Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

improved the human condition from inferior savagery to superior forms of civilization (Persons, 
1963). Rather, Sumner was an early advocate of adaptive cultural ecology and cultural 
relativism. For Sumner, societies did not progressively get better; they only survived (Davie, 
1963; Murdock, 1965; Persons, 1963). Sumner, therefore, opposed Marxian and other social 
science schemes to improve the world, and was known in political science as a conservative 
advocate of laissez faire policies (New Columbia University Encyclopedia, 1975). - 
Near the close of his career as Professor of Political and Social Science at Yale, Sumner 
began work on the monumental, 4-volume, Science of Society, which was completed 
posthumously in 1927 by Keller and Davie (Lebar, 1970). Sumner et al., (1927) claimed, and 
Simmons (1937) claimed to have substantiated, that private property is a component of society's 
control of its members through systems of political dominance: : 
Property, law, rights, government, classes, marriage, religion - are all born together and 
linked together. (Sumner & Keller, 1927, vol. 1, p. 260) 
Keller carried Sumner's vision of the science of society to numerous doctoral students, 
including Davie, Ford, Moore, Murdock, Simmel, Whiting and others. Keller also organized the 
Sumner Club at Yale, which was followed by the Institute of Human Relations and ultimately 
today’s Human Relations Areas Files, Inc. (Lebar, 1970; Murdock, 1937). 
Another important scholar to help make the transition from the nineteenth century 
ethnographic surveys of property to contemporary cross-cultural research was the British 
social philosopher and sociologist, Leonard Hobhouse (New Columbia University Encyclopedia, 
1975). He, too, was a Darwinist, with particular interest in the evolution of human morals, 
including property mores (Hobhouse, 1906, 1922). However, unlike Sumner, Hobhouse was a 
liberal in company with the Fabian Socialists who sought to justify a redistribution of wealth and 
power without recourse to the violence of communism. Hobhouse was particularly disturbed 
by the selective use of ethnographic evidence by the French comparative sociologists and 
devised, after the fashion of Tylor (1889), a comparative, quantificational study of property 
practices among primitive peoples (Hobhouse, Wheeler & Ginsberg, 1915). Hobhouse (1906; 
1922) argued that control was the essential feature of property. At the personal level, this meant 
use and independence. At the interpersonal level, it meant power. 
Now these two functions of property, the control of things which gives freedom and 
security, and the control of persons through things, which gives power to the owner, are 
very different. In some respects they are radically opposed, yet from the nature of the case 
they are intertwined, and their relationship can be traced through the history of the 
institution. (Hobhouse, 1922, pp. 10-11)

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