PhD dissertation: The anticipatory governance of sustainable futures


Many different approaches are used today to anticipate possible futures and to guide policies, strategies and actions in the present. But how is the future conceptualized in these anticipation processes, what are the impacts of this conceptualization on governance actions in the present, and what are the implications for realizing sustainability transformations? This thesis answers these questions by investigating the use of anticipation in diverse sustainability contexts across the globe through a new theoretical perspective.
The research finds that most foresight practitioners use hybrid approaches to anticipatory governance that connect probabilistic, plausibilistic and pluralistic conceptions of the future. However, despite this diversity of conceptions of the future, the resulting policies and strategies are formulated in a rather technocratic and prediction-oriented way. As such, ideas about a more fundamentally uncertain and contested future become subordinate to an anticipatory governance approach that seeks to plan the future and reduce risks. When foresight practitioners and policymakers ask participants to engage in a dialogue about the future, their visions are often fitted into existing policy frameworks without putting these frameworks as such into question. The effect of these dynamics is that fundamentally different futures are overlooked.
The thesis concludes that this closing down of the future may hinder the search for more radical transformations and may reassert the status quo. Furthermore, the global dominance of the technical approach to anticipation, often relying on western science, technologies, and funding, may push out culturally, socially, and politically diverse future worldviews.

Start date and time
End date and time
Utrecht University Hall, Domplein 29
PhD candidate
Karlijn Bernadette Muiderman
The anticipatory governance of sustainable futures
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. Dr. P.P.J. Driessen
Prof. Dr. A. Gupta
Dr. J.M. Vervoort