This research project is designed to produce knowledge for sharing with people across academic disciplines and non-academic institutions. In light of this goal, we will be posting briefings that report on key elements of the research, working papers and publications as they emerge from our investigations.

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  1. Briefings

  2. Working Papers

  3. Conference Papers

  4. Publications

  5. Other Outputs


The Briefings generated from the Project are intended to capture the seminal concepts investigated as the research progresses. Comments are welcome.

Briefing 1 - This briefing is the introductory briefing setting out the key problematique.

Briefing 2- 'Habits of Mind and Philosophical Roots' explores some principle assumptions associated with western socieities' dominant understanding of and relating to the future.

Briefing 3 - 'Responsibility for the Future' reports on research into assumptions that guide moral behaviour and responsibility with regard to the future.

Briefing 4 - 'Towards a New Sociology of the Future' explores early social science approaches to the future and a sociological perspective that came to prominence during the 1960s in the USA.

Briefing 5 - 'Max Weber on Futurity' considers the methodological importance of the work of social theorist Max Weber for the scientific study of social futures.

Briefing 6 - 'The Future Told, Tamed and Traded' engages with explicit approaches to the future and establishes some distinctions between traditional and modern means to know the realm beyond experience.

Briefing 7 - 'The Living Future in Philosophy' outlines philosophical conceptions of the future, and distinguishes these from habits of mind that define the future in terms of the present.

Briefing 8 - 'Futurity from a Complexity Perspective' explores the contribution made by complexity theory to our understanding of the future, and considers whether its assumptions enable it to encompass the social future.

Briefing 9 - 'Philosophy and Non-Reciprocal Responsibility for Futures' outlines a futures-oriented ethics of responsibility based on the concept of care for living futures.

Briefing 10 - 'Futures Told' outlines a comparative perspective on methods of knowing the future that shows how these different methods imply different assumptions about who 'owns' the future.

Briefing 11 - 'Futures Tamed' outlines continuities and discontinuities between ancient and modern modes of dealing with three human challenges - mortality, transience and change.

Briefing 12 - 'Futures Traded' examines the relationship between three ways of constructing the future - as open, abstract or empty - and traces how the cultural themes of perfectibility, progress and profit make them possible.

Briefing 13 - 'Futures Transformed' looks at how the future is transformed by social practices that mobilise the promethean power of technology in such a way as to turn future-making into future-taking.

Briefing 14 - 'Futures Traversed' examines how the future tends to be treated as a colonisable spatial realm beyond the present, and how this non-temporal understanding of futurity produces unintended consequences.

Briefing 15 - 'Transition Towns and the Future of Care' discusses some conceptual relationships between the Transition movement and the ideas of future-oriented care explored by the In Pursuit of the Future project.

Working Papers

Working Papers are comprehensively written up research papers that pre-date the final packaging of the work for publication.

1. Minding Futures (pdf format) (word format) (Working Paper 67)

In this paper Barbara Adam addresses the issue of responsibility for the long-term future, a key concern that centrally informs this futures project. It is a predominantly conceptual piece of work that primarily speaks to academic scholars. More practically oriented work will arise from this theoretical base at later points of the project's development.

2. Towards a New Sociology of the Future (pdf format)

This is a theoretical piece of work that primarily speaks to academic scholars. In this paper Barbara Adam explores some of the very early social science approaches to the future, and revisits a sociological perspective that emerged in the United States during the 1960s. Adam investigates the explicit and implicit assumptions that underpin these early normative engagements with the social future, and asks to what extent these still hold good today. Where they do not, she considers some of the changes that might be necessary for the sociology of the future to become appropriate to the contemporary condition. As such, it forms the basis for later more practically oriented work of the project.

3. The Future in Max Weber's Methodological Writings (pdf format) (word format)

In this paper Barbara Adam explores Max Weber's approach to the future. Weber is a key theorist for the futures project as he argued that science delimits what can and cannot be studied in the socio-cultural sphere. Since social action is irreducibly future oriented and scientific methodology is not suited to the domain beyond the present this poses a dilemma for the social sciences, which needs our most careful attention. In this theoretical paper Adam takes us through Weber's methodological writings and explores the implications of his position for a social science approach that seeks to take the future seriously.

4. Futures Told Tamed and Traded (pdf format) (word format)

In this paper Barbara Adam explores past and present approaches to the future. She considers how the future has been told, tamed, traded and transformed and how it is traversed today in contemporary industrial societies. She differentiates between embedded and abstract futures and shows how an understanding of the futures as empty is tied to both the progress and the problems of modern societies. In her conclusion Adam suggests that there is much to learn from the way predecessors rendered their future more knowable.

