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Sociological contributions to futures’ theory building

Jan Erik Karlsen (Professor of Change Management/Industrial Economics at the University of Stavanger and (Adjunct) Professor at the Stavanger University Hospital, Stavanger, Norway)
Erik F. Øverland (Researcher and Senior Consultant at SUBITO! Research&Futures and a Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Education and Research, Oslo, Norway)
Hanne Karlsen (Research Fellow in the Department of Leadership and Organisational Management, BI Norwegian School of Management, Bergen, Norway.)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 1 June 2010




This article aims to contribute to futures theory building by assessing the inherent ontological and epistemological presumptions in foresight studies. Such premises, which are usually embedded in foresight studies, are contrasted with sociological imagination and contemporary social science discourse.


This paper is a conceptual analysis of theoretical assumptions embedded in foresight studies.


Sociological lenses, including concepts like anticipation, latency, time, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, change and plurality of images, offer clarity in terms of both futures studies and foresights.

Research limitations/implications

Explicating presumptions embedded in foresight methods helps recognition of how such methods shape the concepts of future and time. This is vital for assessment of the analytical products of foresights studies.


This research contributes to the ambition of linking the theoretical world of futures research and the practical world of foresights closer together by explicating key concepts and implicit assumptions in both fields.



Erik Karlsen, J., Øverland, E.F. and Karlsen, H. (2010), "Sociological contributions to futures’ theory building", Foresight, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 59-72.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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