The market as an instrument of planning in sustainability capitalism

Ioannis Kampourakis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article seeks to unpack the potential and limits of markets as instruments of economic planning in sustainability capitalism. Recent policies for sustainability transitions in the United States (USA) and the European Union (EU) (eg, Infrastructure Law, EU Green Deal) have signaled aspirations for a more prominent role of the state in coordinating the economy, while still relying primarily on market mechanisms for such coordination. Yet, could the market itself be conceptualised and structured as a political instrumentality for the achievement of social objectives? An important part of the puzzle of sustainability transitions is the transportation sector, and specifically the transition to Electric Vehicles, or New Energy Vehicles (NEVs). I explore the comparative legal constructions of markets for NEVs in China - the current global leader in NEVs - the USA, and the EU. Drawing from this case study, I first argue that law makes planning possible within markets, as the functional power of market processes can be strategically deployed for the achievement of politically set objectives. Acknowledging the deliberate and artificial character of markets raises the question of what we want markets for, broadening the scope of the political possibilities enclosed in them. I, then, proceed to challenge the enduring argument of the epistemic deficit of central planners, which morphs into prescriptions of decentralisation. I show that arguments against legal centralism and planning cannot stand on just epistemological grounds and are inevitably political. Finally, I attempt to outline the limits of planning within markets - and thus, to a certain extent, the limits of the constitutive function of law - for broader projects of social transformation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Law Open
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Green Deal
  • New Energy Vehicles
  • industrial policy
  • market
  • planning
  • sustainability capitalism


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