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In this revealing book, Katharina Pistor argues that the law selectively “codes” certain assets, endowing them with the capacity to protect and produce private wealth. With the right legal coding, any object, claim, or idea can be turned into capital—and lawyers are the keepers of the code. Pistor describes how they pick and choose among different legal systems and legal devices for the ones that best serve their clients’ needs, and how techniques that were first perfected centuries ago to code landholdings as capital are being used today to code stocks, bonds, ideas, and even expectations—assets that exist only in law.
Katharina Pistor developes powerful framework that helps to analyse many processes of protection of wealth and its accumulation by the use of law. By distinguishing the characteristics of priority, durability, universality, and convertability, which define the nature of a capital asset, she is able to track changes in wealth distribution in different periods of capitalism. The framework is especially insightful when applied to the origins of the global financial crisis.