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Community withdrawal, intergenerational equity and environmental rights

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  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Law
  • Logic
  • Philosophy


Community and rights are intimately linked with both environmental legal and urban considerations. Perhaps the most significant locus of convergence is the representability of either with regard to the environment. Thus, both legal and ecological community debates centre around the community's ability to speak for the unspeakable, while rights are often seen as one of the vehicles for such representation. This is indeed the beginning of this chapter's debate, whose adequacy for the kind of considerations put forth in this book will, however, be thoroughly disputed. While recording the importance of ecological and humanistic nostalgia towards community, this chapter attempts to construct a notion of community that does not fit in what seemingly is the panacea for our ecological woes. In doing this, the text performs a very explicit withdrawal - indeed, a withdrawal from Luhmann's writings. This is a departure tout court: from Luhmann's preference not to deal with community, as well as from Luhmann's poetics of language. This is not coincidental: it is not possible to talk about the absence of community in autopoiesis, mainly because, to some extent, autopoiesis is predicated on the absence of community. Any observation of community would depart from the Luhmannian focus on the social. Hence, autopoietic terminology will have to be enriched in order to shift its epistemological stare towards these excluded territories, which refer, not to the internalised and domesticated absence of community with which each system deals, but to the kind of community with which the system is to remain unfamiliar. This chapter, therefore, departs from Luhmann's opinions and language, but not, I would like to think, from autopoiesis as such. In fact, the withdrawal is here presented as an operation of autopoiesis in more ways than one. Thus, the withdrawal is itself conceptualised as the location of community. In its departure from nostalgia and its couching in social rather than conscious terms, community - or rather, its absence - becomes autopoietically operationalised. Following the discussion on risk, community is discussed here as another example of the continuum/rupture form, especially in its location on the very movement between outside and inside. At the same time, community develops the form in ways risk does not. Thus, community is connected to the messianic, which, however, does not arrive in the guise of future risk, but as a fractal reiteration of the form in the folds of the present. The connection of community with the environmental concept of inter-generational equity occurs on the basis of a present, transient recursivity, thus semiologising community as absence. This absence is further employed in the domain of environmental rights. The paradoxicality of rights is explored and a locus standi of absence is adumbrated, in resonance of unutterance and withdrawal from collectivity. In search of the location of environmental rights, the discussion returns to autopoiesis with a conceptualisation of community as the circularity of observation on the basis of blind spot. Community is connected to rights, not through the collective, but through the absence of the collective as a representational entity that 'speaks' for nothing except its withdrawal.

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