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Paradoxa: Call for Papers: “The Futures Industry”

More than thirty years ago, Fredric Jameson suggested in “Progress versus Utopia” (1982) that, far from providing us with blueprints of the future, the function of science fiction was to dramatize our inability to imagine a future distinct from the capitalist present. Much of his work since, including his “genealogy of the future” in Valences of the Dialectic has focused on the importance of speculative fiction for working through the difficulties of utopian thinking in a context thoroughly saturated by capitalist thinking.

Capitalism has colonized our present and our ability to think about the future. But more importantly, it has also consumed this future in the form of futures markets that script certain trajectories as we deplete limited oil reserves and watch the extinction of hundreds of species due to pollution and climate change.

In the twenty-first century, the future has never seemed so polarized, and we oscillate between dystopian visions of scarcity and collapse (what Chris Harmon calls Zombie Capitalism, 2010) and visions of corporate advertising for products such as cellular phones and luxury cars. These “essential” items suggest that their consumers can live in the future now through these technological marvels. Everyone from Monsanto ( to Verizon ( to biotech entrepreneur Craig Venter—in his book Life at the Speed of Light (2013)—claims to be building a better world. Such discourse appropriates and erodes the language of those who seek to articulate alternative futures.

This issue of Paradoxa invites papers that address the struggle to imagine—and shape—the future in interdisciplinary frameworks. Mark Fisher argues in Capitalist Realism (2012) that the language of advertising is a key mechanism by which we are encouraged to invest in the future as the future of capitalism. It is imperative that we interrogate these limiting visions of the future and reinvigorate the utopian project of imagining and nurturing alternative visions of the social.

As examples of this reimagining, authors are referred to Arjun Appardurai’s call for “an anthropology of the future” in The Future as Cultural Fact; Elizabeth Povinelli’s analysis of the frozen space-time of neoliberalism and her observation that it destroys alternative futures by “denying them social substance” (Economics of Abandonment 134); Kaushik Sunder Rajan’s work on the economies of biocapital and its Derridean rhetoric of “truth”; Melinda Cooper’s work in Life as Surplus on what she calls “capitalism delirium [which] seeks to refashion the world rather than interpret it” (20).

How might we reclaim the future, not only the material future as a space of greater equity and social justice, but also the future as our imaginative ability to think about estranged and new worlds rather than to capitulate to a future as envisioned by global capital? Can science fiction foster a critical understanding of the intersections of political economy and contemporary technoscience, or does its own status as an entertainment commodity inevitably compromise its capacity as a tool for social critique? What is the role of speculative thinking in political struggle and social justice today?

We invite proposals of 500 words for papers of 5000-9000 words. Proposals are due October 1, 2014 and contributors will be notified within 3 weeks if their abstract is accepted. Full papers will be due July 1, 2015; each paper will be subject to external peer review before acceptance is final.

Please send proposals to Sherryl Vint at