Transnational Law for the Anthropocene: Revisiting Jessup’s Move from ‘What?’ to ‘How?’
Laura Mai, "Transnational Law for the Anthropocene: Revisiting Jessup’s Move from ‘What?’ to ‘How?’", Transnational Legal Theory, 2020
12 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 3, 2020
‘Anthropocene’ is the name proposed for the current epoch in planetary history in which humans have emerged as a geophysical force that fundamentally impacts the Earth System. This paper explores how Jessup’s perspective on transnational law could be applied to further develop legal thinking in the Anthropocene. It argues that legal scholarship would benefit from revisiting Jessup’s move from ‘what?’ to ‘how?’: Rather than thinking about what transnational law might, or might not, be, legal researchers and practitioners are now tasked to understand how transnational law can be mobilized as a tool to navigate our relationship with the planet. The paper shows that the move from ‘what?’ to ‘how?’ requires engagement with the defining question of the Anthropocene, namely how we are to understand our position vis-à-vis the ‘natural’ ‘environment’ when we play a central role in shaping that ‘environment’. Relying on three theoretical perspectives – social-ecological resilience thinking, social systems theory and post-humanism – the paper demonstrates that this re-positioning exercise puts new demands on legal thinking and challenges mainstream ontologies. The paper concludes that transnational law could provide a testing ground and creative space for developing legal forms, strategies and technologies to navigate Anthropocene realities.
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