Accepted paper:

Innovation as a loophole in the law: the legal high case


Johan Soderberg (Göteborg University)

Paper short abstract:

Presentation of a case study of users who innovate new methods for extracting controlled substances from plants in order to circumvent legislation and law enforcement. It suggests how the illegal greyzone serves as an incubator for innovation in the Schumpeterian-Shenzhen accumulation regime.

Paper long abstract:

The trend towards increased involvement by users and amateurs in scientific research and product development is applauded by company executives and policymakers alike. Missing from this picture are cases where user innovation is emphatically unwelcome, to the point that law enforcement agencies try to curb it. In my case study I look into a subculture dedicated to developing controlled substances. At the centre of the inquiry is the state and its inadvertent role in steering and fuelling unwanted user innovation. The more firms and policymakers promote a model where research and innovation are outsourced to users, the more those practices can be directed to unforeseen and potentially contentious ends, some of which warrant intervention from law enforcement. Concurrently, those innovations generate legal business models and white markets, as examplified by "cognitive enhancers" that originated in unauthorised circualtion of prescription medicines among students. It could therefore be said that the outlawed user has always-already been anticipated and put to work in the Schumpeterian-Shenzhen accumulation regime.

panel T071
Innovation: Discourses, politics, societies, and blind spots