils of Predicting Global Politics" (Hurst / Oxford University Press, July 2016).
In his investigation of the paradoxes of forecasting and future-telling, Ariel Colonomos interrogates today’s knowledge factories to reveal how our futures are shaped by social scientists, think-tanks and rating agencies.  Interview

From "Moralizing International Relations" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) to "The Gamble of War" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), you have now chosen to focus on future telling and how this activity actually plays a role in our present and future. Can you tell us more about your research path? What lead you to work on anticipation and future telling?

Ariel Colonomos: In my book "Moralizing International Relations", I focused on the interpretation and the explanation of a dynamic that seemed to me very characteristic of the post-Cold War era and the 1990s. States and other institutions were “called to account” because of their past or present wrongdoings. They were obliged to look into their past in order to move into the future. There was, to me, a need to understand the reasons for this phenomenon and to measure its consequences, notably in normative and ethical terms. In the book that followed ("The Gamble of War"), I focused on the years in the aftermath of 9/11 which initiated a movement that characterized the  2000s, and to some extent is still one of the landmarks of the period we currently live in. In the face of attacks where civilians were being killed on their own soil, Western states started to engage in preventive action. By doing so, they made bets about the future. Preventive action is based on anticipation and therefore is a gamble. Striking first is justified by the assumption that inaction will be too costly and that the use of force will impede future attacks on the part of an opponent whose intentions are hostile and who has developed  its lethal capacities. This has very important military, political, legal, moral implications and consequences that need to be accounted for. Through this study, I discovered the importance of anticipations that lie at the core of prevention. In order to make preventive bets and therefore actually ‘Gamble on War,’ states need to make claims about the future. This is what led me to writing "Selling the Future"...

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