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Transforming Economic Structures: Ownership and Governance

ACT Research lines

Ownership is both a foundational category of private law and a legally induced medium of power that plays out at the local, national, and international level. Through ownership, law confers power but also responsibilities and duties. Yet, legal scholarship all too often takes concepts of ownership as a timeless and pre-political given and leaves little room for alternative conceptualizations. Governance studies, on the other hand, are often limited to a micro-level analysis of optimizing the governance structure of a given organization (and carry a strong inclination towards efficiency), rather than connecting micro-level modes of governance to society-wide effects, e.g. regarding sustainable use of resources, and a fair allocation of capital and power.

At ACT, we question claims that the concept of ownership is rooted in a ‘natural order’ and take the political choice underlying every allocation of ownership as a starting point. We aim to better understand the theoretical foundations of ownership, property law, and governance, and explore how current national, international, and supranational property law systems and governance structures influence society. We focus on the connections between ownership and governance, and ask how ownership can translate into, and bring about, different governance regimes in various spheres of society, including housing, the corporate world, or the access to essential resources. In this context, we are also interested in emerging and alternative types of property and corporate ownership that display the variety of existing legal institutionalizations, as illustrated e.g. by the discussion around commons or non-extractive organizations.