Counter-factualising hypothesising

In recent months, I’ve become fascinated by Design Fiction as a potential tool for Sociologists. Related to this is the question of counter-factuality: can we use fiction to explore hypotheses about what would have happened if … in a way that helps explain what actually did take place? This example by A Very Public Sociologist might not be entirely clear to those unfamiliar with the party politics of the United Kingdom, but it’s a very interesting example of how sociologists might go about doing this. Read it in full here:

The polls were with Labour. The feedback on the doorstep was very encouraging. It looked like all the naysayers and the problems of the previous five years had been put to bed. Until that exit poll flashed up on the nation’s TV screens. It gave the Tories a clear lead, and one several seats away from a majority. Then the worst happened. As the night wore on it became increasingly clear Labour were not winning the seats it needed to capture to form the largest party, and by the morning the impossible had happened: David Cameron had pulled the irons of an overall majority from the election fire.

Despite the naysaying and doom laden predictions coming from the left of the labour movement, David Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party started off well. From the moment he emerged ashened face from behind the curtain at party conference, he set out a stall that confounded expectations. Labelled as the continuity Blair candidate, David’s victory speech – secured across all three sections of the electoral college, albeit very narrowly in a higher-than-expected turnout from USDAW members in the trade union component, emphasised the need to capture economic credibility. He announced an establishment of a commission under Alastair Darling to revisit the rules and responsibility attached to government spending, but he also played to the left by indulging tough rhetoric around the regulation of the entire economy. The behaviour and spending of public bodies wouldn’t be the only ones to be covered by tough new rules: businesses big and small were also expected to behave responsibly and play their part. Concerned to yank back economic credibility from the Tories, he reaffirmed the Darling plan to halve the deficit over the course of the parliament, and made points around the need to develop a proper industrial strategy. Lastly, David Miliband announced an ambitious plan to re-energise and refound Labour as a mass organisation, offering CLPs incentives to recruit people and draw more trade unionists into the party. Jon Cruddas was also announced as the face of the Movement for Change.

Categories: Committing Sociology, Digital Sociology

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