Research Handbook on Critical Legal Theory
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Research Handbook on Critical Legal Theory

Edited by Emilios Christodoulidis, Ruth Dukes and Marco Goldoni

Critical theory, characteristically linked with the politics of theoretical engagement, covers the manifold of the connections between theory and praxis. This thought-provoking Research Handbook captures the broad range of those connections as far as legal thought is concerned and retains an emphasis both on the politics of theory, and on the notion of theoretical engagement. The first part examines the question of definition and tracks the origins and development of critical legal theory along its European and North American trajectories. The second part looks at the thematic connections between the development of legal theory and other currents of critical thought such as; Feminism, Marxism, Critical Race Theory, varieties of post-modernism, as well as the various ‘turns’ (ethical, aesthetic, political) of critical legal theory. The third and final part explores particular fields of law, addressing the question how the field has been shaped by critical legal theory, or what critical approaches reveal about the field, with the clear focus on opportunities for social transformation.
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Chapter 15: Property law

Paddy Ireland


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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