Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Reconfiguring repair


Text available via DOI:

View graph of relations

Reconfiguring repair: Contested politics and values of repair challenge instrumental discourses found in circular economies literature

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Article number100046
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/12/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Resources, Conservation & Recycling: X
Number of pages11
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/09/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The treatment of ideas of repair in circular economy literature is critically reviewed, revealing instrumental understandings of repair as a tool to extend product life-spans and reduce waste. These framings are interpreted as an expression of the dominant technocratic and post-political discourses of circular economy as an intervention to sustain industrial capitalism in the face of sustainability constraints. The review contrasts these understandings of repair derived from a review of circular economy literature with richer and contested interpretations found in sociological, ethnographic and political literatures examining material repair in practice. Drawing on the emerging sociology of repair and applying more distinct concepts of restoration, remediation, reconfiguration and reconciliation derived from these literatures, the paper argues that the understandings of repair in circular economy literature are limited and restrictive, generally supporting a view of repair as sustaining, consumerist and nostalgic; and thereby overlooking potentially transformative, political and future-oriented roles for repair in a circular economy. In the restorative and remedial modes most commonly understood in the circular economy, repair is seen to enable new forms of capitalist commodification, notably of waste and domestic labour. Learning from contestation in other arenas of repair by contrast, understanding repair as encompassing ideas for reconciliation and reconfiguration, and adopting values of integrity, care and legibility, opens up repair in the circular economy to constructive critical discussion and reflection and offers new insights for policy makers.