Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

R. John Williams discusses World Futures

The following video was made by R. John Williams to accompany his essay in the Spring issue of Critical Inquiry. Visit our forthcoming page  or click here to download an advanced copy of the essay. We have also made his "Tekhnê-Zen and the Spiritual Quality of Global Capitalism" available for free on JSTOR. 

"In the 1950s and 1960s a vast number of Anglo-American institutions and strategic planners began turning more aggressively to the question of the future. This new field was called futurology. But as recognizable as the future might have been conceptually to the new discipline (and as common as it is for us today to remember how deeply these institutions were concerned with predicting it), to frame the period in these terms may actually conceal the most transformative quality of the discipline’s discursive practice. I want to argue, rather, that we can more productively refer to this period as having initiated a new mode of ostensibly secular prophecy in which the primary objective was not to foresee the future but rather to schematize, in narrative form, a plurality of possible futures. This new form of projecting forward—a mode I will refer to as World Futures—posited the capitalizable, systematic immediacy of multiple, plausible worlds, all of which had to be understood as equally potential and, at least from our current perspective, nonexclusive."

From R. John Williams, "World Futures," Critical Inquiry 42 (Spring 2016): 473.