Jens Beckert is professor of sociology and director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. Previously he was Professor of sociology at the Georg-August-University Göttingen and Associate Professor of sociology at the International University Bremen. He studied sociology and business administration at the Freie Universität Berlin and the New School for Social Research in New York. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the Freie Universität in 1996 and his Habilitation in 2003. Beckert was a visiting fellow at the sociology department of Princeton University in 1994/95 and at the Center for European Studies of Harvard University in 2001/02. In 2007 he was a Fernand Braudel Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence and in 2008 a visiting fellow at the Centre de sociologie des organisations (CSO) in Paris. His research focuses on the fields of economic sociology, organization theory and social theory. Recent publications: The Worth of Goods. Valuation and Pricing in the Economy (ed. with Patrik Aspers), Oxford University Press, 2011. Inherited Wealth, Princeton University Press, 2008. Beyond the Market. The Social Foundations of Economic Efficiency, Princeton University Press 2002. International Encyclopedia of Economic Sociology (ed. with Milan Zafirovski), Routledge 2006.
The research project consists of writing a monograph on the role of imaginaries in decision-making in the economy. Based in economic sociology, this project touches neighbouring fields such as economics, political science, history, psychology and anthropology. The monograph will be based on my empirical and conceptual research conducted in recent years at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
This project follows the hypothesis that under conditions of uncertainty, decisions by intentionally rational actors are influenced by imaginaries of future states. I call such imaginaries “fictional expectations”. They are images of some future state of the world or course of events that are cognitively accessible in the present through mental representation. Fictional expectations in the economy take narrative forms as stories, theories and discourses. I argue that these imagined future states motivate actors in their actions and help them organise their decisions.
This approach is especially interesting to the understanding of modern (capitalist) economic formations because it gives a grasp of innovative and growth processes in contemporary economies. Including fictionality in a theory of decision-making opens up an innovative way to understand the microfoundations of the dynamics of the economy.