The Cultural Production of Intellectual Property Rights
Law, Labor, and the Persistence of Primitive Accumulation
Publication: Feb 19
6 x 9
Examining the contemporary conceptualization of and debates over intellectual property rights
The protection and accumulation of intellectual property rights—like property rights in general—is one of the most important contemporary American values. In his cogent book, The Cultural Production of Intellectual Property Rights, Sean Johnson Andrews shows that the meaning, power, and value of intellectual properties are the consequence of an extended process of cultural production.
Johnson Andrews argues that it is deeper ideological and historical roots which demand that, in the contemporary global, digital economy, all property rights be held sacrosanct and all value must flow back to the legal owner.
Johnson Andrews explains that if we want to rebalance the protection of copyrights and trademarks, we should focus on undermining the reified culture of property that underpins capitalism as a whole. He outlines a framework for analyzing culture; situates intellectual property rights in the history of capitalist property relations; synthesizes key theories of media, politics, and law; and ultimately provides scholars and activists a path to imagining a different future where we prioritize our collective production of value in the commons.
“Johnson Andrews provides a fearless, historically grounded critique of a deeply rooted dogma: ‘the inviolable rights of property.’ In doing so, he carefully addresses a broad set of issues, including the relationship between politics and culture, between law and property, and between capitalism and human agency. The result is a theoretically rich and carefully documented account of why the culture of property matters for understanding the global political economy. This timely and accessible analysis skillfully demonstrates the value of a politicized cultural studies that situates labor at its center. ”
—Vincent Mosco, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Queen’s University and author of Becoming Digital: Toward a Post-Internet Society
“Johnson Andrews uses Marxist theory to engage the Lockean tradition and explains the workings of branding from its beginnings to the present day as he guides us through the early history of property rights and their presidential embodiment. By teasing out how property relations disfigure current debates, The Cultural Production of Intellectual Property Rights leads us to the key figure of the worker in the cybertarian fantasies of the information society that are so pervasive today. This book is a triumph.”
—Toby Miller, Research Professor of the Graduate Division at the University of California, Riverside, and author of Cultural Citizenship: Cosmopolitanism, Consumerism, and Television in a Neoliberal Age (Temple)