Intergenerational Communities

Law & Ethics of Human Rights. Volume 8, Issue 1, Pages 21–57, 2014

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-19

38 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2014 Last revised: 22 Jan 2015

Date Written: July 9, 2014


Under the human flourishing theory of property, owners have obligations, positive as well as negative, that they owe to members of the various communities to which they belong. But are the members of those communities limited to living persons, or do they include non-living persons as well, i.e., future persons and the dead? This Article argues that owners owe two sorts of obligation to non-living members of our generational communities, one general, the other specific. The general obligation is to provide future generations with the basic material background conditions that are necessary for them to be able to carry out what I call life-transcending projects that their forebears have transmitted to them. The specific obligation is project-specific; that is, its purpose is to enable successive generational community members to whom particular life-transcending projects have been forwarded to be carried out in their way. The future generational members to whom the project is transferred must also be given whatever resources or goods are necessary to carry the project forward in its intended way. I argue further that each generational community owes its predecessors the obligation to accept life transcending projects transmitted to them by their forebears and make reasonable efforts to carry those projects forward into the future. The obligation is based on the past generational community members’ dependency on their successors for the projects to continue into the future, a matter that is constitutive of the project creators’ flourishing. This obligation is defeasible, rather than absolute, however.

Keywords: Human flourishing, theory, property, obligation, generational community

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Gregory S., Intergenerational Communities (July 9, 2014). Law & Ethics of Human Rights. Volume 8, Issue 1, Pages 21–57, 2014, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-19, Available at SSRN:

Gregory S. Alexander (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-3504 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

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