Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

sentiments become intimately interwoven with the sentiment of self-regard, owing to the 
fact that control over things, extending beyond immediate enjoyment, is essential in the 
ordering of life and the satisfaction of one’s own tastes. Property is thus rooted in the seif’s 
need for the exercise of mastery over things and the sense of freedom of enjoyment. 
Comparative jurisprudence teaches us that there are three original forms of acquiring 
property. Goods may be taken directly from nature, or they may be the product of labour 
or exertion, or they may be obtained by the assertion of power over other people. In all 
these forms of acquisition, but especially in the last, the self-assertive tendencies of man. 
come into play. Men come to love things because they have put their energy into them, and 
because they are instruments of general satisfaction, but especially because they give” 
them power over nature and other human beings. It is not so much the direct use of things, 
as the exercise of power, which gives to property its tremendous drive, and makes it one 
of the roots of ambition. 
Psychologically regarded, property arises, not from a direct need to acquire and 
possess, but from the interweaving of other basic interests with self-regard and 
self-assertion. Ethically, the function of property is to provide the material conditions of a 
free, secure, and purposeful life. In actual fact, most economic systems fail to achieve this 
object, save a few. The reasons for this failure lie deep in the history and psychology of 
property. As a social institution, property gives power, not only over things, but through 
things also over persons. (Ginsberg, 1934, pp. 192-194) 
Hobhouse had another somewhat indirect influence on the psychology of ownership. 
Raoul Naroll, one of the major figures in the development of quantificational cross-cultural 
methods not to come from Yale, gained his initial inspiration for cross-cultural research from 
Hobhouse as well (Cohen & Naroll, 1970). This present thesis was personally encouraged and 
supported by Naroll in the last months of life. 
This history of the psychology of ownership and property, though extensive, is far from 
complete and might be considered a preliminary work. There has been too great a reliance on 
secondary references. Related research in other disciplines has not been as fully explored and 
integrated as it might be. For example, the historical development of the institution of private 
property in law and material culture might have been included. Also lacking is full coverage of 
the psychological elements of such classic political philosophers as Rousseau, Hegel, and 
Marx. Even within psychology, some important themes have been omitted. For example, private 
property has been described as an essential element of individual autonomy and effectance 
(e.g. Riesman, 1968; Furby, 1980) and this finds expression at least as far back in history as 
Marsilius of Padua (Gewirth, 1956). Private property as a vehicle of autonomy and individual 
action has, of course, been considered by many political theorists to be one of the cornerstones 
of political freedom (Schlatter, 1951). The psychology of that relationship should not be 
overlooked. ~ 
This history has also not given a fair accounting of some of the more contemporary 
developments in consumer psychology (e.g. Belk, 1982; Belk & Pollay, 1985), in semantic 
analysis (e.g. Heider, 1958; Miller & Johnson-Laird, 1976), or In the more sociological social

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