Actors or Spectators? Vulnerability and Critical Environmental Law (A Philippopoulos‐Mihalopoulos)


Andreas Philippopoulos‐Mihalopoulos


Spectators, ecological disaster, actors, false dichotomy, vulnerability, middle, rejection of binaries, open ecology, critical environmental law


The question of whether we as humans should remain spectators of the great theatre of ecological disaster or become actors is a false dichotomy. In this chapter, I argue that both are needed, since the critical distance of spectatorship does not annul the need for immersion in the ecological continuum. A tool in the realisation of this is the concept of vulnerability, which is here conceptualised as a space of ‘the middle’ (as opposed, emphatically, to ‘the centre’) and offers an opportunity to think away from the sterile debate on eco/anthropocentricity and from such limiting hierarchies as animal/human, human/environmental, natural/artificial. This new, vulnerable position of the middle allows the reconfiguration of ecological processes, and more specifically, the position of environmental law in relation to them. Environmental law now finds itself amidst a new, moving, ‘open ecology’ of social, biological and ecological processes. This is a new, radical conceptualisation of what I have called ‘critical environmental law’, based upon an epistemology of observation and an ontology of being part of this open ecology. Environmental law, in this light, is simultaneously reformulated as being an invitation to disciplinary and ontological openness and yet a call to remain immanent within existing legal structures. This finds expression in four critical environmental positions that set the stage for the further elaboration of a critical environmental law.


(2013) 3/5 Oñati Socio-Legal Series 854-876


Actors or Spectators? Vulnerability and Critical Environmental Law