Property in the City: Call for Papers

March 3-4, 2017

The University of British Columbia – Vancouver
Peter A. Allard School of Law

In The Great Transformation (1944) Karl Polanyi argued that economies were not separate and apart from larger social forces, but embedded within them. The project of nineteenth century economic liberalism, he continued, was to strip the influence and constraints of those larger social forces from markets, something he viewed as utopian in its pursuit of the unachievable ideal of free markets, and dangerous to the extent that it succeeded because unfettered markets would destroy society. Nonetheless, Polanyi considered the dis-embedded market to have been at least partially achieved in the industrializing economies of northern Europe in the nineteenth century, and the reconstruction of land as a commodity that might be “freely” bought and sold was among his primary exhibits.

In this workshop, we turn Polanyi’s metaphor of embeddedness towards property relations and the city. In doing so, we intend to consider the processes by which property, including intellectual property, is embedded and dis-embedded in its urban location. We are particularly interested in the role of law, including but not limited to property law, in the processes that embed and dis-embed property in urban ecosystems, economies, communities, and polities. This workshop is not intended only as a conversation with Polanyi’s work, but we hope the metaphors of embeddedness and dis-embeddedness will help animate the papers and the discussion of property as we grapple with its urban location as well as questions about its conceptual salience, the justifications for various forms of property, and the inequality of its distribution.

Submit paper proposals of up to 500 words to by October 1st, 2016. Authors will be informed by November 1st, 2016, about acceptance. Confirmed workshop presenters will be expected to submit papers in draft form by February 17th, 2017, for circulation to the other participants.

Selected papers from the workshop will be published in a special issue of the UBC Law Review. We ask that you indicate your interest in publication with the special issue in the paper proposal. There is no registration fee for paper presenters. We may be able to provide out of town presenters with assistance in accommodation.

If you have any questions, please contact Douglas Harris ( or Graham Reynolds (

Financial support has been provided by The Peter A. Allard School of Law and the Franklin Lew Innovation Fund.

View the Workshop Program here...