Origins of Private Property -Reply -Reply

Thu Jul 20 17:38:32 MDT 1995

Jim, I don't think we've answered my question, which I think is
interesting: _why_ would people have or not have "avarice"?

It cannot only be the fault of capitalism, because that just leaves
the problem of how the avarice of capitalism itself came about,
doesn't it?  I suspect the questions are related.

You don't have to believe it, but I know that many pre or
noncapitalist societies do indeed have concepts and behavior
regarding property.  There is no such thing as a "communal herd" or
"communal garden" in "primitive communism".  Everyone knows exactly
which cow belongs to who, who dug those tubers, who's arrow killed
the wildebeast, who shot the arrow, which garden is which, who has
rights of land use or tenure, etc.

Questions of property are much more complicated than "capitalist PP
rules" or none at all.  And how did we get from one to the other?
Since I'm studying property from an anthropological point of view,
and marxism-et-al has something to say about it too, I thought this
might be an interesting place for hybridization of the fields.

BTW, "aboriginal landclaims problems" today have *nothing* to do with
"having trouble with" the "concept of private property".  The problem
is getting the powers that be to recognize, respect or defend any
landclaims that do not serve their own interests.  And to get those
powers to recognize land use and control methods that differ from
US/western "standards" as still being legitimable.

Even farming does not automatically mean land ownership in the sense
to which we are accustomed, [and foraging does not mean that there
are no landclaims].  There are many many ways to hold rights to land
use.  For instance, some societies have land use "rights" that look
similar to ours except that if a site is sold it must remain within
the clan or village.  Or it can't be sold at all, and every woman
gets a garden, but only if she is part of the patrilineage, by birth
or marriage, and when she dies the land-use is still controlled by
the patrilineage, etc. (Except if you are powerful enough you can
thumb your nose at any "rule" and sometimes people do.)

Even people [foragers] who are the least territorial, the most likely
to welcome visitors, and least likely to be stingy, for instance the
!Kung of the Kalahari, famous for sharing, even they have clear
concepts of rights of access to the countryside.  They visit
neighboring areas often, but only where there is a blood-tie.
Especially the areas in which one's parents were born are recognized
as alternate "homes" for a person, but even there one must find and
visit with the residents before going out to lunch.

They may have lacked a word for "rights" (although I'm guessing they
have one now!) as they lacked fences and well-defined boundaries, but
only because it had not been a big issue before.  They certainly did
know where they could go, what they could use, what was home, the
proper social procedures for obtaining access to resources, etc.
Their word for home-range [or some might say territory] means
literally "countryside" which is by implication "*my* home".

I hope you can see why I want a closer look at property/land use than
to simply say that all non-capitalists lack all property claims, (or
to say that all people _are_ greedy.)


>>> Jim Jaszewski <ab975 at>  7/18/95,
12:37am >>>

On Mon, 17 Jul 1995, Lisa Rogers wrote:
> But you also refer to pre-industrial, pre-capitalist societies.  In
 > that situation, do you think that people had such "avarice"?  If
so,  > why would they? or why not? in your view.

	It's quite clear from the historical record (don't ask me for
sources -- no one pays me to do research :) that pre-'historic'
societies didn't have _ANY_ concept of 'private property' (existent
ones _still_ have trouble with it -- note aboriginal landclaims
problems) -- nor did they have much, if ANY theft. I believe that
most, if not all these peoples didn't have MANY of the concepts of
avarice (meaning, they didn't even have WORDS for these) which
bourgeois apologists claim are human nature, and INTRINSIC in the
human animal, at ALL stages of its history.

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