Jens Beckert

Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG)


When it comes to capitalism we are used to thinking that decisions are based on rational calculations with little space for narratives. Upon closer inspection the workings of capitalism are full of narratives. Be it the metaphor of the invisible hand, the notion of the American dream or the future projections of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs – capitalism is in many dimensions based on narrative constructions. In my presentation I will explore the connection between capitalism, calculation, narrative and imaginaries, showing that the dynamics of capitalismare inseparably interwoven with the telling of stories.


Jens Beckert is a professor of sociology and a director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. He studied sociology and business administration at the Freie Universität Berlin and the New School for Social Research in New York. His research focuses on the fields of economic sociology, organization theory, the sociology of wealth and social theory. Recent publications: Imagined Futures. Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics, Harvard University Press, 2016. Uncertain Futures. Imaginaries, Narratives and Calculation in the Economy, Oxford University Press 2019 (edited together with Richard Bronk).


Sujatha Fernandes

Professor of Sociology, University of Sydney


The genre of climate storytelling has become more popular in recent years. A particular mode of what I call “curated stories” can be found within this genre, one where the grief and horrors of climate change are presented in wrenching essays, to be solved by market-based and consumer oriented strategies. In this talk, I will explore what kinds of environmental storytelling can help us confront the climate crisis. I look particularly to narratives that critique violent systems of colonialism and extractive capitalism, and construct futures based on alternative modes of economic production. I examine the role of literary arts and beauty in helping to shift the world, with a focus on climate fiction. How might climate storytelling invite us to see and imagine the world differently?


Sujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Sydney. She taught at the City University of New York for a decade. Her academic, activist, and literary work explores social and labor movements, participatory media and art, global Black cultures, migrant workers, and climate storytelling. Her writings are concerned with the stories of those erased by history, multi-racial working class solidarities, colonialism, neoliberalism, and socialist alternatives. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, The Nation, Orion Magazine, and other places.

Fernandes is the author of five books. She has written two monographs: Cuba Represent! Cuban Arts, State Power, and the Making of New Revolutionary Cultures (Duke University Press, 2006) and Who Can Stop the Drums? Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela (Duke University Press, 2010), which was reprinted in Spanish by Editorial Imago Mundi. Her travel memoir, Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation (Verso, 2011) was reprinted in Australian and Chinese editions. In 2017, her book Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling was published by Oxford University Press as part of the Oxford Studies in Culture and Politics. Her most recent book is a collection of essays entitled, The Cuban Hustle: Culture, Politics, Everyday Life (Duke University Press, 2020).

Fernandes currently holds a a three year Discovery Project grant from the Australia Research Council to work on a project about stories of migrant workers and climate change in the global cities of New York City, Mumbai, and Sydney.

Peter Lamarque

Professor of Philosophy, University of York


It has been argued that there are just seven basic plots in story-telling (Booker 2004) and other numbers have been proposed (Polti 1921; Reagan, et al 2016). But how do we count narrative types? In virtue of what is this story the same as that? Do we need criteria for narrative identity? In literary criticism narrative typology has had mixed results but it has proved useful in comparative studies, in judgments of originality and literary value, and even in uncovering deeper psychological and cultural principles. The paper will argue, following similar suggestions in the context of character identity (Lamarque 2003) and content identity (Lamarque 2009), that there is no absolute answer to the question whether this narrative is the same as that. Rather, the answer is always relative to the interests of the questioner and the context of the enquiry.  The topic will be broadened to include narrative identity in other (non-literary) spheres: for example, concerning climate change, foreign aid, economic policy, prison reform, etc where it is not uncommon to find narratives at the centre of arguments. But in such cases, it is not always clear that the narratives on opposing sides are in fact distinct. And do supposedly different narratives in fact just repeat or give versions of “the same old story”?


Peter Lamarque is Professor of Philosophy at the University of York and was formerly Editor of the British Journal of Aesthetics. He works principally in aesthetics and the philosophy of literature. His books include Truth, Fiction, and Literature (with Stein Haugom Olsen) (Clarendon Press, 1994); Fictional Points of View (Cornell UP, 1996); The Philosophy of Literature (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009); Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art (Oxford UP, 2010); The Opacity of Narrative (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2014); The Uselessness of Art: Essays in the Philosophy of Art and Literature (Sussex Academic Press, 2019). He co-edited (with Stein Haugom Olsen) Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition: An Anthology, Second Edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2018).

Ann Phoenix

Professor of Psychosocial Studies, University College London


Jens Brockmeier

Professor of Psychology, The American University of Paris

Alexandra Georgakopoulou

Professor of Discourse Analysis and Sociolinguistics, King's College London

Stefan Iversen

Associate Professor, Department for Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University

Ann Phoenix

Professor of Psychosocial Studies, University College London