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Accepted Contribution:

Conceptualizations of Discourses on Circular Economy’s Social Impacts in the Global North versus Global South: a Critical Review of Similarities and Differences  
Ilaha Abasli (ISS) Farhad Mukhtarov (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Contribution short abstract:

The paper conducts a critical review of selected academic literature. It investigates fundamental discourses on Circular Economy, how and to what extent such conceptualizations differ in context of Global North and Global South. It contributes to critical scholarship on CE’s socio-ecological impact.

Contribution long abstract:

Recent academic and policy discussions on the Circular Economy (CE) gained traction in sustainability and social sciences literature. They attempt to bring an alternative model to replace the current linear production-consumption model through more extended material use and staying within planetary boundaries.

Natural sciences and engineering scholars have mainly articulated the concept of CE. By contrast, social science has criticised techno-optimistic conceptualisations and the lack of empirical and contextual knowledge from Global South. Critical scholars called attention to CE privileging of neo-colonial and neo-liberal approaches to development. The focus on Global North demonstrates an emphasis on well-being, decoupling benefits, and high-technology solutions and predominantly focus on circulating high-value materials in Global North. By contrast, the focus on Global South by scholars and practitioners in Global North points to promoting ‘green growth’ through waste management jobs, focusing on certain types of material circulation practices, such as installing recycling plants for hazardous and low-value materials and neglecting the social implications for the informal sector in Global South.

Such divergence in conceptualisations and academic discourses on the Circular Economy concept and especially on its social and justice implications instrumentalises the Circular Economy as an International Development tool in the context of Global South. It frames it as a sustainability model with the benefits of addressing climate change and transforming lifestyles and social-economic-environmental relations in the Global North. However, these divergent conceptualizations potentially re-produce and replicate pre-existing inequalities in development and create silos on equity and justice considerations of CE concept.

Roundtable P62
Global social challenges for development studies in the crisis in the anthropocene
  Session 1 Thursday 29 June, 2023, -