Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

...for Locke, the “property” therein is equivalent to the power expended in cultivation and 
care -i.e., in transforming the primary qualities of the almost worthless materials given in 
common. Life and estate, like liberty and will, belong only to active agents, and for the 
same reason: all, when properly identified, are simple modes of power and by the nature 
of things are resident only within (that is, are the rights only of) the agents. When Locke 
said that men naturally have certain rights, he meant that these result from the fact that 
nature, including the human mind which “knows” these rights, is constituted as it is. To 
Locke, in other words, men possess their rights epistemologically as well as practically; 
indeed, they possess them practically only because they possess them epistemologically. 
(Milam. 1967, pp. 26-27) 
18th Century 
In France, Montesquieu surveyed historical and ethnographic evidence to argue that 
natural law consists of the rights and duties that universally produce social good, such as 
self-preservation, freedom, and mutual obligation. In his 31-volume Spirit of the Laws, he 
described a cultural ecology of property: government and law, which establish property, are 
unique for each nation depending on climate and geography and on cultural mores, commerce, 
and religion (Lowenthal, 1963). He noted that hunting and pastoral peoples had near equality 
of possessions and thus little dominance and exploitation of one another. Montesquieu also 
argued strongly against slavery, but noted that all people have a deep-seated desire to have the 
servile services of others (Lowenthal, 1963). 
Rousseau (1755/1964) built upon both Locke and Montesquieu and further reinforced the 
image of the “Noble Savage”, free and unconstrained by property restrictions (Bloom, 1963). 
Moreover he began to elaborate on the mechanisms of cultural evolution that transformed 
primitive, communal man to civilized propertied man: 
It was iron and corn which first civilized men. From the moment one man began to stand 
in need of the help of another; from the moment it appeared advantageous to any one man 
to have enough provisions for two, equality disappeared, property was introduced, work 
became indispensable and....slavery and misery were soon to germinate and grow up with 
the crops. (Rousseau, in Schlatter, 1951, p. 208) 
Nevertheless, in his later elaboration of political economy and the social contract, Rousseau 
came to argue for private property as one of the most important rights of citizenship (Schlatter, 
1951). Of the eighteenth century French physiocrats that followed Rousseau, Holbach most 
clearly addressed property in psychological terms. For example, he argued thata field becomes 
a part of, and identified with, the person who cultivates it and waters it with the sweat of labour 
(Schlatter. 1951). 
Still more psychological were the explanations of property by the eighteenth century 
British empiricists, with their particular emphasis on instinctive passions and on mechanisms

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