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Alternative Property Practices 3rd – 4th April 2014

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INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR THE SOCIOLOGY OF LAW INSTITUT INTERNATIONAL DE SOCIOLOGIE JURIDIQUE

 

Apdo. 28 ‐ 20560 OÑATI

Gipuzkoa – Euskadi España / Europa

 

WORKSHOP ON:

Alternative Property Practices

Coordinators: Anne Bottomley (Kent Law School)

Nathan Moore (Birbeck ‐ London)

Tara Mulqueen (Birbeck ‐ London)

3 – 4 April 2014

Topic and themes

The western conceptualisation of property remains tied to the image of land; reinforcing, we suggest, a range of assumptions that are fast becoming questionable, if not irrelevant. Thus, the idea of property continues to be linked, as if by definition, to issues of scarcity, sovereignty, and tangibility. The trope of ‘private property’, expressed in narratives which privilege exclusive ‘ownership’ as central to our understanding of what property is, as a system for assigning and distributing value, remains firmly ‘in place’. The development of digital goods and services reminds us that, in fact, none of these presumptions can be taken fore‐granted: indeed these developments serve to reveal that the apparently necessary (seemingly natural) foundations of property in the land‐image are, necessarily, fabricated. However, we should not mistake digital property as being essentially new in this regard: older developments, concerned not only with copyright and intellectual property, but also with community based activities, such as co‐operatives and mutuals, have long contested the land‐image of property and all it is presumed to carry. This seminar will explore what property can and might be, once the land‐image has been dispensed with as the ‘proper’ (only) grounding for ‘thinking’ (conceptualising) property. In doing so, it challenges ‘property theory’ by beginning with two sets of practices which we have associated with ‘alternative property practices’ ‐ using them to explore the fabrication of property relations through the framing of ‘practices’, rather than the attribution of conceptual framings located in and through the land‐image of property relations. Bringing together scholars experienced in the practices of alternative properties, along with theoretical researchers who draw on resources outside of the orthodox property theory framework, will allow us to examine the evidence that we need another approach for property thinking, as well as to explore the methods and concepts which may help us in developing an alternative approach: one which directly engages with, recognises and uses, the implications of ‘alternative property practices’. Specifically, it includes papers from scholars and activists who have well‐established histories in community based practices, including the co‐operative movement, forms of mutualisation, community benefit companies, and social enterprises. The value of this work to the debate is that these initiatives have had to struggle, directly, with a lack of legal forms appropriate to property practices which go well beyond the image of an individual owner having property in a specific thing. It becomes apparent, through exploring this field of activism, that property is not merely generated by communities assigning value; but that community, value, and property come together in complex, and often contingent sets, assemblages, in which what is paramount is not a concern with an individual (or group of individuals) benefiting from their property, but that rather property holding is simply a necessary ancillary to a broader social aim or set of values. The narrowness of orthodox ideas of property are made quickly apparent as soon as the land‐image of discrete owner/discrete thing is challenged, indeed, dispensed with. This is reinforced when we track a similar pattern taken by intellectual property scholarship, who have found that the traditional concepts of ownership are ill‐suited not merely to intangible goods, but, even more obviously, to digital goods whose coding and reproducibility render the ‘scarcity’ justifications so central to orthodox property thinking completely irrelevant. The seminar will include, in this regard, presentations from those who have seen ‘property’ shift from ownership of a limited resource, to a question of access to an unlimited resource. As such, the seminar will examine not only the extent to which traditional ideas about property (which we have identified with the land‐image) can be adapted to become applicable to such intangible resources, but what can happen when we meet a limit in adaptability. Interestingly, it has been in questions over certain forms of/for intellectual property that issues of alternative property forms and social justice have become very sharply visible in the academy, rather than in the ‘rather older’ field of co‐operatives and analogous community initiatives, which have received very little recognition as being of scholarly interest and thereby of potential use for/in exploring issues of property relations and social justice. Recent interest in, and work on, commons, in both physical/material and digital/virtual dimensions, is vibrant and will be addressed, but we intend to go beyond the obvious ‘modelling’ of commons, in exploring how the strategic use of that model is facilitative in thinking property and value. Studies of alterative housing practices in Denmark, for example, alongside studies concerned with global positioning technologies, radically undermine many of our presumptive ideas about land, and what it means for us ‘to be on the land’. Such research points to the fabrication of not only our relations with each other, but also the constructability of our sense of place, belonging, and community. New ways to conceptualise values and responsibility thereby become apparent, even if, in some cases, only fleetingly. In particular, we wish to consider how the processes of ‘property‐ing’ ‐ that is, the forging of the values and relationships which underpin property ‐ are potential resources in their own right, and how this might enable both more creative and open communities, as well as providing new resources to be exploited and capitalised. In this sense, the seminar will also discuss how the coding of property is, in itself, also a potential property. Our proposal enables scholars from disparate fields (including law, copyright, economics, anthropology, and geography etc) to come together to explore shared concerns, and the potential in developing shared perspectives (methods, ideas and materials) to forge links productive of a broader, and more nuanced, understanding of property. It is unusual in that, in bringing together scholars and activists working in co‐operatives and alternative socio‐economic business models, with scholars working in intellectual property and digital media, it allows for an exploration of how both challenge the land‐image of property, and how both, in relation to each other, offer alternative ways to explore and think property relations, not merely in relation to each set of practices, but for property thinking in general. This seminar considers whether the time has come to cease placing ‘ownership’, especially as a concept, as central to, and necessary for, thinking and practicing ‘property relations’. Equally, it challenges the presumption of the centrality of the private property trope to, and for, thinking ‘property relations’. In the modern mix of complexity and diversity, a range of property practices evidence other potentials, and struggles towards new and emergent forms. This raises new potential for social justice concerns. The practices and ideas of ‘participation’ and ‘access’, for instance, seem, now, very relevant when considering both what property is, and how it can be utilised. Issues of control and exclusion, which characterised the ownership of land, have begun to give way to a more amorphous and modulatory image of ‘ownership’ ‐ one that can be seen as much more conditional, temporary, limited, and tailored than the traditional accounts of property holding. It is this more fluid account which this seminar seeks to explore, and, one might even suggest, ‘exploit’, in a concern to re‐activate property thinking (theory) through an engagement with the idea and evidence of ‘alternative property practices’.

