Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

You feel stripped naked. You feel as if someone has exposed you totally....You're 
powerless...VIOLATION is an adult way to explain that, but it isn’t an adult response. It's 
reminiscent of what goes back to childhood. And I think that's what makes it so crucially 
painful. Because you cannot fight back. (Bard & Sangrey, 1979, p. 10) 
Finally, self has been related to possessions and power in the existential psychological 
literature, though the discussions are noticeably asocial. Existentialism, through Kierkegaard 
and Nietzsche, was very influenced by Stirner’s nihilistic philosophy of self-creation through the 
power of possession (Paterson, 1971). The essence of the existential view is that self and 
possessions are mutually defining and mutually creative of one another, though the power in 
the dyad should rest with the self. For example, Sartre (1943/1956) argued that possession is a 
synthesis of self and not-seif and that a possession is appropriated to the seif through 
dominating it, creating it, or knowing it (Belk, 1987). Sartre’s (1956) account of possession is 
very Aristotelian: the possessor is the raison d’étre of the property; yet, the possessions also 
define the possessor: 
The totality of my possessions reflects the totality of my being. | am what | have, itis | 
myself which | touch in this cup, this trinket. This mountain which | climb is myseif to the 
extent that | conquer it. (Sartre, 1956, p. 143) 
In Marcel's (1949) analysis, the power involved in possession is similarly a two-way 
relationship, though a risky and unstable one: 
There is certainly a two-fold permanency in having: there is the permanency of the qui, and 
the permanency of the quid. But this permanency is, of its very nature, threatened. itis 
willed, or at least wished, and it slips from our grasp. The threat is the hold exerted by the 
other qua other, the other which may be the world itself, and before which | so painfully feel 
that | am I. | hug to myseif this thing which may be torn from me, and | desperately try to 
incorporate it in myself, to form myself and it into a single and indissoluble complex. A 
desperate, hopeless struggle. (Marcel, 1949, pp. 162-163) 
Marcel goes on to describe how passive, non-creative, possession results in the possessor 
being annihilated and “devoured” by the possessions. Dewey (1898/1976) and Fromm (1976) 
have similarly described the ‘having’ mode of existence to be based on an invalid understanding 
of the reality of the self. For Dewey, the self is action; for Fromm, being. In either case. 
possession fixes and materializes the self and thus contains and limits it. For Heidegger, on the 
other hand, possession is a more balanced, mutual dialectic of the possessor and the 
possession “caring for” and “preserving” one another's identity (Dovey, 1985). 
Biology of Owning 
In the early history of the psychology of property, a few scholars, such as Aristotle, John 
of Paris. and Marsilius of Padua, had mentioned instincts of owning. However, it was not until

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