Property demythologized

Historical transformations and spatial hierarchies of land regimes

Authored by: Hanne Cottyn

The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138718364
eBook ISBN: 9780429438233
Adobe ISBN:


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Over the last five centuries, the commodification of land has fundamentally helped and shaped the expansion of global capitalism. In this process, land reform has been deployed as an essential mechanism in the struggle over the allocation of, and rights over, resources. Closely linked to the project of European imperialism, land reforms have been used to progressively (re)organize the multiplicity of existing land regimes into land regimes based on private property instrumental to the expansion of centralized state power and the accumulation of capital. This chapter approaches the global diffusion and implementation of private property-based land regimes together with the resulting commodification of land from the angle of its most important tool: land reform. Land reforms can be considered as political projects in an ideologically coloured, conflictive, and essentially uneven transition process that is central to the expansion of global capitalism. Land regimes, in turn, can be understood as the temporal and spatial outcomes of that transition, namely the process of land commodification as well as its complex co-evolution with persisting communal systems.

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