Making imagined futures a cornerstone of understanding the dynamics of capitalism is a distinct departure from most current scholarship on the economy in sociology and political science. Over the past thirty years the slogan “history matters” has become a rallying cry for both historical institutionalism and sociology. To explain current outcomes, historical institutionalists investigate the long- term structural trajectories that form developmental paths and shape choices in the present (Mahoney 2000). Institutional paths differ from country to country and cannot be easily abandoned; in general, only external shocks are seen to cause a shift in these trajectories. Sociological institutionalists, though they place a stronger emphasis on cognition, are similarly oriented toward the past, and see social change as a process of isomorphic adaptation to existing institutional models (DiMaggio and Powell 1991). Political scientists and sociologists concur in their assumption that present outcomes are formed by past occurrences.
But not all disciplines in the social sciences agree that the present is largely determined by the past. In a chapter on the concept of temporality in sociology, Andrew Abbott (2005) pointed out that sociologists and economists apply opposing strategies when explaining events in the present. “While sociologists see present events as a final outcome emerging from the past, economists reason backwards from the future: Decisions are explained by the present value of expected future rewards” . In a similar vein, Arjun Appadurai (2013: 286) observes that “economics has consolidated its place as the primary field in which the study of how humans construct their future is modeled and predicted.” While much of economics includes the future in explanatory models, the capacity to imagine futures should play a much larger role in explanations of economic action in sociology and political science. This is particularly true when it comes to the capitalist economy.