5. The Living Future in Philosophy(pdf format) (word format)

In this paper Chris Groves explores philosophical conceptions of the future that avoid defining it simply as the realm of the 'not yet', and conceptualise it instead as an active force within the present. Such a living future cannot simply be annexed to the requirements of the present. Our ethical relationship to the future has therefore to be one that acknowledges a fundamental responsibility to it.

6. Futurity from a Complexity Perspective(pdf format) (word format)

In this paper Barbara Adam explores the contribution made by complexity theory to our understanding of the future. She asks how well it is equipped to encompass futurity within its cohesive web of key assumptions, and whether the social future might be a complexity too far.

7. Philosophy and Non-Reciprocal Responsibility for Futures(pdf format) (word format)

In this paper Chris Groves examines the ethical assumptions behind legal conceptions of responsibility that limit their usefulness as tools for understanding responsibility for long-term futures, and outlines an alternative model of responsibility based on the obligation to care for emerging (living) futures. In this model, the non-reciprocal nature of obligations to the future is shown to be a fundamental aspect of the meaning of responsibility as such.

8. Futures Told (pdf format) (word format)

In this paper Barbara Adam investigates how futures have been told since time immemorial. She explores who have been and are still thought of as experts on the future, examines the sources of their specialist knowledge and surveys the methods employed. She shows that it matters whether the future is considered an aspect of nature or the cosmos, a sphere that is owned by god(s), a property of the sovereign or a realm that belongs to people, and opens up for consideration ways of knowing futures that might be appropriate to the very long-term effects produced by contemporary future-creating practices.

9. Futures Tamed (pdf format) (word format)

Barbara Adam explores three human challenges - mortality, transience and change - and investigates how they have been approached through the ages. She identifies sacred and profane practices associated with responses to those existential threats and considers their underlying assumptions. She makes historical comparisons in order to better understand contemporary dilemmas that arise with the immense capacity to create futures, which is not matched by an equal ability to know outcomes and thus falls far short of appropriate care for the long-term consequences of today's actions.

10. Futures Traded (pdf format) (word format)

Chris Groves explores how the future, from being the property of non-human actors such as gods, falls into the possession of human beings. Dealing with three historico-cultural themes (perfectibility, progress & profit) he shows how the future is socially constructed as (1) open to transformation, (2) an abstract realm that can be mathematically modelled, (3) an exchangeable commodity that can be endlessly traded for the benefit of the present.

11. Futures Transformed (pdf format) (word format)

Barbara Adam examines the ways in which efforts to control, manage and engineer the future produce unprecedented uncertainties. Attempts to produce the future according to a blueprint rely on de-temporalised and fragmented knowledge practices, and future making easily becomes future taking. In order to address these problems means taking seriously issues surrounding embeddedness and interdependence, connectedness and social memory, processuality and futurity

12. Futures Traversed (pdf format) (word format)

Barbara Adam shows how, when the future is treated like a spatial realm beyond the present, paradoxes arise that are difficult to handle with the conventional knowledge practices that dominate in the institutional spheres of contemporary industrial societies.

Conference Papers

1. The Future Produced, Perceived and Performed: Reading Green Futures (pdf format)
Paper presented at 6th International Conference on Organizational Discourse, Amsterdam, July 2004.

2. Memory of the Future (pdf format)
Paper presented at ISST Conference (International Society for the Study of Time) Cambridge University, Clare College, July 2004.

3. Futures in the Making: Social Theory Perspectives and Methodological Dilemmas (pdf format)
University of Minho, Braga (PT) Conference, 'The Future Cannot Begin', 25 May 2005

4. Futures in the Making: Contemporary Practices and Sociological Challenges (pdf format)
ASA 2005, Philadelphia, Thematic Session: 'Sociology of the Future', 13-16 August 2005

5. The Future - A Complexity too far for Social Science Research? (pdf format)
Paper presented as part of Social Theory Stream, Complexity Science & Society Conference, University of Liverpool , 11-14 September 2005

6. Teleology Without Telos: Deleuze and Jonas on the Living Future (pdf format)
Paper presented at Causality and Motivation Workshop, MittelEuropa Foundation, Bolzano, Italy, 20-21 April 2006

7. The Politics of Posterity: Techno-futures Made, Mapped and Minded (pdf format)
Paper presented at Shifting Politics, An International Workshop, University of Groningen, April 20 -22, 2006

