Law and Critique

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 107–128 | Cite as

Making Use of Paradoxes: Law, Transboundary Hydropower Dams and Beyond the Technical

  • Kenneth Kang


Law’s regulation of transboundary hydropower dams is a field of study brimming with paradoxes. The most notable being the paradox of a hydropower dam solving one problem and creating another. From a logical perspective, such a paradox would typically be viewed as an obstacle to be avoided because it brings everything to a standstill. But from a social perspective, paradoxes are not necessarily negative, as managing them also potentially enlightens and transforms planning systems. The latter perspective, which brings to analysis a kind of dynamism, is employed in this text. In order to work out the reoccurring patterns under which law might productively make use of paradoxes, this text therefore proposes the methodological tools of exposing and building upon paradoxes. Exposing paradoxes sets out to make more visible some of the unthought limitations, self-deceptions and self-contradictions which arise in modern planning practices, while building upon paradoxes attempts to open up headways towards a more adequate conceptualisation of the solutions which law can offer. The overall intention here being to offer a Luhmannian-inspired theoretical framework which illuminates the value of social systems theory as a methodological tool for describing the communicative challenges facing law’s regulation of transboundary hydropower power dams.


Hydropower dams Law Niklas Luhmann Paradoxes Planning systems Social systems theory 



I would like to thank David Devlaeminck and the two anonymous peer reviewers for their detailed and insightful comments made on previous drafts of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.China International Water Law Research GroupSchool of Law, Xiamen UniversityXiamenChina

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