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Property in Transition: Conflicts over Ownership in Post-Socialist Shanghai

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2003

DEBORAH S. DAVIS
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, Yale University (deborah.davis@yale.edu)
HANLONG LU
Affiliation:
Institute of Sociology, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
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Abstract

Disaggregating property rights into abstract bundles of rights over the use, control, and alienation of property facilitates the systematic comparison of property regimes across time and space. However, because these analytic distinctions ignore the criteria by which individuals choose among competing claims of ownership, they cannot capture the moral reasoning that ultimately institutionalizes a property regime. Using focus group debates over competing claims of ownership to newly privatized urban real estate, this essay identifies four grounded logics of entitlement by which Shanghai residents determine just claims in one post-socialist property regime: a logic of family justice, a logic of state regulation, a logic of the market, and a logic of the family estate. Of note is that the primary criteria by which individuals decided among different logics of entitlement were the rules of the property regime at the time the dwelling first became the family home rather than differences attributable to societal inequalities tied to distinctions of gender, generation or occupation.

Décomposer les droits de propriété en droit d'usage, de contrôle et d'aliénation des biens facilite la comparaison des régimes de propriété dans le temps et l'espace. Cependant, ces distinctions analytiques laissent de côté les critères subjectifs qui fondent les demandes et ne permettant donc pas de saisir le raisonnement moral qui institutionnalise en dernière instance un régime de propriété. L'étude repose sur les débats d'un “focus group” de résidents de Shanghaï. Dans cette période post-socialiste, il apparaît que le critère dominant du point de vue des individus est lié au régime de propriété en vigueur au moment où la construction est devenue le foyer familial.

Der Vergleich der Besitzstände in Zeit und Raum wird durch eine Einteilung des Besitzrechts in Gebrauchs-, Kontroll- und Vererbungsrecht erleichtert. Diese analytische Unterscheidung vernachlässigt jedoch subjektive Kriterien, auf die Anträge zurückgehen, und verhindert die moralische Analyse, die in letzter Instanz zum Besitzrecht führt. Die vorliegende Studie basiert auf den Debatten einer ”Fokus-group” in Shanghai. In der postsozialistischen Epoche ist für die Personen das Besitzrecht entscheidend, das zur Zeit der Familiengründung gültig war.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2003 Archives Européennes de Sociology

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Footnotes

This draft benefited from critical readings by Marie-Claire Bergère, Christopher Hann, Isabelle Thireau, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, and Richard Swedberg who also suggested the title. A Cheng-Lee Faculty Research Grant from the Yale University Council of East Asian Studies provided the initial financial support for the fieldwork.