DOI: 10.1111/jiec.13426 ISSN: 1088-1980

Circular economy: A new research field?

Julian Kirchherr, Andrea Urbinati, Kris Hartley
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


Action to pursue the circular economy (CE) transition is burgeoning in the government and the private sector. Does this action signal that CE is a distinct field of research with a unique disciplinary identity? This article argues that CE has reached field status, through its own epistemic communities characterized by increasingly shared methodological perspectives and normative ideals, and through institutionalized knowledge development through research journals and authority structures. The recent growth of CE research points toward more contextualized and nuanced operationalizations of the concept, evidence that the field is approaching a threshold state of maturity. Drawing on observations from academic literature and discussions with researchers and experts, we trace the process by which CE has arrived at the status of a field. The article concludes with reflections on research directions.

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