The horizon of possibility is perceived as an infinite sprawl of connecting, flashing points. This perception generates anxiety and panic: the paranoid obsession with order tries to reduce the horizon to repetition, belonging and identity.

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility (2015)

Futurability is the idea that beyond the entrenched norms of existing capitalist and political structures lies a horizon of possibility. Theorist and activist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi presents the idea of futurability as a shift in our collective conception of politics—from predeterminded, to open to opportunity. That is, nothing is certain; we are in the flow of abundant possibility.

In the context of the climate crisis, ‘futurability’ may be adopted to signify the breadth of alternative futures inherent in the wide flow of time. That is, the political capacity to proactively pursue improbable paths, such as the jettisoning of extractive industries achieved through a purposeful break with the capitalist status quo.

Berardi articulates human history as a sequence of coalescences within a flow of unrealised alternatives. The implication is that in looking backwards, we must imagine the many realities that never came into being. Equally, this implies that any perceivable future will only be defined by the ability of the chaotic to find shape. This way of imagining the future is ripe with potential, an antidote to the impotency of our contemporary political moment.

Berardi laments the state of impotency in which an expansive vision of possible futures is rarely given air. Our human ‘obsession with order’ means that the possible has been ‘captured and reduced to mere probability, and the probable has been enforced as necessity. In other words, the future, and our place in it, comes to feel like a necessary fate, rather than an abundant flow of possibility.

Matthew Galloway

See also: The Unthinkable

Index image: Pāhoehoe lava from Kīlauea volcano, Hawaii, United States. Source: United States Geological Survey

Background image: Toes of a pāhoehoe advance across a road in Kalapana on the east rift zone of Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaii, United States.