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Beyond anthropocentrism and ecocentrism: a biopolitical reading of environmental law

Vito De Lucia

Keywords: environmental law; biopolitics; anthropocentrism; ecocentrism; critical legal theory

The ‘rise of ecosystem regimes’ is increasingly seen as the key for the resolution of the unfolding ecological crises that are the mark of the Anthropocene. These ecosystem regimes are seen as a crucial passage in resolving environmental law's internal contradictions and evident shortcomings. Indeed, ecosystem regimes are understood to signal a crucial step in a long progression from anthropocentric to ecocentric articulations of environmental law. This narrative, whether in normative or descriptive terms, informs much, and perhaps most, environmental legal scholarship. In this article I intend to problematize this linear narrative through an ‘analytics of biopolitics’. Situated within the critical space tentatively called ‘critical environmental law’, this approach aims at opening the field of inquiry rather than producing closures. Rather than a simplified, linear narrative of increasing interpenetration between law and ecology – a narrative where law becomes, or ought to become, increasingly ecocentric – an analytics of biopolitics transposed to the specific critical environmental legal terrain aims at outlining the slippages that intervene at the margins of intersection between law and ecology, and at articulating a biopolitical critique of both ‘anthropocentric’ and ‘ecocentric’ articulations of environmental law.

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