There is a pressing need to move to more sustainable production and consumption systems (Meadows et al., 2004; WBCSD, 2010; Markard et al., 2012). To address this need, two of the world’s economic and political powers, China and the EU, have developed political strategies to introduce the ‘Circular Economy’ (European Commission 2015; Circular Economy Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China 2008). These strategies describe the circular economy as new paradigm that implies a complete ‘transformation’ of the economy and subsequently the society in these regions. In a globalized economy, the realization of this transformation would have large impacts on the global economy, and, thus, world politics. The recent Chinese waste import ban is a first indication of these impacts (Reuters 2017). Despite this global political relevance, current scholarship focuses on technical and business aspects of a circular economy (Ghisellini 2016). A major question of these analyses are what are barriers and enablers to this transformation. The political, institutional, and social aspects of such transformation, however, received much less attention so far.
We believe that by shedding light on the political struggles about this transformation paradigm and the resulting policy-making, much can be learned regarding its potential global effects. On that basis, this panel aims to initiate a structured discussion of this new economic model from a social/political/legal perspective and identify commonalities and differences across diverse perspectives and geographic locations. The panel asks for empirical studies as well as theoretical contributions, disciplinary as well as interdisciplinary work is welcome. Possible research questions include, for instance:
Which new socio-economic dynamics, regulatory challenges and trade-offs emerge from subsequent changes in supply chains and production and consumption processes?
How do different governments, stakeholders or institutions conceptualize the circular economy?
What political instruments are suggested for transforming towards a circular economy?
How is the circular economy discussed/understood differently across municipalities/states /regions and with what effects for their local/national/global regulation?
What role do businesses play in governing the transformation to a circular economy?
What barriers and enablers do business stakeholders, scholars and policy makers (not) discuss regarding the transformation to a Circular Economy?