The Circular Economy Revolutionary or Mundane?

The Circular Economy Revolutionary or Mundane?

The Circular Economy: Revolutionary or Mundane? Mike Tennant, Fenna Blomsma, Geraldine Brennan Premise of this work contemporary industrial system as a source of externalities CE source concepts offer a hopeful critique of the industrial system reducing negative environmental externalities while increasing positive environmental and social externalities through prolonged resource usage however, expansive narrative appropriated and circumscribed by

powerful business interests and now (finally) critiqued how can the CE be transformative? Structure of the talk analytical frame: utopias and imaginaries current status: evaluation of the CE imaginaries steps forward: redevelopment of CE Utopias Utopias are

better, not perfect (Georghegan, 2007); radically hopeful (Moylan, 2014); desire for a better way of being (Levitas, 2011) Vision and method justice and freedom for everyone on an ecologically healthy earth through the work of collectively transformed and transforming humanity (Moylan, 2007) systemic, including revolutionary political acts (Jameson, 2006) Blueprint utopia totalising narrative; future set out; precise mapping; normative & dictatorial; narrow & poor; repressive and rapidly outdated (Jacoby, 2005) Iconoclastic utopia hopeful of a better future world; look for practice outcomes, but not the ultimate shape of the future;

negatives, not positives (cf. Hegel); compass, not blueprint (Jacoby, 2005) a dream; radically oppositional thought & new vocabularies; power of imagination & possibilities of other ways of living; resists closure (Moylan, 2014) multidisciplinary (Sargisson, 2007; Levitas, 2013); including science, politics and morality (Wallerstein, 1998) Circular economy as utopian? Most CE source texts include more than techno-optimist rhetoric Reday & Stahel (1977): quality of life; community social benefits Lyle (1994): need to meet needs of other species; rebirth of life itself.. with hope for the future; new participative institutional forms Pauli (2015): making more money/using more tech wont work; inclusive growth model; critique of standardisation; globalisation v. localisation;

focus on poverty and unemployment Other complementary texts are equally expansive Bookchin (1982); Gorz (1977): deep ecological & Marxist emancipatory emphasis Barnetts Analytical Framework (1) (Barnett, 2011) Three axes that evaluate the potential for persuasiveness of a utopia endorsing- critical: reproduces the current system or challenges fundamental assumptions? hope-doubt: degree of belief of realisation?

surface-deep: reductionist or systemic? Imaginaries are realisations of utopias shared narratives and discourses that enable common understandings and practices, and legitimizing particular ideas and practices (Taylor, 2002; Wright et al., 2013) new ways of talking about things and acting at individual, community/institutional, and economic/cultural levels e.g. Green New Deal (Jessop, 2010) compete with other imaginaries for peoples attention (Wright et al. 2013).

Persuasive and successful imaginaries are fuzzy and are interpreted to appeal to many people (Taylor, 2002; Boons & Roome, 2000) are grounded in current thought and practices, but hopeful of breaking away from them (Levy & Spicer, 2013; Barnett, 2013) Barnetts Analytical Framework (2) (Barnett, 2011) Five criteria of adequacy towards realisation of a utopia

range: engagement with conceptual, theoretical, practical and policy work? depth: engagement with external power structures? ethics: human and societal values & well-being? emergence: open-ended or closed concepts? feasibility: is there a path to its realisation? we can use these to both critique reframe the CE imaginary identifies gaps and helps develop a path forwards

Is the CE an adequate imaginary? dominated by business-as-usual eco-modernist rhetoric narrow business/engineering interpretation of expansive ideas sharply critical of industrial process, but shallow conceptualisation of what that means reductionist, not strongly systemic lacks robust theoretical foundations nave engagement with human values & well-being tackles todays (or yesterdays) problems, but not future-oriented Reframing the Circular Economy as

an iconoclastic utopia (a way forward) inclusive & open towards the future, without being prescriptive de-centre business and other powerful actors industry (resource productivity) for the common good: starts from human values & needs emergent: developed through pragmatic dialogue bottom-up and top-down conflicts and trade-offs are surfaced and the CE imaginatively recreated definitive definitions of a CE arent useful

Starting with people (re-)account for what we value economics is a poor basis for internalizing environmental and social bads (cf. Sandel; Satz; Claasen (2016)) contemporary business has little incentive to develop social or environmental goods green jobs are not necessarily better jobs need to reframe CE as an idea and practice that results in a better world for people & communities through material productivity

green growth v. Stiglitz/Sen & Nussbaum/MaxNeef Develop conceptual and theoretical foundations lack of coherence between open- v. closed-system interpretation closed: systems thinking; reductionist, circumscribed and restricted open: complexity thinking; expansive, inclusive and emergent bio-/eco-systems analogy ported to CE narrative without adequate reinterpretation regenerative & restorative by design Lyle (1994) developed for agricultural systems, but using uncritically for industrial systems in what ways can washing machine repair be regenerative?

inward v. outward looking (i.e. business as part of an open system) product identity ship of Theseus paradox measurement of circularity & time dimension (e.g. Figge et al., 2018) Works with competing imaginaries CE is an example of ecological modernization (York and Rosa, 2003) using innovative market-based policies to reflexively correct poor economic and industrial design embedded within capitalist imaginary environmental protection and capitalism do not conflict

v. treadmill of production (Gould et al., 2004) technology replaces labour; drives up consumer demand appropriates more natural capital future-oriented and innovative e.g. nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, information and communication technology, and cognitive science (NBRIC, Allenby (2006)); industry 4.0 (Schwab) circular economy v. SDGs v. sustainable lifestyles v. deep ecology v. etc. Revolutionary or mundane? what does the CE really do? is it anything more than a repacking of (parts of) the waste hierarchy?

source rhetoric is revolutionary current conceptualisation is mundane, but with glimmers of revolutionary hope

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