Property as Abstraction


Haila questions the dominant ‘story’ that ‘imperfections’ in Chinese urban land markets can only be resolved through state sanctioned private property rights. She interrogates the meaning of concepts such as ‘market’ or ‘property’, wary of the ‘ontological fallacy’ in which concepts are confused for real objects. Drawing from Mitchell (1991), we seek to take this farther, by tracing how a distinction between property as representation and as reality is produced, and seeking to evaluate the effects this divide has on social practice. Rather than treating property in the Chinese context as an abstraction, we urge scholars to be alive to its empirically and ethically diverse manifestations.