Rationale and Research Questions

This research network is a new initiative bringing together scholars interested in communal property. It explores the similarities and differences between the UK and China in how communal property is perceived and how it operates, and its present and potential role in the management of resources. It also draws comparisons to communal property in other regions of the world.

Context: While private property is commonly posited as a prerequisite for economic growth, the importance of communal property, transcending the public/private divide in property rights, is increasingly apparent. Comparison between the two regions is instructive because, whilst historically communal property has had very different meanings and functions in China and in the UK, modern perceptions are converging as each region faces similar challenges in the management of land and natural resources. In China, the Property Law (2007) institutionalised the revival of private property rights. But in recent years, different forms of ‘quasi-commons’ are also emerging, paralleling developments in the UK. In England and Wales, the importance of communal land rights has been brought back into sharp focus by a number of developments which have revived interest in communal land and resources rights amongst academics, policy makers and social commentators. The Commons Registration Act 1965 and Commons Act 2002 guaranteed the continued survival of traditional agricultural and recreational commons in England and Wales and opened up the potential for recognition of newly emerging commons, whilst different histories unfolded in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Key research questions include:

  1. What are the similar and different structures of land rights and usages that can usefully be categorised as ‘communal property’ within the different jurisdictions?
  2. What is the relationship between communal property, community management and common pool resources?
  3. What is the present and potential role of communal property in each jurisdiction in relation to the management of resources?
  4. What parallels can be drawn between developments in these areas?

The project currently has four working packages:
communal property in each jurisdiction in relation to:

  1. agricultural management
  2. environmental protection
  3. rural and urban development
  4. development and management of residential communities