Release | Is the future a political economy?

Abstract: This article tests whether the field of foresight and futures studies shows significant variable selection biases in the modelling of the future in general and the impact of function systems in particular. We performed a word frequency analysis to measure the relative importance of the political system, the economy, science, art, religion, law, sport, health, education, and the mass media to three pertinent journals in the field of futures studies and foresight. The results show that FuturesLong Range Planning, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change have different and changing preferences for the above function systems, an information which authors may find helpful in supporting decisions on where to submit. Our results also show that all journals feature a highly significant bias to the triple helix systems – the political system, the economy, and science. While the latter bias may be adequate to scientific journals, the dominant focus on the political system and the economy as well as the corresponding neglect of the other systems points at implicit presumptions about the importance of the individual systems that may not be in line with their importance to the larger society.

Keywords: Functional differentiation; function systems; key variables; modelling; social systems.


  • Shows that present visions of futures are predominantly visions of political economies, and how to change this.
  • Suggests that solutions to future political and economic key problems might also be in the so-far neglected further function systems.
  • Proposes a new systematic set of key variables for consideration and inclusion in models and simulations of futures.

Bibliographical details: Roth, S. and Kaivo-oja, J. (2016), Is the future a political economy? Functional analysis of three leading foresight and futures studies journalsFutures, Vol. 81, pp. 15-26 [FNEGE, CNRS, ABS, SSCI 1.290].

Free access to full version available here.

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