American Ethnologist

Prophecy and the near future: Thoughts on macroeconomic, evangelical, and punctuated time



A view from 1950s and 1960s Britain suggests that the public culture of temporality in the United States has shifted from a consequential focus on reasoning toward the near future to a combination of response to immediate situations and orientation to a very long-term horizon. This temporal perspective is most marked in the public rhetoric of macroeconomics, but it also corresponds in remarkable ways to evangelicals' views of time. In this article, I trace the optionality and consonance of this shift toward the relative evacuation of the near future in religion and economics by examining different theoretical positions within each domain. In conclusion, I suggest that the near future is being reinhabited by forms of punctuated time, such as the dated schedules of debt and other specific event-driven temporal frames.