Journal Article

A new double movement? Anthropological perspectives on property in the age of neoliberalism

Chris Hann

in Socio-Economic Review

Volume 5, issue 2, pages 287-318
Published in print April 2007 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online February 2007 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwl027
A new double movement? Anthropological perspectives on property in the age of neoliberalism

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This review article shows that, both empirically and theoretically, socio-cultural anthropologists have much to contribute to interdisciplinary debates concerning property. The longest section presents results from recent investigations of decollectivization in the rural sectors of former socialist states. The generally disappointing outcomes of privatization can always be explained away in terms of ‘institutional’ shortcomings, but the real challenge is to devise more flexible property rules to deal with diverse goods and local environments. The rest of the paper notes some of the most salient anthropological contributions in a range of other fields, including intellectual property and ‘culture’. While some scholars reject the concept of property in non-Western contexts, recent work in legal anthropology has laid out a rigorous definition that facilitates comparative analysis and exposes the limitations of the currently dominant economistic approaches. ‘Propertization’ is continuously establishing new ‘fictitious commodities’, but it is argued here that some critics of neoliberalism exaggerate the nightmare of its property logic and overlook the countertendencies. In this respect the emerging debates over property recall earlier discussions over the emergence two centuries ago of an allegedly ‘disembedded’ market economy.

Keywords: culture; economic change; neo-liberalism; property rights; K11 property law; P5 comparative analysis of economic systems; Z13 social norms and social capital

Journal Article.  12641 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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