Symposium: Anthropocenic Disruption, Community Resilience, Law (and Legal Education)

Posted: 8 Oct 2018

See all articles by René Reich-Graefe

René Reich-Graefe

Western New England University School of Law

Date Written: September 13, 2018


First-world modern humans produce virtually nothing to sustain their respective individual lives. Instead, national and global economies of scale mass-produce the resources that modern humans merely acquire to satisfy survival and prosperity needs. The Anthropocene appears on track to swiftly and fundamentally disrupt current systems of complex labor division and market exchange by mid-century. Energy will become scarce; climate change will make weather and oceans hostile; large-scale digital and industrial technologies will grow insupportable. All means for wealth generation and attendant ‘progress’ invented since the Second Industrial Revolution will become systemically disrupted and encounter drastic corrections in scale.

By either choice or force, humanity will have to adapt and change — rapidly. Yet, it appears highly unlikely that change (and collective change agency) will be adequately built and established from the bottom up. Market and communitarian forces are too small, too slow and too self-absorbed in order to rise to the magnitude of problems faced. Similarly, system-wide course adjustment and revision will likely resist any institution from the top down. Regulatory forces (and their corralling) are too large, too cumbersome and too uncompromisingly partisan to bring about the efficiency of solutions needed. Arguably, the path for transformation must rather be built from within — namely, the middle out. Middle-out social engineering both fosters and requires community resilience and adaptability. Community resilience both fosters and requires ‘smart’ communities — those with closed, self-supporting local economies; sustainable, self-defensible forms of governance and government; inclusive social norms and routines; and well-grounded, well-scaled legal supports and regulatory practices.

The present, at best, is at the early ideation stage for socio-legal transformation in the accelerating Anthropocene. Accordingly, this essay (and symposium foreword) aims first to conceptualize the larger and, to date, mostly muted conversation of how more self-reliant, shock-resistant and sustainable community can be built efficiently at the advent of anthropocenic disruption. Second, this essay posits that any conversation about middle-out social engineering should be situated more broadly in the context of law and its social function and thus, more than just reflexively, also in the context of (legal) education of future-generation social engineers. Accordingly, this essay intends a cross-cutting, interdisciplinary inquiry into the nexus of community resilience and intrapreneurship, systems thinking and legal (educational) innovation.

Suggested Citation

Reich-Graefe, René, Symposium: Anthropocenic Disruption, Community Resilience, Law (and Legal Education) (September 13, 2018). Forthcoming, Western New England Law Review, Vol. 41. Available at SSRN:

René Reich-Graefe (Contact Author)

Western New England University School of Law ( email )

1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA 01119
United States
413.782.1451 (Phone)


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