Beyond Capitalist Realism – Why We Need Critical Future Studies


  • Luke Goode University of Auckland
  • Michael Godhe Linköping University



critical future studies, utopia, dystopia, realism


This paper introduces the interdisciplinary field of Critical Future Studies (CFS). CFS investigates the scope and constraints within public culture for imagining and debating different potential futures. It interrogates imagined futures founded – often surreptitiously – upon values and assumptions from the past and present, as well as those representing a departure from current social trajectories. CFS draws on perspectives from various disciplines including sociology, political studies, intellectual history, cultural history, media and cultural studies, utopian studies, science and technology studies, and philosophy. CFS also engages with discourses and ideas from the natural sciences (including popular science), computing and economics. And, given our concern with public culture, CFS aims to contribute constructively to vigorous and imaginative public debate about the future – a futural public sphere – and to challenge a prevalent contemporary cynicism about our capacity to imagine alternative futures while trapped in a parlous present. To that extent, we propose CFS as a programme of engaged and open-ended social critique, not as a solely academic endeavour. Our paper begins by describing the relationship between CFS and mainstream Future Studies. Subsequently, we discuss the contemporary context for Critical Future Studies. Here we make the case that CFS is a timely and even urgent project at our current historical juncture, arguing also for the significance of both utopian and dystopian imaginings. We then go on to discuss methodologies within CFS scholarship. Finally, we conclude by reflecting on the values underpinning CFS. Overall, this paper not only describes CFS as a field of research but also serves as an invitation to cultural scholars to consider how their own work might intersect with and contribute to CFS.

Author Biographies

Luke Goode, University of Auckland

Luke Goode is Associate Professor of Media and Communication in the School of Social Sciences, University of Auckland.

Michael Godhe, Linköping University

Michael Godhe is Senior Lecturer at Culture, Society and Media Production at the Department for Studies of Social Change and Culture, Linköping University.


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How to Cite

Goode, L. and Godhe, M. (2017) “Beyond Capitalist Realism – Why We Need Critical Future Studies”, Culture Unbound, 9(1), pp. 108–129. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.1790615.



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