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What Niklas Luhmann might have said of carbon trading

Author

Listed:
  • David Campbell

    (University of Durham)

  • Matthias Klaes

    (Keele University)

Abstract

Ecological questions have proven particularly fruitful to illustrate Luhmann's theory of society as an integrative perspective cutting across the scientific, economic, legal, and political domains. In this paper, we will discuss the development of carbon trading as a case study of how reflexive system rationality of the kind postulated by Luhmann becomes the defining characteristic of the spectacular failure of such trading as has taken place to date to even approximate any of it own stated goals. Paradoxically, regulatory attempts to provide for a market-based response to anthropogenic global warming have resulted in the emergence of carbon prices that are essentially planned at a level of ambition reminiscent of the twentieth century's most extensive exercises in centralised command and control, due to structural couplings between the scientific, economic, political and legal systems and an ecology of organisations and institutions spread across them. As government-sponsored carbon trading is perhaps the most characteristic initiative of modern government, its discussion in Luhmann's terms is significant for any evaluation of the relevance of his work.

Suggested Citation

  • David Campbell & Matthias Klaes, 2008. "What Niklas Luhmann might have said of carbon trading," SCEME Working Papers: Advances in Economic Methodology 024/2008, SCEME.
  • Handle: RePEc:sti:wpaper:024/2008
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    File URL: http://www.sceme.org.uk/wps/SCEME024_CampbellKlaes_2008.pdf
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    globalisation; Luhmann; carbon trading; regulatory failure; Coase;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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