Regulation without actors?

Dr. Bettina Lange contributed to an international academic seminar series about Niklas Luhmann’s perspectives on law, held at the Faculty of Law, University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil. The seminar series brought together researchers from Brazil, the UK, Germany, Luxembourg, Canada and China.

Bettina presented a paper on the 19th of September 2019 that addresses the question whether we can understand regulation through law without reference to individual and aggregate regulatory actors doing the regulating. The paper argues that Niklas Luhmann’s abstract theory that explores the dynamics of entire social systems, does lack a traditional conception of individual regulatory agency, but can be harnessed in order to develop a sociological conception of ‘interests’. As a middle-range theoretical concept this can also guide empirical research about regulatory law. A Luhmannian sociological conception of ‘interests’ can open up fruitful lines of inquiry also in light of the fact that regulation scholarship has been mainly informed by economic and political conceptions of interest.

Bettina presented a second paper in the USP seminar series on the 18th of Sept. 2019 on ‘law and science’. That paper explores the role of environmental science knowledges in regulatory decision-making about water resources in the UK. The paper discusses empirical research findings about how environmental science knowledges contribute to the constitution of the meaning of regulatory rules. It places these findings in the context of wider conflicting discourses of ‘certainty’ and ‘uncertainty’ about the state of the natural and social world, amidst increasing scepticism about the role of ‘experts’ in settling contemporary governance challenges.