The Theory Of Property Essay Research Paper

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The Theory Of Property Essay, Research Paper The Theory of Property While Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines property as “something regarded as being possessed by, or at the disposal of, a person or group of persons species or class,” (p. 1078) this definition hardly holds the connotations so emphatically discussed by the anthropologist Morgan. To Morgan, “property has been so immense…so diversified its uses so expanding…that it has become…an unmanageable power.” (p.561) Why has it become such an unmanageable power? Morgan answers this question with the simple answer that it is due to the linear evolution of the social institution of property from being collectively owned to being individually owned which has planted the seed of its own destruction in

modern society. Morgan, in an attempt to study the role property has played in shaping social structures throughout history, has concluded that the influences property has had on reshaping societies and vice versa can teach the historian many things about both the society being studied and the environment in which it strove to survive. To Morgan, the “germ” of the institution of property slowly infected many different societies in many different parts of the world. His teleological approach states that due to the “unity of mankind” various technological innovations, which gave rise to the ever-growing availability of property, allowed social change to occur in many areas of the globe independently. Every area, went through its own version of evolution in which the

importance of wealth grew at varying rates. This discovery leads Morgan to believe that while the past was unified in its variation, it is the future which must presently be addressed. For Morgan, in studying the past one can learn much about the future. Not only does Morgan analyze the social emergence of various types of property, but he is also extremely interested in the human tendencies evident in various societies which surfaced as a result of the ever-growing list of ownable objects. As time progressed from the Status of Savagery through Barbarism and into Civilization new wants and needs arose mostly due to new inventions. It is on this relationship between property, technology, and the human desire for more of each which Morgan centers his work, and it is from this study

which he hopes future generations will learn how to improve their institutions until they can be improved no more. Morgan structures his essay around three basic “ethnical periods of human progress” (p. 535) and the basic assumption that the more modes of production and subsistence there are the greater the proliferation of individual objects of ownership. As technology advances and discoveries are made, the amount of ownable objects grow as does the need to own. Every invention leads to new processes for agriculture, pastoralism and industry as well as new methods for invention. Thus, each new invention, whether it is a revolutionary idea or an actual object, births many new inventions which lead to many new modes of production causing many new objects previously not thought

of as property to grow in value. The higher in value and demand these objects are the more people want to individually own them. How does one measure the growth of technology and importance of property in past cultures? Morgan feels that by studying the laws of ownership which govern these societies one can gain an understanding of the importance, or unimportance, of individual property. In the Status of Savagery, the first of the periods, property basically took the form of rude weapons, fabrics utensils, apparel, implements of flint, stone, bone, and other various personal ornaments. Due to the fact, though, that these objects were relatively uncomplicated and crude, there was not much “passion for possession.” In other words, people did not need to own. Land was owned by