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Research and innovation (and) after neoliberalism: the case of Chinese smart e-mobility

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Abstract

Studying R&I as an irreducibly social, political and cultural process and a key process of contemporary ‘world making’, against mainstream approaches, means that R&I becomes a key analytical window into both the reproduction of current social formations and their profound problems, and the emergence of processes and new powerful groups that may disrupt, upend or otherwise transform existing systems. This ‘cultural political economy’ analysis of contemporary R&I – and especially of R&I trying to respond to the multiple crises including climate change – also offers singular insights into this key question regarding the socio-natural world currently being constructed. Drawing on evidence from the key global case study of low carbon innovation in the rising global power of China, the chapter argues that neoliberalism is facing an emergent contender for ecological dominance that may be called ‘complexity liberalism’ or simply ‘(classical) liberalism 2.0’. But this involves both associated socio-technical and economic advances and the particularly marked inequalities of ‘classical liberalism’, suggesting that current trends are towards a ‘new 19th century’. Working with this possibly emerging future towards more equitable, sustainable and convivial futures demands that R&I becomes a key strategic locus of a broadly ‘progressive’ politics.