Accepted paper:

The future state: When the future multiple and the state multiple meet


Matthew Spaniol (Aarhus Univeristy)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

In preparing for uncertain times ahead, many states--including the USA, Finland, the UK, Singapore, and Mexico--have institutionalized foresight and scenario planning activities. Put another way, these nations are planning for the future of the state. However, singular ontologies of "the future" and "the state" are no longer tenable. Building on John Law and Annamarie Mol's work, things like "the future" or "the state" are deemed multiple, meaning, their entitivity appears to be singular. However, upon closer scrutiny, that singularity is composed of a multiplicity punctuated into the outward semblance of a singularity. My contribution is a concept, The Future State. By defining multiplicity as "more than one, but less than many," we capture "the future" nicely; there are many possible futures, but the possibilities are not endless, as years of social science research on structural stability, social inertia, and path dependency confirm. The same is true of the state. In planning for multiple futures of the state, we expand the multiplicity of the state. Moreover, the work of planning is neatly performative in a political sense. After all, descriptions of the future of the state will necessarily also contain normative remarks about what the state should and should not become in the years to come; performing what it only appears to have described. To this end, I present a case study to illustrate how leaders from various NGOs engaged in scenario planning. As we shall see, once the future is multiple, so is the state.

panel D3
STS and "the state"