Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

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Now if we take ownership or control in its last sense, as meaning the human will or freedom, 
with that natural motive power which i$ not acquired but innate in us, then | say that neither 
lawfully nor unlawfully can we freely handle a thing, or something pertaining thereto, 
without having such ownership or control, nor can we give up such ownership or control. 
And for the sake of brevity, | pass over this without proof, since it is almost self-evident, 
inasmuch as without these powers no one can continue to exist. (Marsilius of Padua, in 
Gewirth, 1956, p. 201) 
Another consequence of basing ownership on natural rather than civil or theological 
explanations, was the demise of the feudal concept of dominion. Ownership as stewardship, 
dependent on duties to civil and spiritual authorities, no longer had its philosophical foundation. 
Ownership explained by natural processes is independent of temporal and spiritual authority. 
To quote Schlatter: 
Another important result of the collapse of the concept of dominion was that men began to 
distinguish between power relationships which depended on property, and those which 
were derived from the political authority of the state. Following St. Augustine theorists of 
dominion assumed that private property and political authority were both instruments of 
force necessary to discipline and coerce sinful men. The two were denoted by the same 
word, dominion, and were together the means by which some men dominated others....But 
in modern times, the discarding of the idea of dominion made it possible to think of 
property quite apart from political authority. (Schlatter, 1951, p. 76) 
The intent of this thesis, of course, is to demonstrate anew that interpersonal dominion is still 
one of the natural functions underlying the ownership of property. 
The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries saw major social, economic, and political upheavals 
as feudalism collapsed and the Church lost political and economic power. On the one hand, 
there were numerous populist, peasant revolts inspired by revivals of Christian egalitarian, 
communal ideals; on the other hand, the development of national political organization and of 
commercial economic practices called for a new property regime (Shafarevich, 1980; Schlatter, 
1951; Tawney, 1926). The Reformation saw the anti-property Anabaptists lose to new theological 
justifications for private wealth and capitalist property practices (Schlatter, 1951; Tawney, 1926; 
Wood, 1922). One of the outcomes of these centuries of turmoil was the conceptualization 
-theologically, politically, and economically- of man as an individual (MacPherson, 1962; 
Schlatter, 1951; Tawney, 1926; Weber, 1930/1804). This, and the Thomistic assumption that God's 
law should be consistent with natural law, increasingly led to scientific explanations of property, 
frequently based on psychological conceptualizations of human nature. Thus, political. 
economic and social history strongly reinforced earlier Aristotelian and Thomistic attempts to 
base property theory on human nature. From the seventeenth century, the psychology of 
property becomes an increasingly regular consideration, with the five traditional psychological 
explanations of ownership becoming gradually more coherent. though still interwoven. Most

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