Circular Economy – Reducing Symptoms or Radical Change?
In this article, we address why our management of the economy, community and business has led to global warming and we discuss the importance of worldviews, ontology, epistemology and axiology in the search for alternative paths of development. We do this by focusing on the concept of Circular Economy. Circular Economy is often presented as a solution to the problems of a globalized economy in the form of over-exploitation of resources, climate change and pollution of the environment. Within the mainstream economics paradigm, the aim is how to increase the effectiveness of resource extraction and utilization in order to maintain growth. We contrast this with the paradigm of Ecological Economics where the goal of the economy is to achieve and secure a higher quality of life. Circular Economy often side steps the deep ontological and epistemological questions we need to answer if we are to address the complex and interrelated environmental, economic and social problems we face today. This can be a limiting factor in the search for creative and long-term solutions. However, within the Circular Economy discourse, we find strands that critically engage with the foundations of mainstream Economics and so, innovative solutions for the society of the future are a possibility. We argue that to bring about a lasting solution to the interconnected social, economic and environmental problems, Circular Economy must engage with the ontological, epistemological and axiological foundations of mainstream economics. To further this argument, we apply Imre Lakatos’ ‘research program’ model to philosophy of science as our framework of analysis and draw lessons for business and communities.
KeywordsCircular economy Ecological economics Quality of life Lakatos
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest Statement
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
- Brahmachari, Deborshi. 2016. Neoclassical economics as a method of scientific research program. A review of existing literature. In Munich personal RePEc archive. India: IGNOU.Google Scholar
- Cooter, Robert, and Peter Rappoport. 1984. Were the Ordinalists wrong about welfare economics? Journal of Economic Literature 22 (2): 507–530.Google Scholar
- Costanza, Robert, John H Cumberland, Herman Daly, Robert Goodland, Richard B Norgaard, Ida Kubiszewski, and Carol Franco. 2014. An introduction to ecological economics. 2nd. Edtition. Aufl. CRC Press.Google Scholar
- Easterlin, Richard A., Laura Angelescu McVey, Malgorzata Switek, Onnicha Sawangfa, and Jacqueline Smith Zweig. 2010. The happiness—Income paradox revisited. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107 (52): 22463–22468.Google Scholar
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 2012. Towards the circular economy: Economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition.Google Scholar
- European Commission. 2015. Closing the loop - an EU action plan for the circular economy. Brussels: EU.Google Scholar
- Gasper, Des. 2007. Human well-being: Concepts and conceptualizations. In Human well-being. Concept and measurement, ed. Mark McGillivray, 23–64. New York: United Nations University.Google Scholar
- Georgescu-Roegen, Nicolas. 1971. The entropy law and the economic process. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Goodwin, Neva R. 1991. Overview essay. In Human well-being and economic goals (frontier issues in economic thought), ed. Frank Ackerman, David Kiron, Neva R. Goodwin, Jonathan Harris, and Kevin Gallagher. Washington DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
- Ingebrigtsen, Stig, and Ove Jakobsen. 2007. Circulation economics : theory and practice. Frontiers of business ethics. Oxford: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- IPCC. 2018. Global warming of 1.5 °C. An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. Summary for policy makers.Google Scholar
- Krausmann, Fridolin, Dominik Wiedenhofer, Christian Lauk, Willi Haas, Hiroki Tanikawa, Tomer Fishman, Alessio Miatto, Heinz Schandl, and Helmut Haberl. 2017. Global socioeconomic material stocks rise 23-fold over the 20th century and require half of annual resource use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 (8): 1880. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1613773114.Google Scholar
- Lakatos, Imre. 1970. Falsification and the methodology of scientific research programmes. In Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, ed. Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Latour, Bruno. 2014. On some of the effects of capitalism. Royal Academy, Copenhagen.Google Scholar
- Max-Neef, Manfred, and B. Smith Philip. 2011. Economics Unmasked: From power and greed to compassion and the common good. United Kingdom: Uit Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Næss, Arne, David Rothenberg, and Arne Næss. 1989. Ecology, community and lifestyle: Outline of an ecosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- OECD. 2009. The financial crisis : Reform and exit strategies. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
- Pena-López, José Atilano, José Manuel Sánchez-Santos, and Matías Membiela-Pollán. 2017. Individual social capital and subjective wellbeing: The relational goods. Journal of Happiness Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9753-x.
- Phillips, David. 2006. Quality of Life : Concept, Policy and Practice. Florence: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Piketty, Thomas. 2014. Capital in the twenty-first century. Le capital au XXIe siècle. Cambridge: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
- Pratten, Stephen. 2015. Social ontology and modern economics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Price, Jane L., and Jeremy B. Joseph. 2000. Demand management – A basis for waste policy: A critical review of the applicability of the waste hierarchy in terms of achieving sustainable waste management. Sustainable Development 8 (2): 96–105.Google Scholar
- Putnam, Hilary. 2004. The collapse of the fact/value dichotomy and other essays. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Roberts, Alasdair. 2012. Why the occupy movement failed. Hoboken.Google Scholar
- Rockström, Johan, Will Steffen, Kevin Noone, Åsa Persson, F. Stuart Chapin III, Eric F. Lambin, Timothy M. Lenton et al. 2009. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461 (7263):472. https://doi.org/10.1038/461472a.
- Schäpke, Niko, and Felix Rauschmayer. 2014. Going beyond efficiency: Including altruistic motives in behavioral models for sustainability transitions to address sufficiency. Sustainability Science 10 (1): 29–44.Google Scholar
- Schlaile, Michael P., Sophie Urmetzer, Vincent Blok, Allan Dahl Andersen, Job Timmermans, Matthias Mueller, Jan Fagerberg, and Andreas Pyka. 2017. Innovation Systems for Transformations towards Sustainability? Taking the Normative Dimension Seriously. 9(12). https://doi.org/10.3390/su9122253.
- Schröder, Enno, and Servaas Storm. 2018. Economic growth and carbon emissions: The road to ‘hothouse earth’ is paved with good intentions in INET Working Papers. New York: Institute for New Economic Thinking.Google Scholar
- Söderbaum, Peter. 1999. Values, ideology and politics in ecological economics. Ecological Economics 28 (2): 161–170.Google Scholar
- Stanton, Elizabeth A. 2007. The Human Development Index: A History. In Workingpaper Series. Amherst, Massachusetts: Political Economy Research Institute.Google Scholar
- Steffen, Will, Katherine Richardson, Johan Rockström, Sarah E. Cornell, Ingo Fetzer, Elena M. Bennett, Reinette Biggs, et al. 2015. Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science (New York, N.Y.) 347 (6223): 1259855. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1259855. Google Scholar
- The Guardian. 2018. The EU needs a stability and wellbeing pact, not more growth. Letters. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/16/the-eu-needs-a-stability-and-wellbeing-pact-not-more-growth. Accessed 10 October 2018.
- UNEP. 2006. Circular economy: An alternative for economic development. Paris: UNEP DTIE.Google Scholar
- Webster, Ken. 2015. The circular economy. A wealth of flows. United Kingdom: Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing.Google Scholar
- Weintraub, Roy E. 1993. Neoclassical Economics]. In The concise encyclopedia of economics. Library of Economics and Liberty.Google Scholar
- Wilkinson, Richard, and Kate Pickett. 2010. The spirit level : Why equality is better for everyone. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar