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Law's Regulatory Relevance?

Property, Power and Market Economies

Mark Findlay

Law’s Regulatory Relevance? theorises how the law should reposition itself in order to help rather than hinder new pathways of market power, by confronting the dominant neo-liberal economic model that values property through scarcity. With in-depth analysis of empirical case studies, the author explores how law is returning to its communal utility in strengthening social ties, which will in turn restore property as social relations rather than market commodities. In a world of contested narratives about property, valuing law needs to ground its inherent regulatory relevance in the ordering of social change.
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Chapter 3: Liberating property

Property, Power and Market Economies

Mark Findlay


This chapter articulates the view that property is a social relationship with a contesting collective conscience bonding internet communities determined for freer avenues of access to property otherwise commodified and sold. This social relationship with property as information access, rather than as a thing for rent or sale, radically erodes the boundaries of exclusion that commodity exchange markets demand, protected as they are by private law through rights created and enforced by legal agency.

Using the case study of Bikram’s yoga monopolist empire, we show how yoga (once a deep and inter-dependent social relationship) became commodified and priced via neo-liberal market frames of exclusion in large part courtesy of the strategic use of intellectual property law, or its threatened punitive dimensions. This facility of law and legal agency enabled Bikram to claim the various classical yoga poses and their sequencing as his legally endorsed private property, his private cash cow. However, as the case study will illustrate, the collective conscience (that gained momentum from networks forged across the internet) has facilitated access at little or no cost. Notwithstanding Bikram’s legal battles that once commanded compliance from his competitors and undermined any sense of competition in the market, the waves of contesting collective conscience have washed over law’s limited endeavours to enforce ubiquitous property rights.

Confronted by the counter-narrative of freer access now made possible through a vast virtual communication frame, law as a market regulator has reached a turning point. In our...

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