Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

Lattke (1936) ail argued that possessory behavior in children had much to do with interpersonal 
dominance. In Isaacs’ words, 
These considerations suggest that the motive of possession is not to be regarded as an 
atomic psychological unit, one of the irreducible “instincts” of original human nature. To 
think so is to miss its most significant aspects, viz. its intimate relation with the motives of 
power and of rivalry. It is essentially a social response, not a mere direct reaction to the 
physical objects which may serve individual purposes. (Isaacs, 1933, p. 225) 
Despite these criticisms, acquisitiveness and collecting continued to be described by 
some as innate tendencies. For example, Thouless was still advocating this in 1958: 
Evidence as to how far human acquisitiveness is based on a tendency that is innate might 
be drawn from its appearance in the animal world, from its appearance as a play activity in 
childhood, from its appearance as a crude and ungraded tendency in mental disorder, or 
202) the universality of its appearance amongst all races of mankind. (Thouless, 1958, p. 
Miller and Johnson-Laird (1976) consider tenable the hypothesis that there is a continuity from 
animal possessiveness to human possessiveness. Also, psychological research continued on 
the innate motivations for collecting by animals (e.g. Miller, 1945; Miller & Postman, 1946; Miller 
& Viek, 1944, 1950). Human collecting has also remained a topic of interest (e.g. Belk, 1982; Belk, 
Wallendorf, Sherry, Holbrook & Roberts, 1988; Carroll, 1968; Fatke & Flitner, 1984; Jensen, 1963; 
McKinnon, Smith & Hunt, 1985; Stewart, 1984; Walls, Moxley & Gulkus, 1975). The instinct theory 
of owning continues to have currency among some economists (e.g. Humphry, 1979; 
Heilbroner, 1958; Cho, 1977) and can still be heard in popular, political discussions. 
The instinct theory of possession also appeared in an indirect fashion in psychoanalytic 
discussions of property. Freud is noted for his argument that anal eroticism is the source of 
possessiveness, orderliness, and parsimony (Beloff, 1957; Jones, 1919). However, later in his 
career, Freud argued that property is a function of aggression, which in turn is a manifestation 
of the death instinct. His argument against communism is reminiscent of Aristotle’s reply to 
Plato that the negative characteristics of private property fie in human nature not in ownership 
per se: 
in abolishing private property we deprive the human love of aggression of one of its 
instruments, certainly a strong one, though certainly not the strongest; but we have in no 
way altered the differences in power and influence which are misused by aggressiveness. 
nor have we altered anything in its nature. Aggressiveness was not created by property. 
(Freud, 1930, p. 50) 
in the historical development of psychoanalytic thought, Adler came to reject Freud's 
emphasis on libidinal drives and focused instead on social power as the central motivating

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