On the Undecidability of Legal and Technological Regulation

Journal article

Kalule, P. (2019). On the Undecidability of Legal and Technological Regulation. Law and Critique. 30, pp. 137-158.
AuthorsKalule, P.

Generally, regulation is thought of as a constant that carries with it both a formative and conservative power, a power that standardises, demarcates and forms an order, through procedures, rules and precedents. It is dominantly thought that the singularity and formalisation of structures like rules is what enables regulation to achieve its aim of identifying, apprehending, sanctioning and forestalling/pre-empting threats and crime or harm. From this point of view, regulation serves to firmly establish fixed and stable categories of what norms, customs, morals and behaviours are applicable to a particular territory, society or community in a given time. These fixed categories are then transmitted onto individuals by convention, ritual and enforcement through imperatives of law (and technology) that mark certain behaviours as permissible and others as forbidden, off bounds. In this manner, regulation serves a programming (i.e., a calculable or determinable) purpose. It functions as a pro-active management or as a mastery of threats, risks, crimes and harms that affect a society and its security both in the future and in the present. Regulation for instance, will inscribe and codify what it determines to constitute crime or harm such as pornography, incitement of terrorism, extremist speech, racial hatred etc. These determined or calculated/calculable categories will then be enforced and regulated (e.g. through automated filtering) in order to ensure a preservation of public order within society. Drawing mainly from deconstruction, this article situates law and technologies within a wider ecological process of texts, speech and writing i.e., communication. In placing regulation within disseminatory and iterable processes of communication, this article complicates, destabilises and critiques the dominant position of determinability and calculability within the regulatory operations of law.

JournalLaw and Critique
Journal citation30, pp. 137-158
Web address (URL)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10978-019-09240-z
Publication dates
Print13 Apr 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited02 Aug 2022
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Permalink -


Download files

Publisher's version
License: CC BY 4.0
File access level: Open

  • 1
    total views
  • 1
    total downloads
  • 1
    views this month
  • 1
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

Abolitionary Listening: Propositions & Questions
Kalule, P., Kanngieser AM and Arthur CC (2021). Abolitionary Listening: Propositions & Questions.
The Hidden labour in AI Capitalism
Kalule, P. and Kanngieser, AM (2020). The Hidden labour in AI Capitalism . Berlin 07 - 28 Nov 2020
Unforming Police: The Impossibility of abolition
Kalule, P. and Trafford, J (2020). Unforming Police: The Impossibility of abolition. Critical Legal Thinking .