What is the N-EXTLAW Project?

The current extractive economic model:

The current economic model has enormous destructive impacts on both the environment and society. It is extractive – damaging the social and environmental resources it relies on (such as workers, communities, natural resources, and the environment). This has created social problems and environmental issues such as ever-greater inequality and the ongoing climate crisis.

This extractive economic model is sustained through private law structures, such as contracts between organisations, or rules that decide who has property rights over a certain resource or asset. Currently, these private law structures are set in a way that systematically promotes economic growth over sustainability.

To be able to address the resulting social and environmental issues, we need a radical shift in our ways of living and producing. This requires a rethinking of the foundational premises of the (private) law system enabling our extractive economic model in its current form.

What is N-EXTLAW?

N-EXTLAW is an ERC-funded research project hosted by the Amsterdam Centre for Transformative Private Law. The team consists of 4 researchers and 5 student researchers.

N-EXTLAW wants to identify how we can rethink (private) law so that it can help realise a non-extractive, sustainable economy. To do this, we are using existing non-extractive economic practices as a starting point.

Non-extractive economic practices (what we call N-EXTs) are organised economic activities which generate rather than destroy the social and environmental resources they rely on. N-EXTs aspire to contribute towards communities, society, and the environment, rather than extracting and taking away from them.

We want to explore how N-EXTs can be sustained and further mainstreamed through law – how they can become the standard economic practice. To do this we want to identify actors who are currently practicing N-EXTs and work together with them towards a more sustainable future.

To compare the ways non-extractive principles can be supported by different legal systems, we are researching N-EXTs in several countries. In 2021 we started our research in the Netherlands and from 2022 onwards we will continue researching in Norway, Italy, and Croatia.

What is the mission of the N-EXTLAW Project?

The ultimate goal of N-EXTLAW is to advance the thinking on how to achieve a non-extractive, sustainable economic model. Our mission is to understand how we can rethink our private law framework to support a non-extractive future.

We believe that by mainstreaming these sustainable economic practices, making them a ‘new normal’, we can also normalise the values underlying them in society. For this purpose, it is crucial to understand how law can support the proliferation of N-EXTs and therefore make socio-ecological transformation a more credible and achievable prospect. In this way, law provides actions with meaning and can be used as a vehicle for social change.

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