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Jonas Van Gaubergen

The politics of the circular economy

The politics of the circular economy

In the European Union, the transition to a circular economy (CE) has over the last decade surfaced as one of the guiding ideas for the restructuring of economies towards resource efficiency and sustainability. The image that flows from the CE literature is a future where new technologies optimize material chains and close material loops, innovative business models replace products by services, product design enhances longevity and reparability, and consumers become users for whom sharing is the new owning. However, a lot of societal choices and controversies are hidden underneath this smooth image. Studies from a social science perspective often point to tensions about what the CE exactly is, how it should be brought about, who the responsible actors are, who will win and who will lose, and what the relevant technological and scientific research pathways are. The research at CDO about the CE aims to understand how the politics of the CE transition take shape. Important questions include: which competing vision exist about the CE? Does a circular economy require deep changes in economic and societal structures, practices and policies, or can it remain within the existing market paradigm and political structures and rely on current incumbent actors? How can the CE contribute to a an ecologically sustainable and socially just society?

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