Working Paper No. 2 published! On the Empty Promises of Growth within the Bioeconomy

Eversberg, Dennis and Jana Holz. 2020. Empty Promises of Growth: The Bioeconomy and Its Multiple Reality Checks


In this paper, we want to make two arguments. Firstly, we observe that the current trend in official policy concepts and strategies of the bioeconomy is toward a moderation of the promises of economic growth that it has been associated with since the beginning of this millennium. We argue that this process of moderation is at least partly due to the effects of a series of ‘reality checks’ that the different existing strands of research on the bioeconomy have (willingly or unwillingly) subjected the promises to, forcing governments to move away from obviously unrealistic visions and adopt more humble ones. We identify four such reality checks, coming from research on (a) bioeconomy discourses and strategies, (b) actors and
interests in the political economy of the bioeconomy, and (c) the economic and biophysical materialities that make up ‘the bioeconomy’. Secondly, we propose that a fourth, sociological reality check is currently being mounted, exposing the social implausibility and democratic illegitimacy of the bioeconomy’s promissory visions. Using survey data from Germany
to develop a provisional analysis of the tensions and conflicts within the population that disagreements about the bioeconomy are embedded in, we suggest putting the bioeconomy in its proper political place as part of the larger societal challenge, rather than promise, of achieving a post-fossil transformation of modern societies.

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