The Technocentric Consensus: A Discourse Network Analysis of the European Circular Economy Debate

Aksel Sloth Bækgaard, Christian Engberg, Jacob Hasselbalch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


How do different framings of the circular economy structure relations between key European policy actors? The circular economy is emerging as a dominant environmental governance framework, but multiple interpretations of what it entails and how it is to be implemented abound. This article investigates the way policy actors in the European Union frame the circular economy, and how certain framings facilitate coalition-building. A Discourse Network Analysis, which combines content and network analysis, allows us to draw connections between frames and actors. Building on an existing typology of circular economy discourses, we combine inductive and deductive coding of selected policy documents from policy actors (EU institutions, business associations, think tanks, trade unions, NGOs). This content analysis is visualized as a discourse network, which disaggregates discourses into their subcomponents and connects them to policy actors. The strongest discourse coalition emerges around technocentric framings of circular economy. In particular, we identify production, innovation and waste management as central sub-components which strengthen the congruence of this coalition. More transformative frames advanced by environmental organizations struggle to break the technocentric consensus. We argue that the current framing of a technocentric circular economy is unlikely to change unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)173-187
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 18 Feb 2024.


  • Framing
  • Discourse coalitions
  • Circular economy
  • Social network analysis
  • Content analysis

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