Reclaiming Common Wealth: Towards a Law and Political Economy of Land Commons

What are pathways, processes and institutional designs for the generation and governance of land commons?

Reclaiming Common Wealth: Towards a Law and Political Economy of Land Commons

What are pathways, processes and institutional designs for the generation and governance of land commons?


Institutional investments in land trigger discontents all over the world. In cities affordable housing becomes scarce and urgent ecological retrofits are put on hold; large-scale purchases of agricultural land lead to expulsions of rural populations and monocultures that harm ecologies and food sovereignty.

Critique of corporate ownership, large-scale investments in land and the assetization of infrastructures for the satisfaction of basic needs not only mobilize civil society and prompt protest.

Initiatives for deprivatization and reclaiming land as common wealth also open up pathways for transformation. They point towards the social and ecological possibilities entailed in a reorganization of the ownership and administration of land.

At the same time, attempts at deprivatization reveal the extent to which the lack of transparency of ownership structures and the assetization of land are products of legal design and enjoy far-reaching legal protection.

The proposed project seeks to address both, real utopias of common ownership as well as obstacles to their realization. Inquiry into pathways of transforming the current law and political economy of land shall be conducted within the theoretical frameworks established by research on commons and commoning. The project pursues three concrete objectives:

First, the project seeks to contribute to data commons concerning structures of property and ownership in land.

Second, the project critically assesses theories and concepts of property and value as well as methods of valuing land and real estate in order to make proposals for a revaluation of land as a commons.

Third, the project establishes a repository of the law and institutional design of (land) commons with a particular focus on Commons Public Partnerships.

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Isabel Feichtner
University of Würzburg

Isabel is Professor of Public Law and International Economic Law at the University of Würzburg. Her research interests cover the distributive effects of law, the democratization of society, and the law of the commons and commoning. She explores how institutional experiments, e.g. the redesign of money or Commons Public Partnerships, can support social-ecological transformation through democratization and commoning. Her monograph, The Law and Politics of WTO Waivers: Stability and Flexibility in Public International Law, published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press, gained renewed relevance with regard to recent demands for a TRIPS Waiver to facilitate the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Isabel founded the Law Clinic Transformation Law at Würzburg University.

Curatorial Note
Curatorial Note

Ruben Martin de Lucas, Title: Minimal Republic nº13, Area: 100 m², Border: Equilateral triangle, 15.19m side, fallen leaves collected and grouped, Population: 1 inhabitant, Location: 41.059889º, -3.940355º, Start: 19th december 2018, 11:34, End: 20th december 2018, 11:34

Ruben Martín de Lucas's conceptual series, 'STUPID BORDERS,' explores the concept of frontiers and nationhood through the creation of absurd micro-nations. These fleeting republics, which are inhabited solely by the artist himself, last no more than 24 hours and have their boundaries delineated by arbitrary geometric criteria. Through aerial photography, de Lucas presents a visually poetic reflection on the transient nature of borders and the human impulse for possession over the Earth. The series challenges conventional notions of nationhood, urging reconsideration of our relationship with territory and the broader concept of ownership.


PROGRAMS 2023/24

  • Governing the Planetary Commons

    How are the planetary commons to be governed in an ecologically responsible, just, democratic, and resilient way?
    The program "Governing the Planetary Commons: a Focus on the Amazon" examines how to responsibly and sustainably govern crucial Earth systems, using the Amazon Rainforest as an example, and explores different governance models that could work in an ecologically sound, democratic, and resilient way.

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  • Depolarizing Public Debates

    How can we depolarize public debates on socio-ecological transformations?
    The aim of the program „Depolarizing Public Debates“ is to develop tools for reducing polarization in public discussions about socio-ecological issues, engaging with practitioners from journalism, digital platforms, and civil society.

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  • Conceptions of Human Flourishing

    How does a non-materialist conception of human flourishing inform the reformulation of the SDGs in 2030?
    The program „Conceptions of Human Flourishing” explores how different cultures conceive of human flourishing, how the current materialist approach may limit it, and how to redesign the SDGs with a broader, more inclusive view of what human flourishing means.

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  • Black Feminism and the Polycrisis

    How can we use the unique insights and intersectional methods of Black feminism to respond to the complexities of the contemporary polycrisis?
    The program "Black Feminism and the Polycrisis" aims to offer a novel solution space to interlocking global crises by drawing on intersectional theory and praxis, developing critical arguments about its relationship to Europatriarchal systems of domination, and offering imaginative visions for a better future.

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