The persistence of the public/private divide in environmental regulation

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New modes of environmental regulation are said to have transcended the public/private divide. These new regulatory schemes - referred to as non-coercive orderings, self-regulation, co-regulation, metaregulation and social regulation - set aside the formal nature of the regulating entity, the regulated entity, and the tools of regulation. Instead of asking whether the means, objects and formulators of the regulation are public or private, the focus lies on the substance and effectiveness of the regulation in mitigating environmental harms. In this Article we argue that despite these claims, often advanced by new governance proponents, the public/private divide in in fact alive and well, informing and impacting the ways in which various regulatory schemes are justified and legitimated. We exemplify this argument through an analysis of the role of three entities in international environmental regulation: the state (and its perception as sovereign), local governments, and civil society entities (both NGOs and business corporations). This Article then suggests three consequences of the persistence of the public/private dichotomy and its denial: it produces a "tilt" towards the private; it tends to hide conflicts and disagreements, projecting an image of a frictionless world; and it prevents an imagination of a different world that transcends the structure of social life embedded in it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-228
Number of pages30
JournalTheoretical inquiries in law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


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