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The Property Regime of Socialism: Theoretical Afterword

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Verdery, Katherine
Journal: Conservation & Society
Volume: 2
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2399
Sector: Theory
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): socialism
property rights
transitional economics
Abstract: "In their introduction to this set of articles, Janet Sturgeon and Tomas Sikor ask whether we are justified in lumping together Central European and East Asian cases of property transformation. Their answer to this question is yes, despite significant differences that result from the collapse of socialism1 in East-Central Europe on the one hand, and its maintenance with modifications in East Asia on the other. They also suggest that cases from both areas have things in common that distinguish them from apparently similar post-colonial situations. Among the differences they emphasise is the relative absence of rules and regularised practices in the socialist/post-socialist cases as compared with the post-colonial ones. The disarray of rules and routines is greater in East-Central Europe than in East Asia, but in the realm of property transformation both show greater instability than the post-colonial cases. In the socialist cases states attempted to compel private ownership and greater responsibility for resource management onto lower-level populations, some of whom resisted it while others local elite in particular profited from it. Post-socialist property transformation everywhere had the aim of freeing central authorities from having to provide for the rural population. Giving it rights to land would enable greater self-sufficiency, a boon to governments struggling under increasing economic crisis. Post-colonial property regimes, by contrast, did not radically dismantle colonial-era institutions so much as alter the personnel who staffed them; changes in property relations followed gradually, as post-colonial governments brought into programmes of development. Conservation & It is my task here to sketch the socialist property regime from which the East-Central European and East Asian cases have all diverged during the 1990s, as firm central control over propertied resources gave way to devolution of property rights. In particular, I indicate how, from the vantage point of the exclusive, individualised private ownership preferred by neo-liberal actors, both socialist and post-socialist property forms appear fuzzy. That, in turn, has implications for our understanding the process of privatising, or decollectivising, landed resources."

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