Get access

Legal Innovation for Social Change: Exploring Change and Resistance to Different Types of Sustainability Laws



In this article I argue that a desirable future direction for political psychology would be to pay more attention to social-psychological processes involved in the response to innovative laws, in particular those devised with sustainability and environmental protection aims. This involves taking into account the following premises: (1) innovation and change are not unitary phenomena; instead there are different types of innovation; (2) legal and policy innovation is a specific type and is highly central in an era when global challenges are increasingly dealt with by global treaties which are then translated into national laws with a call to transform local practices; (3) offering attention to the reception of such innovation involves developing specific conceptual tools; (4) devising a typology of legal innovation is one step in this direction; (5) furthering our comprehension of how people, groups, and institutions receive—i.e., accept, contest—legal innovation for sustainability is important for helping to push forward sustainability goals, which are legislated but far from attained.

The present article outlines theoretical tools for addressing psychosocial processes involved in the reception of legal innovation, drawing mostly on the approach of social representations and the literature of environmental psychology, and offers three criteria for a typology of laws. Finally I present some examples of responses to subtypes of legal innovation from the sustainability domain, taken as an illustrative case, and discuss differences and commonalities in the processes of acceptance and resistance that each mobilizes.