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Values Under Siege: NAFTA, GATS, and the Propertization of Resources

Author: Terra Lawson-Remer
Volume 14, 2006
New York University Environmental Law Journal

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Introduction

Historically and logically, capitalism is tied to the private ownership of the means of production, which allows private appropriation of produced commodities, thus private appropriation of surplus-value, and thus private accumulation of capital. It is surely not accidental that the 'rights of private property' are thus at the bottom of the whole constitutional and juridical super-structure which centuries of law-making have erected upon the basis of commodity production.

Private property and freedom of contract are the legal underpinnings of a market economy. It is therefore no surprise that free trade agreements, adopted with the goal of expanding markets, implicitly propertize resources. Propertization, or the process of increasing the legally protected ownership rights of private economic actors, is integral to the global expansion of free market capitalism.

Each distinct arena of social space has its own regulative principles that govern social interactions and determine what is important within that field (the "stakes of the game"). The sphere of the family, the church, and the market/production economy are examples of different fields governed by distinct regulative principles. The regulative principles within each field, as well as the boundaries between fields, are founded upon collectively shared doxa—the substratum of presuppositions that structure our cognitive maps. "[R]ooted both in the objectivity of social structures and in the subjectivity of objectively orchestrated mental structures . . . [these social categories] present themselves to experience with the opacity and resistance of things, although they are the products of acts of construction . . . ."

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