Project Area A Historical and conceptual foundations
What is, and what was property?

Brief description Project Area A

In order to analyse the structural changes which we have described, a careful, historically informed treatment of current political, economic and culturally influential conceptions and institutions of property will be indispensable. The embedding of the work of the SFB in its historical context helps to uncover (relatively) persistent patterns of ownership and its embeddedness, and helps the development of a sensitivity to different path-dependencies and the limits of change. The following questions are of particular importance: What does ‘property’ mean in the context of economics, law, political theory, philosophy or in relation to other areas such as religion? Is there a common core that can be uncovered within all conceptions and interpretations of property, or is there significant variation between different disciplinary and societal contexts?

Which basic forms and patterns of property have developed or been suppressed within Western traditions, and what has driven this development? Where have systems of property replaced alternative forms of social order, and where do earlier patterns (such as patriarchal/feudal models or systems of serfdom) continue to operate in modern property-based societies? In particular, what role does the promise of guaranteed-freedom through private property play? Which institutional and social anchorings of property within family and inheritance structures, political and social power structures, cultural traditions and customs have proven to be particularly enduring and lasting, and which have become less important?