Material subjects and vital objects — prefiguring property and rights for an entangled world

This article considers the effects of the critique of the subject–object distinction on the concept of property rights. My starting point is that there is nothing ‘given’ or natural about the subject–object distinction: rather, it is an effect produced by a distinctive matrix of ideas, physical-environmental facts, and social behaviours or performances. I explore what it might mean for property if we shift the human being from a position of control over the world to a position of being situated fully in the world. I argue that there are a number of intellectual resources within Western thinking that promote a more object-oriented approach to property, more attentive to the range of relationships between humans and the world.


Margaret Davies, Professor of Law, Flinders University. Email:

Publish Date: 
November, 2016
Publication title: 
AJHR 22-2: Special issue on Utopias and human rights