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property, oligarchy, democracy, Ukraine, precariat, Libertarian, Liberal, Jeffersonian, political community, anthropology of law


Widening wealth gaps in Western democracies have brought new scrutiny to relationships between property and political community. For the prior quarter century, Western legal scholars have urged privatization around the globe as the key to a virtuous circle of "market democracy." This Article traces origins of the market democracy consensus to ideas that identify positive features of political community -- liberty, wealth, or democracy -- with private property ownership. Fieldwork in Ukraine, where Western privatization advice was followed at a time of founding a new polity, provides data to compare predictions with outcomes. Two unexpected figures -- the Oligarch and the Precariat -- emerge from the newly privatized countryside. Research into the micropractices of privatization counterintuitively exposes private property as potentially working against democracy. The findings from this research are that oligarchy is a possibility, distribution is a problem, and relationships between property and democracy are not always mutually felicitous.