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Speakers Confirmed for 13th October 2012

Speakers:  Rita Rhodes 

Doctor of Philosophy
Subject of thesis: The Internatioonal Co-operative Alliance during War and Peace 1910-1950

Books: The International Co-operative Alliance during War and Peace 1910-1950
published by the International Co-operative Alliance, Geneva, 1995

Thematic Guide to ICA Congresses 1895-1995
published by the International Co-operative, Geneva, 1996

Co-author An Arsenal for Labour – Politics and the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society 1896-1996 published by Holyoake Books, Manchester, 1998

Forthcoming book: Empire and Co-operation
to be published by John Donald (Birlinn) Edinburgh, October 2012

Rita is currently a Visiting Research Fellow in the Co-operative Research Unit of the Open University
and a Fellow of the Plunkett Foundation

Positions held in Co-operative Education and Training:

Sectional Education Officer, Co-operative Union, Scotland
Education Liaison Officer, National Co-operative Development Agency
Education Officer and Secretary of ICA Women’s Comminttee, International Co-operative Alliance
Lecturer in Co-operative Studies, University of Ulster

 

Speaker: Ian Snaith

Ian Snaith holds degrees from the Universities of Keele and Manchester. In 2009, he retired from his position as Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Leicester. He now operates as a freelance teacher, researcher and writer on legal and policy issues, with particular reference to co-operatives and mutuals. He is a consultant solicitor with Cobbetts LLP and regularly advises the UK Co-operative and Credit Union Movements.

Ian has published extensively on legal aspects of co-operatives and credit unions and has served on HM Treasury Working Groups on the reform of Co-operative and Credit Union Law. He also served on the European Commission’s Experts Group on Co-operative Law and is an adjudicator on the use of the .coop domain name for the World Intellectual Property Organisation. He was a member of Co-operative UK’s 1992 and 2002 Corporate Governance Working Parties and advised to the Co-operative Commission of 2000-2001.

Ian was actively involved in the development, drafting, and passage through the UK Parliament of the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 2002 and the Co-operatives and Community Benefits Societies Acts 2003 and 2010. In 2009-2010 he was the UK national expert and a member of the Scientific Committee in the preparation of a report for the European Commission “Study on the implementation of the Regulation 1435/2003 on the Statute for a European Cooperative Society (SCE)” available at

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sme/files/sce_final_study_part_i.pdf

http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/policies/sme/files/sce_final_study_part_ii_national_reports.pdf

He is currently a trustee of the Co-operative Heritage Trust :
http://www.co-op.ac.uk/our-heritage/national-co-operative-archive/support/co-operative-heritage-fund/
and a member of the Study Group on European Co-operative Law:

http://euricse.eu/en/node/1960
through which he collaborates on the PECOL Project:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2005019 .
And blogs at: snaithsco-oplawnews.blogspot.co.uk .


