This article critiques the artificiality of the context-free and a historical approaches to theorising the evolution of property. It starts with an overview of a number of evolutionary accounts, underpinned by different theories of institutions and institutional change, in the ‘old’ and ‘new’ institutional economics. Special emphasis is given to an argument for a contextual approach to property regime transformation discussed with reference to Veblenian and Schumpeterian theories of institutions. That being done, the essay engages in a longitudinal analysis of property regime transformation in China, which helps to critically evaluate various evolutionary theories of property. The essay then identifies four major flaws in mainstream studies of the evolution of property: the mixing up of different types of property; the overlooking of hybrid property regimes; the overemphasis of external factors; and reliance on a teleological model. It is concluded that in order to establish a more sophisticated framework to analyse the evolution of property, we need to examine the ways in which the changes in context and property institutions co-evolve over time. The closing commentary also sheds light on the possibility of broadening the scope of property law via this study.
Xu, Ting, Towards an Evolutionary Theory of Property? A Longitudinal Analysis of Property Regime Transformation in China (May 25, 2017). Journal of Comparative Law, Vol 12, No 2.