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The Bioeconomy as Political Project: A Polanyian Analysis

AuthorsGoven, Joanna; Pavone, Vincenzo
Issue Date2014
PublisherSage Publications
CitationScience Technology and Human Values 40 (3): 302–337
AbstractThe bioeconomy is becoming increasingly prominent in policy and scholarly literature, but critical examination of the concept is lacking. We argue that the bioeconomy should be understood as a political project, not simply or primarily as a technoscientific or economic one. We use a conceptual framework derived from the work of Karl Polanyi to elucidate the politically performative nature of the bioeconomy through an analysis of an influential Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) initiative, The Bioeconomy to 2030. We argue that this initiative is a response to some of the most acute challenges facing the current neoliberal-capitalist accumulation regime, which seeks to protect and extend that regime, through both what it occludes and what it promotes. Rather than taking the bioeconomy as a description of some subset of economic activity, we regard it as a promissory construct that is meant to induce and facilitate some actions while deterring others; most explicitly, it is meant to bring about a particular set of political–institutional changes that will shape the parameters of possible future action. The bioeconomy concept highlights the potential dangers of failing to situate ethnographic examinations of horizontal micro-relations within a political–economic macro-context that enables and constrains. Scholarly work in science and technology studies and elsewhere that does not recognize the wider politics of the bioeconomy risks unintentionally contributing to the legitimation of this political project.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243914552133
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