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Looking ahead : the ways contemporary American politicians imagine the future

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Title:Looking ahead : the ways contemporary American politicians imagine the future
Authors:Brier, David James
Keywords:future studies
Date Issued:Dec 2011
Publisher:[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2011]
Abstract:This dissertation examines the ways in which contemporary American politicians imagine the future. Analysis of the futures-related content of political speeches and congressional testimony reveals that, contrary to conventional wisdom, politicians do think beyond the next election and, at times, consider the plight of future generations. Chapter 2 analyzes images of the future and futures-related discourse found in State of the City and State of the State addresses delivered between 2000 and 2010. The dissertation provides a new methodology to classify images of the future to improve the ability of analysts to identify long-term politics. Typically, categorization schemes such as Dator's generic images of the future encourage the analyst to conceptualize the future as a noun, the thing it becomes. This dissertation offers a new classification scheme that invites scholars to conceptualize the future as a verb, a political process and contest. By exploring the ways politicians speak about the extent of human agency in shaping the future, this dissertation develops a technique to help scholars escape the short-term economic development versus long-term environmental preservation frame that dominates our thinking about long-term politics and intergenerational justice. Chapter 3 investigates the use of future generations-related language and themes in these speeches. Chapter 4 studies the struggle to control the future of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The ANWR debate shows that the future is a process (a contest) as much as it a thing (what emerges). The ANWR debate also suggests that one cannot speak about the plight of future generations in any universal or common way because future generations do not share a unified identity. Drawing on an array of sources including James Dator's generic images of the future and Michel Foucault's ideas on power/knowledge, I study how these generic images of the future and power shape the way politicians do (and do not) speak and think about the future and the implications for creating just futures. This dissertation complicates an overly simplistic view of long-term politics and contributes to a discussion about the possibilities of more future-oriented government in the current political structure.
Description:Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Political Science

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