The Politics of Private Property

The Politics of Private Property

Contested Claims to Ownership in U.S. Cultural Discourse

Simone Knewitz


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Located at the intersections of law and culture, The Politics of Private Property provides a fresh perspective on the functions of private property within U.S. cultural discourse by establishing a long historical arch from the early nineteenth to the twenty-first century. The study challenges the assumption of an unquestioned cultural consensus in the United States on the subject of individual property rights, instead mobilizing property as an analytical category to examine how social and political debates generate competing and contested claims to ownership. The property narratives arising out of political conflicts, the book suggests, serve to naturalize the unequal social and economic structures and legitimize the hegemonic order, which however remains to be shifting and subject to challenges. Analyzing the property narratives at the heart of the U.S. American self-conception, The Politics of Private Property addresses the gap between the ideal of the U.S. as a universal middle-class society, characterized by a wide diffusion of property ownership, and the actual social reality which is defined by unequal dissemination of wealth and race-based structures of exclusion.


Simone Knewitz:

Simone Knewitz is Senior Lecturer of North American Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany.