Inside property

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Taking seriously the complexity and heterogeneity of property law, this article claims that a proper conception of property must account for both governance and inclusion. Neglecting governance obscures the significance of the internal life of property, which is often structured by sophisticated mechanisms aiming to facilitate various forms of interpersonal relationships in ways that no contractual arrangement can. Ignoring inclusion improperly marginalizes non-owners' rights to entry in categories of cases where inclusion is an indispensable feature of the property institution under examination. Looking inside property in these two senses requires abandoning the conception of property as an exclusive right and substituting for it a pluralist conception. Property should be understood as an umbrella for a limited and standardized set of institutions, which serve as important default frameworks of interpersonal interaction regarding various types of resources. At its best, the plurality of property configurations-the different contents of owners' rights in these different property institutions-enables property law to vindicate differing balances among the different values that property can serve, according to the type of social relationship and the nature of the resource at stake. The pluralist conception of property, therefore, not only fits property law better; it is also the only understanding of property suitably attending to and facilitating the individuality enhancing role of multiplicity, which is indispensable for meaningful autonomy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalUniversity of Toronto Law Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • autonomy
  • exclusion
  • governance
  • inclusion
  • pluralism
  • property


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