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Contribution to Book
Adaptive Law
Resilience and Law (2013)
  • Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold
  • Lance Gunderson, Emory University
This book chapter proposes a bold sweeping set of characteristics of "adaptive law": features of the legal system that promote the resilience and adaptive capacity of both social systems and ecosystems. Law, particularly U.S. law, has been characterized as ill-suited to management of natural resources and the environment for resilience and sustainability. The maladaptive features of U.S. law include narrow systemic goals, mononcentric, unimodal, and fragmented structure, inflexible methods, and rational, linear, legal-centralist processes. This book chapter proposes four fundamental features of an adaptive legal system: 1) multiplicty of articulated goals; 2) polycentric, multimodal, and integrationist structure; 3) adaptive methods based on standards, flexibility, discretion, and regard for context; and 4) iterative legal-pluralist proceses with feedback loops and accountability. It then discusses these four features in the context of several socio-ecological issues and identifies needs for future study and development of adaptive law, particularly in light of panarchy theory about how complex, adaptive, interconnected systems change over time.
  • resilience,
  • adaptive law,
  • adaptive management,
  • panarchy,
  • environmental law,
  • ecoystems,
  • polycentric law,
  • legal pluralism,
  • endangered species,
  • clean water act,
  • wetlands,
  • watersheds,
  • ecosystem management
Publication Date
Craig R. Allen & Ahjond S. Garmestani
Columbia University Press
Citation Information
Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold and Lance Gunderson. "Adaptive Law" Resilience and Law (2013)
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