Property rights necessarily generate violent, and oftentimes lethal, processes of dispossession. While liberal theorists from Locke to Hayek consider property rights an essential and emancipatory component of human freedom, they fail to consider societal power asymmetries impeding the ability of property rights to protect interests of the weak and marginalised. If property rights produce freedom and prosperity, they do so very selectively. More obvious is the ongoing historical process of already propertied classes making ‘clever usurpation into an irrevocable right’ by extending private property regimes along two key dimensions – type and space. Examining various uses of private property over time reveals processes whereby relatively basic notions of private property, enforced by a Weberian state at the local level in the early era of industrialisation, are extended to encompass new and sophisticated forms of property that are enforced globally via international institutions. Two contemporary empirical cases of using property rights are examined in this article: land reform in Southern Africa (specifically Zimbabwe) and intellectual property rights. In this context of ongoing dispossession, further privatisation and commodification can only exacerbate contemporary problems of marginalisation and dispossession.
- private property,
- intellectual property rights,
- land reform,
- South Africa,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/stefan_andreasson/1/