The sociology of property rights

Bruce G. Carruthers*, Laura Ariovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Property rights matter for their effects on economic inequality and economic performance, and they unfold at the intersection of law, the state, politics, and the economy. Five dimensions of property are discussed: the objects of property (what can be owned), the subjects of property (who can own), the uses of property (what can be done with it), the enforcement of rights (how property rules are maintained), and the transfer of property (how property moves between different owners). We offer examples of how property rights systems vary along these dimensions and how they change over time. We illustrate the arguments with two contemporary empirical cases: the transition economies of Eastern and Central Europe, Russia, and China, and the transformation of intellectual property rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-46
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - Sep 9 2004


  • Economic sociology
  • Intellectual property
  • Law
  • Transition economies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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