Edited by Emilios Christodoulidis, Ruth Dukes and Marco Goldoni
Chapter 15: Property law
This chapter uses the continuing appeal of Blackstone’s conception of property as thing-ownership (‘sole and despotic dominion . . . over the external things of the world’) as a jumping off point for a critical and historically and contextually informed exploration of the nature of property and property rights in contemporary capitalism. It argues that history reveals the public, contested and contingent nature of property and property rights, and their lack of an essence which transcends temporal and spatial specificities. History also reveals them to be important sources of power and sites of class struggle, particularly when productive resources are at stake. The simple thing-ownership conception tends to underplay and conceal these social–relational dimensions of property. Developing a proper understanding of property requires us to recognise that there are important senses in which in contemporary capitalism it is simultaneously a thing, a bundle of rights and a social relation.
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