Aquarian ideas of property

Document Type


Publication details

PAge, J 2013, 'Aquarian ideas of property', paper presented to the Aquarius and Beyond: 40 years since the Aquarius Festival, Nimbin, NSW, 23-24 May.


Property as both an institution and an idea has been interpreted through the prism of a liberal, law and economics paradigm since the 18th century. This dominant (and domineering) perspective stresses the primacy of individualism, the power of exclusion, and the values of private commodity. By contrast, conceptions of property that evolved out of the counter-cultural social movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s challenged this near hegemony. Aquarian ideas of property stressed pre-liberal, long-forgotten, property norms such as sociability, community, inclusion and personhood, and contested a private uniformity that had become, in Nicholas Blomley’s words, ‘totalizing and universalizing.’

This paper places Aquarian ideas of property in the context of emergent (principally American) property theory that sought to ‘subvert the dominant paradigm.’ The radical potential of property, articulated by jurists such as Charles Reich, Christopher Stone, or Joseph Sax, was given substance and form in places where the counter-cultural experiment flourished, including the green, sub-tropical landscape of the NSW Northern Rivers, home of the 1973 Aquarius Festival. In both theory and practice, the normative ideals of Aquarian property demonstrate that property is more diverse and multivalent than the private liberal paradigm would suppose.