The blue economy as a boundary object for hegemony across scales

Schutter, M.S. and Hicks, C.C. and Phelps, J. and Waterton, C. (2021) The blue economy as a boundary object for hegemony across scales. Marine Policy, 132. ISSN 0308-597X

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The blue economy has become an influential concept in international and national marine governance discourse. Various contested interpretations exist, and different actors choose to emphasise different aspects of the triple goal of environmental, economic, and social improvements. However, despite disagreement over its interpretations, the blue economy finds support in many different arenas. This paper explores the position of dominance that the blue economy has reached, and examines how supporters of the concept maintain and employ power to keep it relevant. The paper applies a mixed-methods approach: 29 semi-structured interviews with people in roles of formal decision-making across the fisheries sector, economic development and tourism sector, conservation and environment sector, and specific blue economy-institutions are supplemented by observations from the wider landscape during 4 months of fieldwork in Seychelles. Findings show that in international discourse, the blue economy obtains and maintains its influence through persuasion and through the construction of a ‘common sense’ and productive way forward, capable of achieving triple wins. Within this narrative, oceans are undergoing a reconfiguration as economic frontiers, and the blue economy places economic growth from oceans centrally within contemporary environmental governance. Maintaining the blue economy as a powerful concept on the ground is done through social power relations: the blue economy functions as a boundary object, contributing to depoliticisation of discussions about a shared vision. Depoliticisation allows Seychelles to continue using the concept despite simmering dissent among policy makers, practitioners, and resource users. Dominance of the blue economy on the international stage means that associating with it brings Seychelles visibility and influence. The usefulness of the concept in eliding tensions makes it difficult for counter-hegemony to arise, although alternatives are emerging elsewhere, such as blue justice. However, fundamental change is needed to re-politicise environmental decision-making and explicitly discuss values and images attached to the blue economy.

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Journal Article
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Marine Policy
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30 Jul 2021 10:30
Last Modified:
04 May 2022 02:09