The Cultural Production of Intellectual Property Rights




Andrews, Sean K. Johnson

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The argument of this dissertation is that the debate over intellectual property rights (IPR) exposes the underlying reified culture of property that pervades western capitalist societies. This culture rests on the Natural Law ideology of Locke and his defense of the liberal state. In large part the participants in the debate around IPR have presumed that the stakes are only over the way this reified culture is extended to “intangible” products. I contend that it is truly over a longstanding process of commodification, primitive accumulation, and the division of labor into mental and manual capacities which are all different dimensions of this “reified culture of property.” These are the indispensable characteristics of the “purely economic” state that is necessary to produce subjects adhering to the classic ideal of Liberal culture. IPR appears a conjunctural concern, in relation to digitization and globalization, but these are just catalysts which produce points of conflict over a more fundamental theory of value and property. Therefore the expansion of the scope and scale of IPR is less about IPR than about the continued health of global capitalism and the reified culture of property itself.



Cultural Studies, Intellectual Property, Labor, Value, Locke, Property rights