Neoliberalism, Law and Nature

by Larry Lohmann

first published 5 July 2017

Effective research and other action in the field of environment and law requires an understanding of how profoundly both have changed under neoliberalism. The growth of the neoliberal state amid productivity crisis and the move to a more financialized, rent-based global economy has been accompanied by sweeping legal innovations relating to property, trade, investment, rent and criminality as well as an expansion in the mass of written law and in the gaming of legislation. Part and parcel of these shifts have been newly-marketized regimes of environmental regulation associated with novel types of nature (ecosystem services), whose structural differences from natures with longer histories, such as commons and resources, must also be grasped.

All of these changes are associated with systematic patterns of oppression with both familiar and unfamiliar elements. Legal scholars and other activists, whatever stance they take and whatever activities they engage in, will inevitably be locating themselves somewhere in this new terrain of oppression. Making intelligent choices about where they want to be in order to make a difference presupposes having information about what locations are available today, which in turn is likely to require contact with scholars and popular movements situated well outside the legal profession itself.