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Overcoming divides

Roberto Poli (Coordinator of SoFor – Social Foresight and Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Trento, Italy)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 25 January 2013




The purpose of this paper is to explain why finding a theory for futures studies is such a demanding task. In particular, the paper paves the way towards a theoretical framework that goes beyond both positivism and anti‐positivism.


The paper discusses a network of mutually interlinked concepts, including: levels of reality; parts and wholes; causation; the multiplicity of times; anticipation; the thick present; and latents.


The paper presents the two main obstructions blocking the way towards a theory for futures studies (namely, the belief that the opposition between positivists and anti‐positivists is exhaustive, and the need for better connections with other sciences such as biology, cognitive science and the social sciences.

Research limitations/implications

The paper discusses only one of the different threads in the elaboration of a theoretical basis for futures studies, namely the components closer to science.

Social implications

A proper theory for futures studies will contribute to making them more robust and efficient.


The general framework presented by the paper extends well beyond the somewhat restricted field of futures studies and includes social and psychological sciences, together with biology.



Poli, R. (2013), "Overcoming divides", On the Horizon, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 3-14.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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