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Law as Vehicle for Social Change: Mainstreaming Non-Extractive Economic Practices

Project description

Law in support of non-extractive economic practices

The spectacular growth of the global economy today is associated with some collateral consequences such as the rise of inequality, the increase of climate migrants and refugees as well as significant damages to the environment. As a result, new economic and social proposals inspired by non-extractive economic practices have emerged, such as the circular economy and restriction of growth in favour of sustainable development. However, existing economic systems, purchasing behaviour and legal frames as well as political rhetoric treat such proposals as impracticable and utopic. The EU-funded N-EXTLAW project proposes a study that aims to show how private law can make such radical proposals politically trustworthy, providing policy ideas and legal instruments that will make non-extractive economic practices appealing and realistic.


The current economic model is overdue for revision. The relentless focus on economic growth is ravaging the environment, and the concomitant social problems have either already reached glaring levels (rocketing global inequality) or seem poised to do so (climate displaced persons). A number of radical proposals, such as prosperity without growth, circular economy, or doughnut economics, have been proposed to chart a trajectory towards socio-ecological transformation, arguing that a profound change in our ways of living and modes of production is necessary in order to respond to the threats we face. Yet such proposals, however commendable, have gained only modest political traction, insofar as they seem unthinkable from the vantage point of our current economic system, consumption patterns, political discourse and legal institutions.
This project will show how law can contribute to making such transformative projects politically credible. More specifically, it will demonstrate how law, and private law in particular, can be used to nurture those existing economic practices that already build on the environmental and social aspirations embodied by such projects. The two main objectives are, first, to offer a set of legal tools and policy proposals that would make the adoption of environmentally and socially non-extractive economic practices, such as social cooperatives or solidary financial institutions, more attractive for people to implement. Second, N-EXTLAW theorizes how law can turn seemingly utopian projects for socio-ecological transformation into a realistic legal-political project. By refashioning the concrete socio-legal arrangements for pursuing non-extractive economic practices as well as re-shaping the values on which economic decision-making draws, law can make non-extractive economic practices more present in everyday action, and thereby uphold those cultural frames that affirm the sense that socio-ecological transformation is within our reach.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 498 733,00
1012WX Amsterdam

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West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 498 733,00

Beneficiaries (1)