Absent Environments

Theorising Environmental Law and the City

By Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos

© 2010 – Routledge-Cavendish

260 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415574433
pub: 2009-12-21
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9781844721542
pub: 2007-06-28
US Dollars$160.00

About the Book

Offering a novel, transdisciplinary approach to environmental law, its principles, mechanics and context, as tested in its application to the urban environment, this book traces the conceptual and material absence of communication between the human and the natural and controversially includes such an absence within a system of law and a system of geography which effectively remain closed to environmental considerations.

The book looks at Niklas Luhmann's theory of autopoiesis. Introducing the key concepts and operations, contextualizing them and opening them up to critical analysis. Indeed, in contrast to most discussions on autopoiesis, it proposes a radically different reading of the theory, in line with critical legal, political, sociological, urban and ecological theories, while drawing from writings by Husserl and Derrida, as well as Latour, Blanchot, Haraway, Agamben and Nancy.

It explores a range of topics in the areas of environmental law and urban geography, including:

  • environmental risk, environmental rights, the precautionary principle, intergenerational equity and urban waste
  • discourses on community, nature, science and identity.

The author redefines the traditional foundations of environmental law and urban geography and suggests a radical way of dealing with scientific ignorance, cultural differences and environmental degradation within the perceived need for legal delivery of certainty.


Without being legalistic (surely praise indeed for a work such as this), this book is a highly analytical, novel, poetic and multi-layered work about law, environment and ecology, as well as systems theory, and is enticing from its opening, which is entitled ‘Closing’. It is a clever book (though not self consciously so) and provides a deep, stimulating and rewarding read, albeit one requiring some perseverance. A final point is that it caters for and deserves a readership from a range of disciplines as well as levels of expertise. - Jane Holder, Journal of Environmental Law, Vol 20, No 3 (2008)

Table of Contents

1. The Law: Closure and Environmental Law 2. The City: Utopia, Society and Reality 3. Links: Observation, Simulation, Essence 4. Risk: Future, Science and the Precautionary Principle 5. Boundary Selections: Community and Environmental Rights 6. Waste: Openness, Memory and Forgetting

About the Author

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, LLB, LLM, PhD is a Reader in Law, University of Westminster.

About the Series

Law, Science and Society

Traditionally, the role of law has been to implement political decisions concerning the relationship between science and society. Increasingly, however, as our understanding of the complex dynamic between law, science and society deepens, this instrumental characterisation is seen to be inadequate, but as yet we have only a limited conception of what might take its place. In short, there is a need for new research and scholarship, and it is to that need that this series responds.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Environmental
LAW / International