Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

Cairns (1935) (p. 2) and Bloch (1975) (p. 3). A common explanation for this tendency is that 
capitalist, consumer ideology emphasizes personal, private, materialistic relationships in order 
to mask interpersonal and social power relationships inherent in the ownership of property (e.g. 
Bloch, 1975). However, an equation of dominance and ownership cuts two ways: the case has 
also been made that social political power in industrial communist societies ideologically 
masks personal property rErogalives (e.g. Djilas, 1957; Smith, 1987). Furthermore, within 
Western psychology, particularly social psychology (Ichheiser, 1968; Pepitone, 1981; Sampson, 
1977; 1978), there appears to be a well established emphasis on individualistic theories and 
explanations which tend to minimize consideration of interpersonal relationships, as in the 
present case, between owners and non-owners. The present thesis contends with that 
emphasis and re-asserts the interpersonal aspects of owning. 
In keeping with the generative aspirations of this thesis, however, the relationship of 
dominance to ownership is subject to a number of qualifications which require further analysis 
and empirical research. First, of course, the universality of dominance as a component of the 
meaning of ownership is questioned by the Cree field data. It may be that dominance is related 
to ownership, even minimally, only among people who appreciate and practice interpersonal 
dominance. Ownership devoid of dominance would seem to be an ownership devoid of 
exclusivity, since exclusive access to a property is what allows the — dominance over the 
non-owner (Stewart, 1829). Among the Cree, it seems that a non-exclusive, non-dominating 
ownership results in a greater emphasis on adience, whereas, among Chinese children being 
socialized in a communist property regime, non-exclusive, non-dominating ownership seems to 
entail an emphasis on stewardship (Ramsey, 1987). However, even among the Cree, there are 
those with fences and locked doors and those who refuse to loan possessions, and among 
Chinese communist children conflicts over possessions are not uncommon (Ramsey, 1987). 
Thus, it is conceptually and empirically difficult to distinguish a minimal component of 
dominance in the meaning of ownership from a complete inapplicability of dominance to 
ownership. An extension of the psycholinguistic field research to other hunting-gathering 
peoples, such as the Inuit, and to increasingly stratified societies, such as those of Japan and 
india, would clarify whether or not interpersonal dominance is a universal psychological aspect 
of owning.

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