Resilient Cities and Adaptive Law

21 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2014

See all articles by Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold

Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold

University of Louisville - Brandeis School of Law

Date Written: June 18, 2014


This article explores the roles that legal institutions play in enhancing or impeding the social-ecological resilience of cities in the United States. Resilience is the capacity of a system to withstand or adapt to disturbances while maintaining the same basic structures and functions. Attention to what makes cities resilient or not is growing, but both the scholarship and practice of resilient cities mean many different things in many different contexts. This article calls for an integrated approach to the interlinked resilience of social systems, ecological systems, and institutions. Drawing on a recent adaptive law framework developed by resilience scientist Lance Gunderson and law-and-institutions scholar Tony Arnold, this article explores three overarching themes in the legal systems effects on cities' social-ecological resilience: 1) the benefits and limits of polycentric local governance; 2) the effects of the institution of private property on urban resilience in the U.S.; and 3) the adaptive capacity of cities, including the use of adaptive management and adaptive planning methods and the development of adaptive governance systems and structures.

Keywords: resilience, social-ecological resilience, cities, urban, planning, land use, water, trees, forestry, urban agriculture, private property, property rights, local governance, polycentric, federalism, adaptation, adaptive planning, adaptive management, adaptive governance, institutions, ecosystems

Suggested Citation

Arnold, Craig (Tony) Anthony, Resilient Cities and Adaptive Law (June 18, 2014). Idaho Law Review, Vol. 50, pp. 245-264, 2014, University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2014-19, Available at SSRN:

Craig (Tony) Anthony Arnold (Contact Author)

University of Louisville - Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States
502-852-6388 (Phone)
502-852-0862 (Fax)


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