July 14, 2021

Inauguration event: Bringing the topic of property back into sociology

Academics and practitioners exchanged ideas on the topic of property at the inaugural event on July 8 and 9.

By Josefine Rein, Research Assistant in the field of Equal Opportunities at the Collaborative Research Center  

"I'd rather burn my property than share it with someone!". This was the response Sabine Nuss, author of the 2019 book „Keine Enteignung ist auch keine Lösung“ ("No expropriation is no solution either"), received to her call for more expropriation on Twitter. This statement is emblematic of the normalization and ideological valorization of private property in contemporary society, the author explained at the opening event of the Collaborative Research Center on July 8 and 9 in Jena.  

Also Tilman Reitz, deputy speaker of the Collaborative Research Center, explains in the opening talk of the inaugural event that the topic of property, after the original broad examination by social scientists such as Karl Marx, has increasingly moved into the background of research in the course of the solidification of property relations and their normalization. The Collaborative Research Center "Structural Change of Property" launched this year is now putting the topic of property back on the agenda of the German social sciences. "The goal is to bring issues such as the concept of property, which society has long forgotten, out of oblivion," said moderator Elisabeth von Thadden.  

A particular focus on the second day of the event was on how property research can learn from social movements' practices to rethink property. Joanna Kusiak of the Berlin-based initiative "Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen" explained in a conversation with Markus Kip, a member of the SFB, that the initiative's demand for expropriation challenges the paradigm of existing property relations in a very practical way. The current crisis in the housing market shows that tenancy law reforms will not be enough: "You have to get to the root of the problem and change the property system." The initiative sees the communalization of real estate as a fairer alternative to private ownership. Practical impulses of this kind should be taken up by the SFB's research, the scientists and activists said in the final discussion on Friday evening. "Science sees what has happened in the past. But social and political practice shows us what is happening right now and also what can happen. This hope should also be brought to science," Kusiak added.