Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

As reviewed in the historical introduction, there is a very long tradition in the social 
sciences of trying to explain property by reference to its “natural” origins. This has extended 
from Aristotle’s discussion of the political economy of hunters and nomads (Mathie, 1978), to 
the beliefs by the Roman Stoics and early Christians in a Golden-Age, Garden-of-Eden 
(Schlatter, 1951), to the reference by the classical political economists to the property practices 
of North American native peoples. European conceptions of the property concepts of North 
American native peoples have indeed played an inordinately large role in the development of 
modern theories of property, particularly considering Locke (1690/1952) in the capitalist tradition 
and Marx and Engels in the communist tradition (Koranashvili, 1980; 1982). Locke believed that 
North American natives were archetypally “natural” people and that individual appropriation 
from a communal domain of abundant resources was archetypally “natural” ownership. From 
Locke developed much of the classical property theory of Western capitalism and liberal 
democracy. According to Koranashvili (1980; 1982), Marx’s and Engels’ concept of primitive 
communism was influenced by Morgan's (1878) early study of the Iroquois. The property 
practices of hunting-gathering peoples continue to be important for the historical evolution 
argument of Marxist property theory (e.g. Averkieva, 1961). 
Ironically, the welfare and very existence of the larger industrial-commercial society and 
of the local native societies are both threatened by disputes over conceptions of property. At 
the larger level, the ideological dispute between capitalism and communism over property 
theory, which is partly responsible for the present U.S. - U.S.S.R. nuclear arms race, has brought 
a focus on whether or not Algonkian peoples traditionally had concepts of land ownership (e.g. 
Averkieva, 1961; Riches, 1982; Speck & Eiseley, 1939). At the more local level, native peoples are 
now trying to negotiate land settlements and thereby regain control of their resources and 
(4) The Cree portion of this study was presented at the National Student Conference on Northern 
Studies, Ottawa, Nov. 1986, under the title, “Semantics of Cree verbs of possession: 
Preliminary Report of a Quantificational Semantic Studv”.

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