Values Under Siege: NAFTA, GATS, and the Propertization of Resources
40 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2009 Last revised: 29 Jan 2010
Date Written: 2006
‘Propertization’ is the process of increasing the legally protected ownership rights of private economic actors. Private property and freedom of contract are the legal underpinnings of a market economy, so it is no surprise that free trade agreements, adopted with the goal of expanding free market capitalism, implicitly ‘propertize’ resources. Each distinct arena of social space has its own regulative principles that govern social interactions and determine what is important within that field; the sphere of the family, the church, and the market/production economy are examples of different fields. The regulative principles within each field and the boundaries between fields are founded upon collectively shared doxa - the substratum of presuppositions that structure our cognitive maps. This article examines the constitutive mechanisms through which free trade agreements, specifically Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), propertize resources. These legal agreements help constitute how resources are understood by (1) establishing the right of market alienability in relation to services which were not previously conceived of as market commodities, (2) including expected future profits in the “denominator” of protected property interests, and (3) privileging private property rights over competing norms.
Keywords: resources, NAFTA, GATS, capitalism, private property, markets, free trade
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