Workshop: The Construction of Social Reality: The Case of Land
David Mark Principal Investigator
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It is a challenge to define the ontology of social and institutional reality within a framework which does justice to the surrounding physical environment of society and its institutions. This award will support a workshop on land, property and social ontology that will advance our knowledge and understanding of social processes and their outcomes. It is rooted in the idea that the transformation of land into property is a fundamental social process that has been hitherto neglected in the sciences of society, and that land and land ownership play a vital role in the establishment of capitalism and in economic development, especially in less-developed countries. The workshop will bring philosopher John Searle and economist Hernando De Soto together with a multidisciplinary group of leading experts on the topic, to discuss current developments in our understanding of social institutions and economic development in the particular context of land. Searle and De Soto have both recently authored books that have had broad impact within and outside of academia. Searle's The Construction of Social Reality has advanced a new way of understanding human society and its institutions, while de Soto's The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else has caused a small revolution in thinking about land, capital, and development. Searle is an internationally prominent philosopher whose works have had considerable impact also in disciplines such as linguistics, computer science, and the social sciences. De Soto is President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy based in Lima. He works as a consultant to governments throughout Latin America and (currently) in the Middle East. While Searle and de Soto are personally acquainted, and while de Soto's Mystery of Capital was itself in part influenced by Searle's ideas on social ontology, the two have never appeared together in public. The present workshop will bring these two highly creative individuals together in such a way as to provide an open forum for examining the implications of their views for our understanding of economic development and of the ways in which different social institutions may hinder or facilitate such development. Additional experts have been invited to contribute their views on these questions and to develop contributions to the new social ontology which, through the work of Searle and de Soto, is currently in process of being established. <br/><br/>The workshop will provide valuable perspectives on the role of land information systems in the establishment of working market institutions and in the nurturing of economic and legal rights in less developed countries. Explicit formal accounts of the ontology of a domain are a critical foundation for adequate tools for information management systems, and this meeting will contribute to the development of such an ontology for the domain of land, the cadaster, and property law in general. The workshop also will contribute to the development of an ontology of other aspects of social reality at geographic scales. An edited book consisting of papers prepared for and presented at the meeting will promote the broader impact of the project. Early career scholars from several disciplines will benefit directly from their participation. On the last day, there will be sessions to identify priorities for future research on the topic. Lastly, the project will make efforts to promote the practical application of the results in Latin America and elsewhere.