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date: 25 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Understandings of environmental law and technology are often co-produced as part of distinctive sociotechnical imaginaries. This essay explores this phenomenon by showing how Hardin’s famous essay, the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, is capable of being interpreted in two different ways, which provide divergent visions of the potential role of environmental law and technology in addressing environmental problems. The first, and more popular, interpretation characterizes law and technology as instruments for bringing about shifts in morality in light of limited resources. A different reading of Hardin’s essay portrays law and technology in more constitutive terms. Identifying these different characterizations provides a starting point for a richer and more nuanced debate about the interaction between environmental law and technology. This is illustrated by an example from chemicals regulation.

Keywords: environmental law, technology, tragedy of the commons, socio-technical imaginaries, chemicals regulation

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