New Collaborative Research Centre of the Universities of Erfurt and Jena explored the structural change of property

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding a new major scientific project at the University of Erfurt and the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena: As the DFG announced today, the Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio „Structural Change in Property“ at the two Thuringian universities will be supported with up to ten million euros over the next four years. The consortium brings together researchers from the social sciences, law, economics and history and will begin its work in January 2021.

The report on social inequality, which the international aid organisation Oxfam presents every year, shows a clear trend: while the wealth of some people is growing faster and faster, the vast majority of the world’s population has to get by with less. Currently, 26 billionaires own as much property as the poorer half of all humanity put together. „In view of the immense economic, ecological and technological challenges of our time, however, the concentration of wealth and the resulting property system is proving to be crisis-prone and highly controversial,“ is the assessment of Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa. The sociologist, who researches and teaches at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt and the University of Jena, is the spokesperson for the new Collaborative Research Centre.

In addition to this redistribution of wealth, completely new questions of ownership arise today, Rosa continues: Who actually owns the sunlight or wind from which energy is generated and sold? Who owns the genetic information of active substance-producing microorganisms or medicinal plants marketed by the pharmaceutical industry? Who can claim intellectual property rights in Wikipedia articles?

The approach of the new Collaborative Research Centre is to systematically analyse these questions and investigate the change in ownership structures. More than 30 experts and their teams from both universities as well as associated partners from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, the Free University of Berlin, the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of Oldenburg are investigating the structural change of property on two levels: the change in the concept of property itself and the changes in social, political and economic structures caused by property. In addition to Prof. Rosa, the Jena sociologist Prof. Dr. Silke van Dyk and her colleague Prof. Dr. Tilman Reitz are the deputy spokespersons of the consortium.

With the new Collaborative Research Centre, the Universities of Jena and Erfurt are setting further strong accents in their respective research profiles. Under the title „Light, Life, Liberty – Connecting Visions“, the University of Jena is bundling its top-level research, with „Liberty“ bringing together the focal points of the humanities and social sciences, especially topics such as social change, contemporary history and Eastern Europe. The new Collaborative Research Centre strengthens this area with its discussion of the relationship between freedom and property and contributes to the interdisciplinary networking and further development of this profile area. Processes of social change through value and meaning concepts as well as different media and institutions are the subject of the University of Erfurt’s focus areas „Religion – Society – World Relations“ and „Knowledge – Spaces – Media“. Here the Collaborative Research Centre brings a new thematic focus to the field of property.