Christina Garsten
Christina Garsten

About the project

The project Global Foresight as a whole aims to investigate the practices of future foresight in selected organizations to advance knowledge on the underlying cultural rationalities and forms of knowledge that make up the basis of scenarios and models for future governance. By way of comparative analysis, we wish to arrive at a deepened understanding of the crucial tenets of knowledge that undergird the future modelling of foresight professionals. We believe that scenarios for the future are far from innocent exercises of imagination. On the contrary, they have the capacity to shape people’s perceptions of what constitute ‘global problems’, ‘global solutions’ and ‘imaginable futures’; they can shape organizational agendas in ways that have concrete implications for decision-making and for the allocation of resources. They are, in other words, potentially performative. To unearth the basic assumptions behind such endeavours, we believe, is a crucial task for contemporary social sciences and humanities.

My own contribution to the project is to explore anticipatory governance initiatives and forecasting in think tanks, with the aim to understand what kinds of knowledge and scenario-building templates that are involved in looking towards the future. Of interest here are the various kinds of technologies and tools, including ethnographic research, metric data sets, expert workshops, online games and digital visualizations, that are used to make potential and abstract futures more tangible. The project aims to examine the cultural assumptions and rationalities involved in the making and implementation of these tools, the kinds of knowledge that form the basis for claims to legitimacy, and how these forms of future foresight contribute to articulating future forms of governance.

Short biography

My research interests are currently focused on emerging new forms of transnational governance. In particular, I am interested in what role organizations such as think tanks play in the shaping of governance. From a broader perspective, this entails understanding the role that think tanks, and the ‘policy professionals’ who work there, play in political decision making processes, in the diffusion of knowledge and ideology, and in the fashioning of society at large.

In previous research, I devoted my attention to organizational culture and its transnational dynamics, and to organizational visions and practices towards enhanced transparency and accountability in transnational trade. I studied ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR), new forms of voluntary regulation of business, and the perspectives of corporate leaders on responsibility, ethics, and profit. I have also done research on policy change in the labour market, such as the emphasis on flexibility, employability, and learning, and what these processes entail in terms of individual subjectivity and identity. A related research route aims at studying forms of sociality in organizations, with particular focus on humour, play, and boredom, and the interplay of managerial control and individual agency.

I am Professor of Social Anthropology and Chair of the Executive Board of Score. I also serve on the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the Pro Futura Committee at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies (SCAS), on the editorial committee of the journals Organization and Scandinavian Journal of Management, and as co-editor of the Pluto Press Culture and Society book series. My visiting scholarships include Georgetown University, ESCP Paris, London School of Economics, École des Hautes Etudies en Sciences Sociale, Stanford University, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS), Cambridge University, European University Institute, Leeds University, and Copenhagen Business School (CBS), to which I maintain association.

Selected publications



with A. Sörbom. Future by design: Seductive technologies of anticipation
within the future industry, in Futures, J. Andersson and S. Kemp, eds, Futures, a
Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Discreet Power. How the World Economic Forum Shapes Market Agendas (with Adrienne Sörbom). Stanford University Press.


Tinkering with knowledge: Representational practices and scaling in U.S. Think Tanks, In Knowledge and Power in an Overheated World, T. Hylland Eriksen and E.
Schober, eds. Oslo: University of Oslo: Department of Social Anthropology.


with A. Sörbom. Magical formulae for market futures: Tales from the World
Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Anthropology Today, 32(6): 18-21.


Makt utan mandat. De policyprofessionella i välfärdssamhället (with Bo Rothstein and Stefan Svallfors). Stockholm: Dialogos Förlag.


Workplace Vagabonds: Career and Community in Changing Worlds of Work. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Apple World: Core and Periphery in a Transnational Organizational Culture. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International.

Peer-reviewed articles


Transparency as ideal and practice: Labour market policy and audit culture in the Swedish public employment service (with Kerstin Jacobsson). Statsvetenskaplig tidskrift, 1: 69-92.


