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Dr Paul Anderson

doctoral thesis/monograph


This work examines prospects of arresting global environmental change, specifically, of making economic practice sustainable, by reforming the nature of the international regulation of domestic economic practice. It analyses the conditions necessary for the possibility of effective international regulation and evaluates two leading theoretical positions - neoclassical economics and rival justice-based approaches- in terms of their capacity to meet these conditions. It argues (i) that prescriptions arising from neoclassical economic theory are at best unlikely so to do and (ii) given the implication of the prevailing capitalist form of organising economic practice in natural resource overuse, that prescriptions which reflect common, decentralised, deliberative democratic control of key resources may meet these conditions and therefore offer a plausible basis for the reform of substantive international environmental law.


The achievement of a sustainable human culture requires the reform of economic practices in light of their role in global environmental change. The success of reform depends upon successfully meeting three immediate challenges. The first is to identify features of economic practices that must change if sustainable outcomes are to occur. The second is to effect that change sufficiently quickly. The third is to justify, and to elicit sufficient motivation for, the first two tasks.

This work identifies and responds to shortcomings in contemporary efforts to meet the first of these three challenges. Shortcomings are twofold. The first concerns how best to explain the ineffectiveness of the current international regulation of domestic economic practice, specifically, of international environmental law (IEL). The second concerns how best to reform that regulation in order to arrest global environmental change

This work helps to overcome these shortcomings by addressing the question as to which conditions are necessary for the possibility of effective IEL. It addresses the question, to put it another way, of what would count as an effective response in the first place. The question is addressed in two ways. The first is to analyse contending meanings of the criterion of effectiveness and the conditions necessary for the possibility of effective IEL. The second is to evaluate two leading theoretical positions in terms of their capacity to meet these conditions, and thereby to serve as a basis of effective IEL.

Having identified analytic elements required for the possibility of achieving international sustainability (including collective resource use contraction and re-allocation), evaluation of two proposals to render economic practice sustainable suggests that

Taken together, this work's analytic and evaluative findings make a significant contribution to discussions on the epistemological conditions of an adequate approach to global sustainability. They open up a possible direction that ought to be taken by theoretical and practical efforts which take seriously the question of how to make human society sustainable.


Contribution is made to contemporary discussions in the social and political sciences, economics, law and public policy on global dimensions of human (un)sustainability. Contributions are analytical and evaluative in nature. Contributions of an analytic nature are characterised by providing greater coherence to arguments in a fragmented literature that is hallmarked at times by partiality and inaccuracy in:

Added coherence derives from an analysis of elements necessarily implied in the possibility of achieving global sustainability. This analysis improves definitions of the terms by which differences in views, first, over reasons for the apparent failure of international regulation, second, on the causes of global environmental change and, third, on the corresponding reform of international regulation in order to arrest global environmental change, may be understood

Contributions of an evaluative nature are characterised by a refinement of assessments of institutional conditions for sustainable economic practice. Refinement is made in respect to current limitations in:

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