Ecology versus Property Rights: Land in the Capitalist World-Economy

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Immanuel Wallerstein

Director of the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems and
Civilizations and Senior Research Scholar at the University of Yale.

He is the former President of the International Sociological Association and
Directeur d'études associé at École de Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris.
He is a member of the World Association for International Relations. Amongst other
awards, he was granted an honorary degree by the Coimbra's University.


Access, ownership, and land use for agricultural and living purposes have undergone major changes over time, particularly with the emergence of the capitalist World-Economy.

The present text offers a reflection on the propositions of property rights, as well as on the forms of gaining that right, ranging from land seizure, conquest, or “land development”. In the context of the capitalist World-Economy, the process of legitimization by means of right to legal ownership is a fundamental process. However, the emergence of social, libertarian, and resistance movements opposing restrictive property rights has had significant cultural, political, and economic impacts, in addition to major ecological consequences.

This article offers several examples of the above, with special mention to the important social movements that have arisen in countries of the global south, and to the natural resources where impact is mostly felt.


Land; Capitalist World-Economy; Property Rights; Ecology

How to cite this article

Wallerstein, Immanuel (2010) " Ecology versus property rights: land in the capitalist world-economy". JANUS.NET e-journal of International Relations, Nº 1, Autumn 2010. Consulted [online] on date of last visit,

Article received in April 2010 and accepted for publication in September 2010