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The Political Economy of Circular Economies: Lessons from Future Repair Scenario Deliberations in Sweden

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Circular Economy and Sustainability
Issue number3
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)1677-1701
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date10/11/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The dominant technocratic and neoliberal imaginary of a circular economy dependent on corporate leadership, market mechanisms, and changed consumer behaviour is here explored using the findings of deliberative stakeholder workshops examining diverse scenarios for the promotion of repair as part of a circular economy. Stakeholder responses to four scenarios—digital circularity, planned circularity, circular modernism, and bottom-up sufficiency—are described with reference to the ideologies, interests, and institutions involved. We distinguish two levels of discourse in the stakeholder discussions. The main narrative in which individualist and consumerist ideologies dominate, even within ideals of sustainability, reflects a conjunction of corporate, labour, and public interests in the market liberal social democratic state, with proposed interventions focused on the institutions of markets and education. A subaltern narrative present in the margins of the discussions challenges the consumerist and productivist presumptions of the market liberal political economy and hints at more transformative change. These conflicting responses not only cast light on the ways in which the political economy of contemporary Sweden (within the European Union) constrains and conditions current expectations and imaginaries of circularity, but also suggest ways in which the future political economy of circular economies might be contested and evolve.