Foregrounding social movement futures: collective action, imagination and methodology

Luke Yates, senior lecturer at the University’s Sustainable Consumption Institute, has written an article titled ” Foregrounding social movement futures: collective action, imagination, and methodology”.

The future – as a theme, research orientation, and mode of framing societal challenges – is becoming important in the social sciences. Yet the absence of collective action in many such accounts makes clear the potential contribution of social movement studies. In social movement studies, meanwhile, the future has been discussed directly and indirectly. Assumptions about timing, activist orientations towards the future, and causation are embedded in understandings of strategy, agency, mobilisation, tactical choice, consequences, and in concepts of waves, cycles and diffusion. Conceptual developments around temporalities, real utopias and grassroots initiatives, imagination, and prefiguration offer some alternative perspectives and promising new directions. Foregrounding social movement futures also has implications for protesters themselves: ideas and emotions relating to the future are central to activist debates about goals, winning, utopia, hope and burnout. This introduction reviews the societal and academic context for the renewed interest in futures that are relevant for social movement studies, before outlining three major movement areas or debates where futures are implicated, and which need to form part of future research. These areas, and the subdiscipline as a whole, it is argued, may also benefit from a more direct analysis of movement futures.

The full article will be published later in the year.