8. Leere und Gelebte Zeit - Über den Umgang mit Zukunft (in German) (pdf format)
Paper presented at Zeit der Zukunft – Über den Umgang mit Nichtwissen, Zeitakademie des Tutzinger Projekts "Ökologie der Zeit" April 28-30, 2006

9. Futurescapes: Challenge for Social and Management Sciences (pdf format)
Paper presented at Retroscapes and Futurescapes - Temporal Tensions in Organizations, Palazzo d' Aumale, Terrasini, 21 - 23 June, 2006

10. Technological Futures and Non-Reciprocal Responsibility (pdf format)
Paper presented at Fourth International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, University of Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia, 3-6 July 2006

11. Has the Future Already Happened? (pdf format)
Paper presented at Future Matters, Cardiff University, 3-6 September 2006

12. Care, Commitment and Non-reciprocal Responsibility (pdf format)
Paper presented at Future Matters, Cardiff University, 3-6 September 2006

13. Taking Responsibility for the Future: Care and Value Conflicts (pdf format)
Paper presented at Conflict and Identity: On Conflict Resolution , Two-Day Workshop, Department of Philosophy, Aarhus University, Denmark, 23-24 November 2006

14. Futures Made, Mapped and Minded (pdf format)
Pre-Conference workshop, Making Sense of the Future , Lucerne, Switzerland, November 22 - 24, 2006

15. Negotiating Futures: Action, Knowledge, Ethics (pdf format)
International Workshop, Oslo University, Norway, 8 June 2007

16. The Humanities and the Shaping of Social Futures
International Conference of the Humanities, 17-20 July 2007

17. Social Innovation as Futures in the Making: Revealing Implicit Assumptions (pdf format)
CRISES 2nd International Conference, Montreal, 8-9 November 2007

18. Future Matters (pdf format)
Think Club, City Canteen, Cardiff, November 2007

19. Future Matters: Action, Knowledge, Ethics.
Futures in Modernity, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany, 24-25 January 2008.

20. Menschliche Vergänglichkeit und das Streben nach Unsterblichkeit. Fundamentale Unsicherheit-Grundlage von Kultur und Religion. (pdf format)
Tagung des Tutzinger Projekts‚ 'Ökologie der Zeit': Religion - Natur - Zeit, Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, Munich, Germany, 5-6 May 2008.

21. Of Timescapes, Futurescapes and Timeprints (pdf format)
Lüneburg University, 17 June 2008

22. Matters of Life And Death: Context for Organisational Practice (pdf format)
2nd International Seminar on Time at ICI-ARC, Finitude and Decline in Organization and Management, Brest, 25 - 26 June 2008.

23. Responsibility and the Future (pdf format)
Philosophy Cafe, The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff, 15 July 2008

24. Do We Have Responsibilites to Future Generations? (pdf format)
Philosophy Cafe, The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff, 15 July 2008.

25. Complexity, Technological Futures and Risk [link to presentation]
First ISA Forum of Sociology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, 4-8 September 2008.

26. Future Matters for Sociology [link to paper]
First ISA Forum of Sociology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, 4-8 September 2008.

27. Sustainable Futures Past and Present: Challenges and Opportunities [link to paper]
BRASS Seminar,'Changing the Way People Act and Relate', Cardiff University, 11 September 2008.

28. Living with Uncertainty: the Limits of'Risk Thinking' [link to paper]
Future Ethics Workshop 2: What Price Security?, Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester, 19 September 2008.

29. Future Conflicts: On The Politics of Uncertainty [link to presentation]
Transformation and the Dynamics of (Radical) Change: Insights from Political Theory and Philosophy, School of Politics, International Studies & Philosophy, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, 28-29 November 2008.

30. Green Futures for Wales [link to paper]
Science Shop Wales Conference - A Prosperous Way Down?, Cardiff City Hall, 28 January 2009.

31. Politics of Posterity: Challenge to Theory and Practice [link to paper]
Department of Geography Seminar, Durham University, 11 February 2009.

32. Future Matters: Challenge for Social Theory and Social Inquiry [link to paper]
Keynote address to Italian Sociological Association ('Culture and Communication' Group) Conference, Future Matters for Social Theory, 29 October 2009, Cagliari University, Sardinia.

33. Future Matters for Ageing Research [link to paper]
Imagining the Future Workshop, OU Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies and Centre for Policy on Ageing, London.

