Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

the minimum, non-owners are expected to inhibit their actions with respect to the owner's 
Conceptual and methodological issues in this research will be addressed after an 
historical survey of psychological explanations of property. These will be followed by three 
methodologically distinct empirical studies demonstrating that interpersonal dominance plays 
a role in the psychology of owning property. 
To date, there has been little historical research on the psychology of property and 
ownership. The following historical survey, though largely original, does make use of 
Schlatter’s (1951) and Strauss and Cropsey’s (1963) histories of political economy, Copleston’s 
(1953; 1958; 1963) history of philosophy, and Drever’s (1917) history of instinct theory. This 
survey will show that five basic psychological explanations of property can be traced in the 
history of Western psychology. These are often supportive of one another and represent 
different explanatory interests rather than competing theories. It is not yet clear why these 
particular theories persist through history. 
1) Private property is self-centered. It defines, extends, and reinforces the person’s sense 
of self. 
2) There are innate biological tendencies for owning. These may be instincts of 
self-preservation or species tendencies for hierarchical social organization. 
3) Private property is a prerequisite for moral development. Logically and 
developmentally, private possession must precede the moral decision to share or to give. 
4) Owning is based on knowing. An object or resource becomes part of and under the 
control of the person who fully understands it, knows how to use it, and is most familiar with it. 
5) Property is a form of symbolic expression. A person’s material possessions 
communicate personal and social information, dependent on cultural norms of interpretation. 
Though an interpersonal dominance account of property probably cannot stand as a sixth 
tradition, it can be shown to have had a significant place in each of the other explanations of 
property. Finally, it is important to note that the historical development of scholarship on 
property is coincident with, and in large part responsibie for, the historical development of 
cross-cultural scholarship. It was early recognized that psychology and culture are confounded

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