"The Little Tools of Large Scale Visions: Seeing Like a Firm" at the third Nordic STS-conference

At the third Nordic STS-conference in Gothenburg Kristin Asdal, Hilde Reinertsen and Bård Hobæk give the paper "The Little Tools of Large Scale Visions: Seeing Like a Firm".

Asdal and Hobæk give their paper as part of a session on values and valuation, chaired by Francis Lee and Isabelle Dussauge, from Uppsala University. The paper has recently been submitted, as an article, to the Journal of Cultural Economy.


In current debates over the future of the Norwegian marine industries and the promises of the emerging “bio-economy”, the potential for a six-fold increase in value creation is a much-sited vision. This influential number was first introduced by the report Value creation based on productive oceans in 2050 (hereon: “the 2050-report”), published by the research institution SINTEF in 2012, and has since become a widely accepted political goal. In this paper, we analyse the 2050-report in detail, asking: How does the report undertake valuations that together produce the potential six-fold increase? We show how these valuations are a combined quantitative and qualitative excersise, enabled by a set of analytical tools retrieved from the business sector (notably value chain analysis and SWOT analysis) that were developed at the US business schools and in common use among business consultants worldwide.

Given that the 2050-report informs high-level political decision-making, this begs the question: What happens to politics and the political when its traditional tools of macroeconomic planning and management are replaced by the little tools from the business schools? We argue that rather than seeing like a state, the report’s specific tools entail seeing like a firm, which in turn invite politicians to attain an investor’s gaze. This, we suggest, makes the realisation of the new bio-economy a much different endeavor than other large-scale state-led projects of decades past – it may even amount to a potentially radical transformation of the core functions and workings of social-democratic governments. Investigating documents such as the 2050-report closely and critically is thus of key importance for understanding this ongoing transformation.

Tags: Economy, Politics
Published Nov. 15, 2017 1:33 PM - Last modified Jan. 24, 2019 2:43 PM