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Constructing a distant future: Imaginaries in geoengineering, Academy of Management Journal


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.




Grace Augustine, Sara Soderstrom, Daniel Milner, Klaus Weber

Date Published



Augustine, Grace, Sara Soderstrom, Daniel Milner, and Klaus Weber. 2019. Constructing a distant future: Imaginaries in geoengineering. Academy of Management Journal.(6): 1930-1960.


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