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What Niklas Luhmann might have said of carbon trading

David Campbell and Matthias Klaes
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David Campbell: University of Durham

No 024/2008, SCEME Working Papers: Advances in Economic Methodology from SCEME

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.

Keywords: globalisation; Luhmann; carbon trading; regulatory failure; Coase (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B41 B52 K0 Q5 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 14 pages
Date: 2008-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ene, nep-env, nep-law and nep-reg
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