Mark DevenneyFeb 21, 2022
Towards an Improper Politics
Edinburgh University Press 2020
Historically, discourses of racial, civilizational, and sexual difference have inevitably been entangled with, shaped by, and constitutive of institutions that divide up the land and allocate rights of access and use. Yet, traditionally, political theorists and social scientists have thought of property as an exclusively economic category, and of property rights as institutions that reflect a deeper ‘objective’ balance of power between class forces. This economistic understanding of property has not only served to erase the racialized, colonial, and gendered foundations of capitalism, but it has also led contemporary political and social theorists interested in identity and new social movements to abandon the critique of property.
In his recent book Towards an Improper Politics (Edinburgh University Press, 2020), my guest Mark Devenney argues that “property belies any crude distinction between the economic and the political.” Instead, he emphasizes that political orders always link the ability to appropriate land, labor, and commodities with discourses that delimit proper modes of being. He argues for an ‘improper’ politics that challenges both the distribution of property and the norms of propriety that serve to justify inequality.
Mark Devenney is a professor at the University of Brighton.