The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology
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The Social Embeddedness of Industrial Ecology

Edited by Frank Boons and Jennifer Howard-Grenville

Most work on industrial ecology continues to emphasize its roots in engineering and the technological sciences. This book differs in that it explores the social context of industrial ecology and presents empirical work addressing how cognitive, cultural, political and structural mechanisms condition the emergence and operation of industrial ecology. The empirical chapters are written from various social science perspectives and the editors have also invited reflective commentaries by authors with cross-disciplinary experiences.
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Fourth intermezzo Product chain management and social sciences: path dependency, cultural validity and short-and long-term feedback loops

Claudia R. Binder


Fourth intermezzo Product chain management and social sciences: path dependency, cultural validity and shortand long-term feedback loops Claudia R. Binder This section explores the role of social sciences in product chain management, a specific branch of industrial ecology. The three contributions highlight three areas in which social sciences might enhance and support a more sustainable product chain management, namely, system understanding, uncertainty and goal knowledge, and management or transformation knowledge. From these contributions three key issues emerged which have to be considered if a more sustainable product chain is envisioned: (a) path dependency: development of product chains might be path dependent due to the agent network they are embedded in and the technology applied; (b) cultural validity: the technologies or strategies for optimizing product chains valid in industrialized countries might not necessarily apply for developing countries; and (c) short and long-term feedback loops: time and time frame of thinking are extremely important and induce consequently short and long-term feedback loops. The contributions from social science to product chain management are very similar to the ones to regional material flow management. Therefore, one subsection specifically deals with this issue. During the last 15 years, I have developed tools for performing interand transdisciplinary research. Coming from a biochemistry background, I first entered the field of material flow analysis analysing the metabolism of a Colombian city and comparing it to the one of a Swiss city. It was evident that structural, cultural and development paths drove the differences in resource management between these...

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