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The Intellectual Property of Nations
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Book description

Drawing on macro-historical sociological theories, this book traces the development of intellectual property as a new type of legal property in the modern nation-state system. In its current form, intellectual property is considered part of an infrastructure of state power that incentivizes innovation, creativity, and scientific development, all engines of economic growth. To show how this infrastructure of power emerged, Laura Ford follows macro-historical social theorists, including Michael Mann and Max Weber, back to antiquity, revealing that legal instruments very similar to modern intellectual property have existed for a long time and have also been deployed for similar purposes. Using comparative and historical evidence, this groundbreaking work reflects on the role of intellectual property in our contemporary political communities and societies; on the close relationship between law and religion; and on the extent to which law's obliging force depends on ancient, written traditions.


'A remarkable tour de force, a highly original if loosely Weberian book, tracing the development of intellectual property rights as a form of infrastructural power from the conferment of Roman legal privileges, then successively inflected by Christianity, the nation-state, and globalization, as these rights became seen as a way of stimulating intellectual creativity and economic growth.'

Michael Mann - Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles

'The author of this ambitious and well-written volume attempts to both synthesize and add to what we know about the historical emergence of intellectual property law. She not only covers two thousand years of legal history in an exemplary manner, but also makes many exciting forays into unknown territory. This work represents a milestone in the scholarship on intellectual property. It is of much interest not only to scholars in law but also in history and social science.'

Richard Swedberg - Professor Emeritus, Department of Sociology, Cornell University

'Books that make the familiar over are comfy. Books that make the familiar new are exciting. The Intellectual Property of Nations is a book of the latter kind. It shows that the roots of intellectual property law are to be found in the Roman law of privilege - the status of being protected from others’ interference with one’s activities - as developed over more than two thousand years, shaped by Christian through liberal thought, monarchical through democratic government, and agricultural though digital economies. The story is both surprising and wondrous. Read and enjoy.'

John Henry Schlegel - UB Distinguished Professor and Floyd H. & Hilda L. Hurst Faculty Scholar, University at Buffalo School of Law

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