How Property Can Create, Maintain, or Destroy Community
Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2008
35 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2008 Last revised: 25 Jan 2009
Property law plays a crucial role in the ability of groups, especially ones composed of geographically-adjacent members, to establish and maintain significant forms of "community" around a social, economic, or ideological shared interest. Property may also have, however, the opposite effect of undermining or even destroying communities, particularly those relying on fragile modes of cooperation.
This paper identifies three major types of territorial communities: (1) Intentional Communities - closely-knit groups that initially organize around a consolidating non-instrumental idea (such as cooperative Kibbutzim or religious communes) and employ sweeping internal norms to validate their commonality. (2) Planned Communities - comprised mostly of residential developments of homeowners associations, which rely on a formal set of conditions, covenants, and restrictions incorporated in the association's governing documents. (3) Spontaneous Communities - clusters of initially unorganized neighbors who succeed in cooperating and coordinating over time. The evolvement of such organizations may be essential to the creation of an interpersonal "social capital" and to a physical and functional improvement of the community's surrounding.
For each one of these types of communities, property law plays a very different role. Thus, while Intentional Communities do not hinge strictly upon the existence of a supportive property system to sprout, Planned Communities cannot be conceived without the security of an overt formal state-backed regime, whereas Spontaneous Communities may often need property law's affirmative backing (providing what I term "Property Tail-wind") to thrive and enjoy the social and economic benefits of sustainable collective action.
Keywords: property, community, group, society, territory, liberalism, local government, commons, indian-americans, common interest community, kibbutz, hassidic jews, amish, benedictines, new york city, property theory, exclusion, externality, democracy, governance, taking, compensation, social capital
JEL Classification: C7, D1, D23, D7, K11, L3, R2
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