34. Horizons of Care: from future imaginaries to responsible innovation [link to paper]
Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies (SNET) 4th Annual Conference 2012, 23 October 2012, University of Twente, Netherlands  


1. B. Adam 2005 'Memory of Futures', KronoScope 4(1): 297-315 ISSN 1567-715x

2. C. Groves 2006 'Technological Futures and Non-Reciprocal Responsibility', International Journal of the Humanities 4 ISSN 1447-9559 [link to paper]

3. C. Groves 2007 'The Humanities and the Shaping of Social Futures', International Journal of the Humanities 5(4), pp. 49-54, ISSN 1447-9559 [link to paper]

4. B. Adam & C. Groves Future Matters: Action, Knowledge, Ethics, Leiden: Brill, October 2007, ISBN 978 90 04 16177 1.

5. B. Adam 2008 'Future Matters: futures known, created and minded', 21st Century Society, 3(2), pp. 111-116, ISSN 1745-0144

6. B. Adam , Guest Editor, 'Future Matters', Special Issue of 21st Century Society 3(2) June 2008, pp 109-224, ISSN 1745-0144.

7. C. Groves 2009, 'Future Ethics: Risk, Care and Non-Reciprocal Responsibility', Journal of Global Ethics 5(1), pp. 17-31. (published in tandem with a response by Professor Robin Attfield, Department of Philosophy, Cardiff) ISSN 1745-0144. [link to paper]

8. C. Groves 2009, 'Nanotechnology, Contingency and Finitude', Nanoethics 3(1), pp. 1-16. ISSN: 1871-4757. [link to paper]

9. B. Adam 2009, 'Cultural Future Matters: An exploration in the spirit of Max Weber's methodological writings', Time & Society, 18, pp. 7 - 25. ISSN: 1871-4757. [link to paper] (NB: this paper forms Part 1 of a two-part investigation. The second part, dealing with Weber's concept of ideal types, will follow soon.

10. B. Adam. 2009 'Futures in the Making: Sociological Practice and Challenge'in Jeffreys, V. ed. Handbook of Public Sociology. New York: Rowan and Littlefield Publ. Inc., pp. 492' 448, ISBN 978-0-7425-6646-0 [link to chapter]

11. B. Adam. 2010 'History of the Future: Paradoxes and Challenge', Rethinking History 14/3: 361 -378, ISSN 1364-2529 print/ISSN 1470-1154 online.

12. Groves, C. 2010 "Living in Uncertainty: The Limits of Risk Thinking', in Future Ethics: Climate Change and Apocalyptic Imagination, ed. Stefan Skrimshire, London: Continuum.

13. B. Adam. 2010 'Future Matters: Challenge for Social Theory
and Social Inquiry', Cultura e comunicazione 1: 47 -55. ISSN 2036-9700. [link to paper]

14. B. Adam with Chris Groves 2011 'Futures Tended: Care and Future-Oriented Responsibility', Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 31(1), 17-27 ISSN 0270-4676 print, ISSN 1552-4183 online. [link to paper]

15. B. Adam 2011 'Wendell Bell and the Sociology of the Future: Challenges Past, Present and Future', Futures 43: 590 -595, ISSN 0016-3287. [link to paper]

16. C. Groves 2011 'The Political Imaginary of Care: Singular vs Generic Futures', Journal of International Political Theory 7: 165-189, ISSN 1755-0882. [link to preprint] [link to final paper]

17. B. Adam 2011 'Towards a Twenty-First-Century Sociological Engagements with the Future', Insights 4/11, 1-18, ISSN 1756-2074 . [link to paper]

18. B. Adam 2012 'Sustainability and Gender from a Time-ecological Perspective' in Hofmeister, S., Katz, C. and Moelders, T. (Hrsg.) Geschlechterverhaeltnisse und Nachhaltigkeit. Die Kategorie Geschlecht in den Nachhaltigkeitswissenschaften. Opladen: Barbara Budrich, pp.304-12 ISBN 978-3-8474-0010-3, sISBN 978-3-86649-563-0.

Other Outputs

1. Glossary of Project Concepts (pdf format) (word format)

2. Emzin, Ljubljana, Barbara Adam interviewed by Jana Valenčič, 2008(3-4) pp. 20 - 24 ISSN 1318-5497.

3. NEXT Brasil Barbara Adam interviewed by Fernando Serra, 2009(7), pp. 34 - 56 ISSN 1679-7922

4.B. Adam 'Globalization and the Future', Encyclopedia of Globalization, Volume 2, Georg Ritzer ed., 713-718 ISBN 9781405188241.

All content Copyright ESRC PROFESSORIAL FELLOWSHIP 2003-6 (RES051270049)- Photographs courtesy of Peter Goin and - design: Katrin Sigurdardottir