Critique of the Circular Economy

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* Article: Against wasted politics: A critique of the circular economy. By Francisco Valenzuela and Steffen Böhm. Ephemera, volume 17(1): 23-60



The discourse of zero-waste and the circular economy has been championed by key players, such as the European Commission, management consultancies, NGOs, academics and multinational companies, in recent years. Given the all too obvious social and environmental crises associated with out-of-bounds growth capitalism, the circular economy has been one of the main references for rebuilding and reforming a political economy of sustainable growth. In this paper we detect a de-politicizing strategy in this attempt of reform, and, consequently, aim at re-locating a position for the politicization of growth-driven capitalism and the circular economy. We do this by offering a unique discursive-material theoretical framework, bringing together Marxist and Lacanian psychoanalytic readings. This will allow understanding both the subjective relation with the meaning of waste and the material exchanges that place the subject in the position to produce and consume waste as a valuable commodity. In our quest to (re-)politicize waste, we offer three practical steps that aim at interrupting the endless repetition of waste, which include attempts to eradicate it. This argument will be illustrated by making reference to the circular strategies of Apple Inc., the world’s largest and most iconic consumer electronics company."