Welcome to R-CoMuse

R-CoMuse is a network of scholars and activists interested in developing research into all forms of social enterprise inspired by a concern with community and social development. Although physically based in the UK, we are an international network committed to forging links across national borders and academic disciplines, and between scholars and activists.
The R-CoMuse network developed out of a series of exchanges between a group of academics (some of whom are actively engaged in a variety of co-operative enterprises) which has now morphed into an extended cross-disciplinary and international dialogue. We share a belief that academic work should ‘make a difference’, and we are all, to different degrees, attracted by the potential in co-operative and social enterprises for ‘thinking differently’ in a world which has, for so long, been constructed around the values of individualism, the market economy and private property. But we are also, as academics as well as political and social actors, aware of the extent to which ‘thinking differently’ and developing (what we have come to think of) as ‘alternative property practices’ is difficult, and we are committed to exploring these difficulties in order to build, through practices of evaluation and processes of embedding, the potential for ‘difference’ in ‘social’ enterprises.

 

Calling ourselves R-CoMuse (with thanks to Melissa Demian for the name!) encapsulates our work – we are concerned with ‘research’ and developing research methods which enable us to track and evaluate the values and practices which inform the wide range of specific organisational forms which, increasingly, have been brought together under the general rubric of ‘social enterprise’. (Putting a ‘capital’ on the ‘M’ but not on the ‘s’ is simply because we liked the way in which ‘Muse’ then appeared in our title!)
R-CoMuse allows us to link together – as a forum for exchanging, sharing and developing information, ideas and approaches, and as a means through which we can find and develop work on which we can co-operate.
We have been helped by the award of a British Academy grant which enabled us to mount seminars in Kent and London (2011/12) which brought us together to exchange ideas, and out of which we developed plans for the on-going R-CoMuse forum to enable further work and to extend the network. The decision to begin this blog as a means through which to reach out to others who might be interested in our work, or in joining our network, was an obvious ‘next move’. We would like, again, to thank the British Academy for their support.
One function of the blog, at this point, is to enable us to present something of what we accomplished during those 2011/12 meetings. You will find in our archive the programmes of those meetings, and we shall shortly be adding material which came from those seminars in the form of notes, references and slides.
For those of you in the UK (or able to travel to the UK), we shall also be posting our future meetings, giving contact details if you are interested in attending, and also putting out calls of invitations to contribute to days dedicated to particular themes or activities. We will post when a number of us will be presenting at international conferences and will be convening a gathering of R-CoMuse scholars and activists during or alongside these meetings, and also we will post if any of us are visiting countries in which we would welcome contacts with scholars and activists (we particularly welcome the chance to visit sites and find out about what is being accomplished locally).
Would you like to join our network?
At present our contact list is limited to those who attended the 2011/12 seminars and is not published. We email those on the list to plan future events and activities, and to discuss such issues as applying for funding to extend our work. If you would like to be added to this contact list, please email c.archer@kent.ac.uk
In the near future, people on the list will be asked whether they are happy to have their names and email addresses made accessible to other network members through a link on this page. We will then be asking for some (very brief) details about work, areas of interest etc., in order to facilitate contacts between us.
Would you like to contribute to the blog?
Either by writing something of what you do, information about projects or events which you would like publicised etc., if so, please send any material to c.archer@kent.ac.uk.
Our policy…
Is to operate as far as is possible an open access forum. However, we, as R-CoMuse, reserve the right to refuse to accept, carry or publicise material which we consider to be inaccurate, offensive or simply not relevant to our work or our concerns. We are hosted by the University of Kent and we also, very willingly, accept their policies on not accepting or carrying material which is problematic in terms of racial, sexual or religious discrimination.
Please let us know…
Of any matters, issues or concerns which you think we should address as part of our work, or any suggestions you have in terms of how this blog and our page might support and develop connections between scholars and activists, and disseminate material which is of interest.
Meanwhile…
We hope that this first posting will begin a long and valuable conversation…..
Anne Bottomley (Kent Law School. a.b.bottomley@kent.ac.uk).
Co-convenor with:
Melissa Demian (Anthropology, University of Kent)
Nathan Moore (Birkbeck Law School. nathan.moore@bbk.ac.uk)
Research Assistant
Caroline Archer (Kent Law School. c.archer@kent.ac.uk)