No subject

Mon Jul 10 13:21:43 MDT 1995

with Novell_GroupWise; Mon, 10 Jul 1995 13:16:32 -0600
Message-Id: <s0012830.040 at EMAIL.STATE.UT.US>
X-Mailer: Novell GroupWise 4.1
Date: Mon, 10 Jul 1995 13:16:14 -0600
From: Lisa Rogers <LROGERS at EMAIL.STATE.UT.US>
To: marxism at
Subject:  individual/society/private property

We've seen some this topic on the list a while back, but I'm sure
there is more to be said.  I don't think we really got around to
private property at all yet.

Marquit's post provides enough provocation (and I mean that in the
nicest way) to get me started again!

Communal societies had not a problem with this?  How do you come to
that conclusion?  When and how did people begin private appropriation
of the "products of others", in your view?  Anybody else?

I'm interested not because these views are unusual to Marquit, but
because many others seem to hold these views, which are sometimes
considered an important part of Marxism.  Some folks may remember my
anthropological spiels in April, about the actual situation in
foraging societies.  [But I'm happy to do it again.]

What I think I have not mentioned about my own studies and work done
by colleagues is that we are actually addressing some questions about
private property, which are often taken for granted by other
anthropologists and economists.  People often say that foragers don't
have the modern capitalists' view of private property.  OK, yes, but
why?  Why or when or rather under what circumstances is it worthwhile
for someone to assert a private property claim?  When are these
claims respected by others?

I think this is a marx-compatible way of approaching the subject, but
I've never seen anybody do so, outside of us evolutionary/materialist
anthropologists.  Some might think that to use a cost/benefit logic
to think about 'when people might claim private property' [or to
think about any thing at all] is in itself capitalistic or bourgois,
or something bad (I've been told so before, but I don't believe it).
I claim that c/b analysis is justified (theoretically grounded) by
evolutionary theory, and it is very useful in understanding the
behavior of living things.

Private property among "primitive communists" is an interesting
subject with several ramifications.  For instance, if one knows ahead
of time what will happen to any product of one's labor, such as one's
husband will drop by the kitchen to grab some wild yams to take back
to the "men's house" (traditional hangout for most men most of the
time, where they spend more time gambling than they do hunting or
hanging with the "nuclear family" [Hadza example]), if a woman knows
this, how is it expected to affect her behavior?  It is not just
obviously her private property, to do with as she likes.

Same goes for a hunting Hadza man.  If he kills a small animal, there
is no big hoo-ha and it is delivered to the wife or mother, it is
consumed by one man's immediate relatives without demands from others
expected, i.e. it appears as private property.  But if he kills
something big, everyone will descend upon the carcass and with much
noise and notice the bones are stripped clean.  With no apparent
advantage to his own relatives or himself in terms of meat
consumption, either from this kill or any other.  So, why and how
does a man decide to target one or the other resource?  If it is a
big animal, there is no chance of it being treated as private
property.  The hunter has no choice, no control, no rights in its
distribution or use.  Of course, this may be an unenviable job.

But the point of this approach is to think about "property" in a
different way, to analyze it in terms of the material/social
circumstances that behavior creates and responds to.  And to relate
behavior to opportunities presented by the local physical environment

My very own subfield of anthropology is thus addressing questions of
"the interaction between individual and society".  And just because
we are targetting foraging peoples as a place to eludicate some of
those interactions does not mean that our results are inapplicable to
the rest of the world.

Any bites on these comments?


>>> <marquit at>  7/4/95, 08:20pm >>>
The question of the subordination of the individual to the
organization can only be resolved through the dialectical interaction
between the individual and society. Communal societies did not seem
to have had a problem with this. The individualism bred by private
appropriation of the product of labor of others really made this into
a number one problem. It requires a separate discussion on this
Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in further
discussions until the end of July, since I leave Thursday for a
three-week trip.
I'll be looking forward to rejoining the ranks after July 27.

Erwin Marquit

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