Infrastructures and Laws: Publics and Publicness

Posted: 28 Oct 2021

See all articles by Benedict Kingsbury

Benedict Kingsbury

New York University School of Law

Nahuel Maisley

University of Buenos Aires (UBA) - Faculty of Law; New York University School of Law; Republic of Argentina - Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)

Date Written: October 1, 2021

Abstract

Infrastructures are technical-social assemblages infused in politics and power relations. They spur public action, prompting increased scholarly reference to the practices of infrastructural publics. This article explores the normative and conceptual meanings of infrastructures, publics, and infrastructural publics. It distills from political theory traditions of Hannah Arendt, Jürgen Habermas, and Nancy Fraser a normative ideal of publics composed of the persons subject to a particular configuration of power relations that may significantly affect their autonomy. Autonomy can be seriously affected not only by existing or planned infrastructures, with their existing or anticipating users and workers and objectors, but also by the lack of an infra-structure or by the terms of infrastructural exclusions, rationings, channelings, and fiscal impositions. Legal-institutional mechanisms provide some of the means for infrastructural publics to act and be heard, and for conflicts between or within different publics to be addressed, operationalizing legal ideas of publicness. These mechanisms are often underprovided or misaligned with infrastructure. One reason is the murkiness and insecurity of relations of infrastructural publics to legal publics constituted or framed as such by institutions and instruments of law and governance. We argue that thoughtful integration of infrastructural and legal scaling and design, accompanied by a normative aspiration to publicness, may have beneficial effects.

Suggested Citation

Kingsbury, Benedict and Maisley, Nahuel, Infrastructures and Laws: Publics and Publicness (October 1, 2021). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 17, pp. 353-373, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3946916 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-011521-082856

Benedict Kingsbury (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
212-998-6278 (Phone)

Nahuel Maisley

University of Buenos Aires (UBA) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Av. Figueroa Alcorta 2263
C1425CKB
Argentina

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Republic of Argentina - Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) ( email )

Avda. Rivadavia 1917
Buenos Aires, Federal Capital C1033AAJ
Argentina

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
96
PlumX Metrics