Property, and in particular private property, is an essential feature of modern societies. The institution of private property shapes today’s society, economy, and culture. From a liberal perspective, private property is perceived as guaranteeing individual freedom and economic prosperity, while according to critical approaches, private property also contributes to social inequalities and diffusion of responsibility. However, the ongoing commodification of commons and public goods as well as new dynamics in the knowledge and bioeconomy (e.g. the open access to digital goods) have repeatedly led to conflicts over (private) property. Whether it is over the privatization of public housing, the appropriation and commercial use of personal data, or the unequal distribution of wealth, various conflicts are waged today that characterize modern societies. Property orders with both formal and informal elements such like codified law, but also customs, traditions or cultural values are important frames for understanding conflicts over property. In this context, diverging social logics and dynamics emerge especially when property conflicts are publicly and politically debated: For example, in recent conflicts, different social actors have contested the distribution of rents (“Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co” campaign in Berlin), the role of strategic infrastructure (debate over Chinese investment in European port infrastructure) or the damages caused by climate change (lawsuits against the German transnational energy company RWE). In other contexts, property conflicts are not articulated as political conflicts and remain concealed such as in the case of gendered wealth inequality or issues around generativity.
The planned conference will explore how conflicts over property develop by analyzing property orders, central social actors, claims, and dynamics. It aims to bring together scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds and countries to evaluate the current state of conflicts over property. The conference is organized by the Collaborative Research Center 294 “Structural Change of Property” at the University of Erfurt and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and is funded by the German Research Foundation.