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Constructing a Distant Future: Imaginaries in Geoengineering

Augustine, G. ORCID: 0000-0003-0793-6816, Soderstrom, S., Milner, D. & Weber, K. (2019). Constructing a Distant Future: Imaginaries in Geoengineering. Academy of Management Journal, 62(6), pp. 1930-1960. doi: 10.5465/amj.2018.0059


We develop the concept of the distant future as a new way of seeing the future in collective efforts. While a near future is represented in practical terms and concerned with forming expectations and goals under conditions of uncertainty, a distant future is represented in stylized terms and concerned with imagining possibilities under conditions of ambiguity. Management research on future-oriented action has developed around problems of the near future. To explore distant futures, we analyze the case of geoengineering, a set of planetary-scale technologies that have been proposed as solutions to the threat of climate change. Geoengineering has increasingly been treated as if it were a reality, despite continued controversy and in the absence of any implementation. We find that societal-level imaginaries that were built on deeply-held moral bases and cosmologies underpinned the conception of geoengineering, and that a dialectic process of discursive attempts to reconcile oppositional imaginaries increased the concreteness and credibility of geoengineering so that it increasingly has been treated as an ‘as-if’ reality. We suggest that distant futures orient collective efforts in distinctive ways, not as concrete guides for action but by expressing critiques and alternatives, that can become treated as ‘as-if’ realities.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Research Methods, Qualitative Orientation, Case, Topic Areas, Organizations and the Natural Environment, Topic Areas, Organization and Management Theory, Organization and management theory (General)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
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