Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

Hobhouse's influence on the cross-cultural psychological study of ownership continued, 
largely through the work of Ginsberg, his co-author and junior colleague at the London School 
of Economics. Ginsberg supervised the first thesis on the psychology of property, which was 
done by Ernest Beaglehole in 1931. This work, published in 1932, reviewed the biological, 
ethnographic and child development literature on ownership. Beaglehole (1932) noted that 
random sampling was necessary if comparative research was to escape ideological bias and 
he included probably the first random sample of cultures in the history of cross-cultural 
research, sampling from the ethnographic codings of his mentors (Hobhouse, Wheeler & 
Ginsberg, 1915). Although Beaglehole (1932) noted his intentions to do a more thorough 
holocultural study of property, his career led off to ethnographic field research and he did not 
return to the topic (Rudmin, in press). However, Beaglehole's academic heir in New Zealand is 
Ritchie, and Ritchie’s student, Hills (1984), is today engaged in cross-cultural studies of 
conceptualizations of land ownership. 
Ginsberg himself continued with the psychology of property and was one of the 
recognized experts of his day (e.g. Suttie, Ginsberg, Isaacs & Marshall, 1935). In a summary 
statement reminiscent of Dugald Stewart, he argued that property cannot be explained by a 
single, simple psychological principle. In this, he touched on all five of the traditional 
psychological theories of ownership: 1) centering property on the sense of self, 2) repudiating 
direct instincts of acquisition but still using the term “drive”, 3) adopting Bosanquet’'s (1895) 
Aristotelian ethical theory of property for purposeful self-development, 4) replacing the 
association of ideas with behaviorist and Piagetian cognitive equivalents, and 5) mentioning the 
tendency to use property, which is a means, as a symbol for power, which is an end. He also 
thoroughly linked property to interpersonal dominance. Ginsberg's statement merits a quote 
at length: 
...The interest in ownership is very complex and has its roots in several fundamental needs. 
Things come to have ‘value’, either because they satisfy needs directly, or through a 
process of ‘conditioning’ or assimilation. It is well known that objects originally indifferent 
may come to be charged or infected with interest, by being linked with a train of events 
culminating in satisfaction. In this way, habits of attachment may be formed in relation to 
objects which may have no intrinsic or prima facie attractiveness. In a great many cases, 
our interest in property consists just of such habits of attachment; in others, complicated 
sentiments are involved. Objects connected directly or indirectly with the satisfaction of 
important needs gather around them groups of emotional dispositions, including especially 
the prospective and retrospective emotions of desire, hope, fear, anxiety, disappointment, 
as well as pleasure in attainment, and joy in mastery. All the primary needs, sex, nutrition, 
aesthetics and cognitive interests may serve as nuclei for the sentiments of property, aided 
by the tendency to confuse means and ends. Constant or recurring needs are of special 
importance, giving the objects to which they are attached an abiding value. These

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