Destabilizing Property

76 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2015 Last revised: 12 Feb 2016

See all articles by Ezra Rosser

Ezra Rosser

American University - Washington College of Law

Date Written: 2015


Property theory has entered into uncertain times. Conservative and progressive scholars are, it seems, fiercely contesting everything, from what is at the core of property to what obligations owners owe society. Fundamentally, the debate is about whether property law works. Conservatives believe that property law works. Progressives believe property law could and should work, though it needs to be made more inclusive. While there have been numerous responses to the conservative emphasis on exclusion, this Article begins by addressing a related line of argument, the recent attacks information theorists have made on the bundle of rights conception of property. This Article goes on to make two main contributions to the literature: it gives a new critique of progressive property and, more fundamentally, shows how distribution challenges in property call for a third path forward. Conservative scholarship is scholarship for property, defending traditional views of property against the influence of new realist-inspired deconstruction. Progressive scholarship works with property, showing how doctrine supports expanding property law to reach those who would otherwise be excluded. But missing from this debate is the possibility that, instead of working for or with property, the rise in inequality and the calcification of advantages defined at birth of the current economic and legal environment calls for work against property. Expanding the range of answers to the broad questions being asked of property to include deliberately destabilizing property would add to the academic debate and to the possible policy responses to the emerging threat of oligarchy. Working for, with, and against property are all answers to the question of how to respond to the property crisis of our time, the problem of inequality. This Article seeks to give some content to the neglected against portion of the spectrum.

Keywords: Property, Inequality, Poverty, New Property, Reliance Interest, Destabilization

JEL Classification: D63, K11

Suggested Citation

Rosser, Ezra, Destabilizing Property (2015). Ezra Rosser, Destabilizing Property, 48 CONNECTICUT LAW REVIEW 397 (2015), American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2015-1, Available at SSRN:

Ezra Rosser (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

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Washington, DC 20016
United States


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