Introduction: Neoliberal turns in higher education (with Jakob Krause-Jensen). Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences. Special issue: Shaping Student Futures, ed. by J. Krause-Jensen and C. Garsten.


Sorting people in and out: The plasticity of the categories of employability, work capacity and disability as technologies of government (with Kerstin Jacobsson). Ephemera, 13(4): 825-850.

In search of corporate social responsibility: Introduction to special issue (with Peter Fleming and John Roberts). Organization, 20(3): 337-348.

Post-political regulation: Illusory consensus and hybrid forms of governance (with Kerstin Jacobsson). Critical Sociology, 39(3): 421-437.

Business Anthropology: Towards an anthropology of worth? (with Brian Moeran). Journal of Business Anthropology, 2(1): 1-8.


Letter from the Editors (with Brian Moeran). Journal of Business Anthropology, 1(2): 174-176.

What’s in a Name? - Editors’ Introduction to the Journal of Business Anthropology (with Brian Moeran). Journal of Business Anthropology, 1(1): 1-19.


Transparency and legibility in international institutions: The UN Global Compact and post-political global ethics (with Kerstin Jacobsson). Social Anthropology, 19(4): 378-393.

Recherche qualitative dans les organisations: Éléments méthodologiques. Le Libellio d’ AEGIS, 7(2): 1-13.


Corporate globalization, civil society and postpolitical regulation: Whither democracy? (with Kerstin Jacobsson). Development Dialogue, 49: 143-158.

Mirrors of organizing: plots, anxieties, and potentialities in the work of Henrik Ibsen. Organization Studies, 28(8): 1271-1277.


Risky business: Discourses of risk and (ir)responsibility in globalizing markets (with Anna Hasselström). Ethnos, 68(2): 249-270.

The cosmopolitan organization: An essay on corporate accountability. Global Networks, 3(3): 355-370.


Trust, control and post-bureaucracy (with Chris Grey). Organization Studies, 22(2): 229- 250.



Power, Policy and Profit: Corporate Engagement in Politics and Governance (with Adrienne Sörbom). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.


Makeshift Work: The Swedish Model in the Post- Financial Crisis Era (with Jessica Lindvert and Renita Thedvall). Basingstoke: Edward Elgar.


Anthropology Now and Next: Diversity, Connections, Confrontations, Reflexivity (with Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Shalini Randeria). London: Berghahn Publishers.

Management and Organization of Temporary Agency Work (with Bas Koene and Nathalie Galais). London: Routledge.


Organisational Anthropology: Doing Ethnography In and Among Complex Organisations (with Anette Nyqvist). London: Pluto Press.


Ethical Dilemmas in Management (with Tor Hernes). London: Routledge.


Transparency in a New Global Order (with Monica Lindh de Montoya). Basingstoke: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Organizing Transnational Accountability (with Magnus Boström). London: Edward Elgar Publishing.


Market Matters: Exploring Cultural Processes in the Global Marketplace (with Monica Lindh de Montoya). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Learning to be Employable: New Agendas on Work, Employability and Learning in a Globalizing World (with Kerstin Jacobsson). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chapters in anthologies


Högt spel i gränslandet mellan politik och marknad (with Adrienne Sörbom), in Alla dessa marknader, eds. Jenny Björkman and Björn Fjæstad. Riksbankens Jubileumsfonds årsbok 2014/15. Stockholm: Makadam förlag.

Values aligned: The organization of conflicting values within the World Economic Forum (with Adrienne Sörbom), in Configuring Value Conflicts in Markets, eds. Susanna Alexius and Kristina Tamm- Hallström. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.


Corporate social responsibility and cultural practices in globalizing markets, in A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe, eds. Ullrich Kockel, Mairead Nic Craith and Jonas Frykman. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.


Organized and disorganized Utopias: An essay on presumption (with Chris Grey), in Utopia, Ideology and Organization, ed. M. Parker. Oxford: Blackwell.