Sustainable Development and the Reconciliation of Opposites

36 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2012 Last revised: 20 Mar 2018

See all articles by Alison Peck

Alison Peck

West Virginia University College of Law

Date Written: November 29, 2012


This essay proposes a shift in thinking about the project of sustainable development. Many legal scholars have lamented the limitations of the concept: In cases where no win/win outcome can be identified even after the most careful and coordinated measurement, they argue, the old power struggles between proponents of economics, environment, and equity will be entrenched. This essay agrees that sustainable development, by definition, encompasses irresolvable tensions. But this fact becomes less troubling if we abandon the Enlightenment-influenced rationalism that demands such resolution, and instead consider sustainable development through more anti-rationalist traditions: the analytical psychology of Carl G. Jung, and philosophical Taoism. Both traditions conceive of irreconcilable opposites not only as part of any energetic system, but as essential to transformation and growth in the system. The essay concludes by exploring the emerging bases of agreement between these anti-rationalist epistemologies and the classically rationalist field of quantum mechanics. From these perspectives, the irreconcilability of opposites espoused within the sustainable development concept may represent the concept’s potential rather than its failure.

Keywords: sustainable development, hydraulic fracturing, Jung, psychology, Taoism, religion, quantum mechanics

Suggested Citation

Peck, Alison, Sustainable Development and the Reconciliation of Opposites (November 29, 2012). St. Louis University Law Journal, Vol. 57, p. 151, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Alison Peck (Contact Author)

West Virginia University College of Law ( email )

101 Law School Drive
Morgantown, WV West Virginia 26506
United States

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