Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

rhythmic alternations of the self, between the self acting as possessor and the self acting as 
user. These are determined by social context and by cognitive focus: 
The judgement that a man is selfish means that he ought to be defining himself on the basis 
of a wider situation, that he ought to be taking into account factors which as a matter of fact 
he is neglecting. It means inadequacy almost always. It generally means lack of adequate 
self-consciousness. It means a narrow vision of the situation which should be used to tell 
the seif what it is. (Dewey, 1898/1976, p. 213) 
These nineteenth century discussions of property and altruism did not seem to result in 
twentieth century empirical research. Research arose, instead, within the field of child 
development, apparently from several different origins. One was the anthropology-of-the-child 
approach to developmental psychology that emerged at Clark University under Hall, Boas, and 
Chamberlain (Rudmin, 1987b). In a rather atheoretical manner, phenomena were observed and 
quantified, often using questionnaire protocols. For example, Kiine and France (1899) reviewed 
biological and developmental literature and presented excerpts from 185 questionnaire 
protocols. They argued strongly that possessiveness was instinctual and should not be 
thwarted if moral development was to progress in its natural course to altruistic concern for 
others, which they claimed appeared in early adolescence: 
Selfishness is the cornerstone of the struggle for existence, deception is at its very 
foundation, while the acquiring of property has been the most dominant factor in the history 
of men and nations. These passions of the child are but the pent up forces of the greed 
of a thousand years. They must find expression and exercise, if not in childhood, later. Who 
knows but what our misers are not those children grown up whom fond mothers and fathers 
forced into giving away their playthings, into the doing of unselfish acts, in acting out a 
generosity which was neither felt nor understood. Not to let these activities have their play 
in childhood is to run great risk. (Kline & France, 1899, p. 455) 
in his review of instinct theory, Drever (1917) reached a similar conclusion, but 
emphasized the role of possessions in the development of the self-concept: 
Though social in its origin, the desire to possess is, in the first instance, anti-social in its 
tendency. It is thus the cause of childish misdemeanours and crimes, which often give the 
parent and teacher much concern. In dealing with this problem, the principle to be kept in 
view is, that the recognition in act of the distinction between meum and teum must be 
developed without the unnecessary weakening of a natural impulse, which, normally 
developed, contributes not a little to strength of purpose, will, and character in adult 
life...we may attempt to weaken the impulse indirectly by developing ‘giving’ as a habit. To 
call this the development of generosity, is, in our opinion, to take an entirely wrong view of 
what is happening. (Drever, 1917, pp. 189-190) 
It is interesting to note that young children are allowed exclusive possessions in the Israeli 
kibbutz (Neubauer, 1965) and in the People’s Republic of China (Ramsey, 1987), two societies 
with overt, ideologically-based socialization programs designed to minimize private property in 
favor of communal norms of ownership.

Note to user

Dear user,

In response to current developments in the web technology used by the Goobi viewer, the software no longer supports your browser.

Please use one of the following browsers to display this page correctly.

Thank you.