The Commons and a New Global Governance
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The Commons and a New Global Governance

Edited by Samuel Cogolati and Jan Wouters

Given the new-found importance of the commons in current political discourse, it has become increasingly necessary to explore the democratic, institutional, and legal implications of the commons for global governance today. This book analyses and explores the ground-breaking model of the commons and its relation to these debates.
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Chapter 10: The ecology of international law: towards an international legal system in tune with nature and community?

Ugo Mattei


This chapter reflects upon a paradigm shift in international legal theory from the materialistic and extractive mentality of the Industrial Age to a new vision of the world as governed by a network of generative ecological principles. The title of this chapter is inspired by the book written with Fritjof Capra, The Ecology of Law: Towards a System in Tune with Nature and Community (2015). This chapter advances a quite provocative thesis that locates itself in a line of analysis aimed at the radical critique of some of the fundamental assumptions of the modern conception of the rule of law. It aims to think about international law in a more holistic and ecological perspective than what is common in the dominant Anglo-American professional legal setting. It will attempt to answer the question as to whether international law can be ‘ecological’ – that is, in tune with both nature and community. The hypothesis is that it cannot. Instead, international law might be its own greatest problem, promoting a silent ethos of exploitation of the ‘other’ by reducing empathy and facilitating extraction; this is called the ‘evil technology hypothesis’. The benefit of looking at international law in this way lies in the whole new horizon of questions it opens up, specifically about the scales of our economic system, of our civilization, and of our fundamental dependency on a model of extraction transforming the commons into capital.

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