California Law Review Circuit
In his thought-provoking recent article, “The Ambition and Transformative Potential of Progressive Property,” Ezra Rosser contends that, in the course of laying the foundations of a theory grounded in property’s social nature, scholars who participated in the renowned 2009 Cornell symposium on progressive property have “glossed over” property law’s continuing conquest of American Indian lands and the inheritance of privileges that stem from property-based discrimination against African Americans. I fully share Rosser’s concerns regarding past and continuing racialized acquisition and distribution, if not always his characterization of the select progressive works he critiques. Where I focus in this essay, though, is on the fact that, in the course of articulating his claim that these select progressive works have failed to attend sufficiently to matters of acquisition and distribution, Rosser wavers on whether a system of private property has the very capacity to play even a small part in fostering meaningful progressive change.
After setting forth my understanding of Rosser’s contribution in the first part of the essay, I use the remaining pages to express slightly more confidence than does Rosser in property’s potential to serve a role in furthering a progressive society. If property is to serve in this role, however, I suggest that it seems important to redesign and reinterpret it in accord with three themes — transparency about property rules’ value-dependence, humility about the reach of human knowledge and the mutability of our normative positions, and a concern for the socioeconomic identities of those affected by resource disputes — themes that underlie a broader set of writings than Rosser considers within the contours of “progressive property scholarship” and on which I offer some very preliminary impressions.
Timothy M. Mulvaney,
Progressive Property Moving Forward,
Cal. L. Rev. Cir.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.tamu.edu/facscholar/635