|Fixing the Future: Social Imagination and Economic Thought|
|It was one of the convictions of the neo-liberal agenda of the 1980s until the 2000s that economy is somehow separate from society. President Bill Clinton's famous: "It's the economy, stupid" summarises this most poignantly. Economy was something that should be run according to its own rules; and it could be done either in a good or in a bad way, but apparently in a way that did not have consequences on the social setup. Social models - if still debated at all and not silenced by voices raging over values, culture and identities - appeared as outmoded, traditionalist and not showing much capacity as a tool for building the future. The financial crisis and the ensuing economic and currency crisis has revealed that the economic and the social are closely entangled if not inter-dependent. Economic thought is just as embedded in its time as social and political thought. In fact, it appears that the genre of economic thought as such can be defined by one commonality they all share; they are based on a full-blown social imagination of almost utopian, mostly ideological, and surely political quality. Walter Lippmann's key study on liberalism from 1937 reveals in its title what is on the agenda of all economic thought: The Good Society.
My paper will consider three post-crisis scenarios in which economic and social imagination were closely embedded in order to show the social orders imagined by economic thinkers: the 1930s and the debates between the early neo-liberal agenda and the dominant collectivist notions of economy; the post-1945 period with the rise of the welfare state in the West and a general opposition of social and economic orders; and the 2000s, which through 9/11, a sequence of bursting bubbles and the recent financial crisis has again been a phase of renegotiation of social imagination and economic thought. The conceptual uncertainty about how to reconstruct after or during the effects of a crisis brings forward a debate on how to fix that future and on what the society of that future economic order should look like.