The big waves of change in state ownership in the 20th-century Europe moved in the same direction ‒ either nationalization or privatization. Yet this homogeneity has fallen apart in the last decade: globally and within several countries, the two directions have changed quickly or even have been appearing in parallel. So, it is worth returning to the question: what is the reason for these reversals? Are there any cycles in the extension and contraction of public ownership? Most studies in this field analyse nationalizations and privatizations separately. They examine closely the aims and motivations, but remarkably few focuses on the causes of changes in direction. Based on the lessons of these latter analyses, this paper attempts to interpret the expansion and contraction of public property within an integrated framework, identifying the emergency situations as key factors of fluctuation. The central role of crises in ownership changes is not fundamentally new in the literature. The novelty of the recent approach is the attempt to unfold the mechanism of their impact, including also the explanation why the previously uniform direction of big waves has been broken up after 2008. We argue that the main reason behind the parallel occurrence of large-scale nationalizations and privatizations in this period is the eclipse of a dominant economic-policy (and theoretical) paradigm, rendering the previously firm background of ownership waves uncertain.