Origins of Private Property -Reply -Reply

Paul Cockshott wpc at
Fri Jul 21 22:45:35 MDT 1995

Lisa wrote

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.

One has to be careful to distinguish between what the classical
historical materialist authors ( Morgan and Engels) considered
to be pre-capitalist from what they considered pre-propertarian.
As soon as one talks about herding, horticulture or agriculture,
the classical authors would maintain one is already passing
out of primitive communism towards class society. This assumption
is also shared by the 'new school' archaeologists like
Colin Renfrew and his followers in their analysis of the
neolithic revolution. If one is to talk of primitive communism
one should probably restrict oneself to hunting/gathering.

Here the notion of individual property remained weak to within
living memory even in a country like Scotland. My mother tells
me that on the Hebridean Island of Scarp where my grandfather's
generation grew up, as late as the 1930s groups of hunters
(poachers as they were mere crofters) who had shot a deer on
the lairds estates, would row with it by boat back to the island
and then go through the following procedure. The deer would
be quartered ( assuming 4 in the party), and the quarters laid
on the ground. The man who had shot it would then face away from
the carcass and a second hunter would point, behind his back,
but in sight of the others at the parts and ask, ( in Gaelic )
'who is this bit for?' to which the marksman would reply,
'that is for Calum', or 'That is for Donald', etc until the
animal was divided between the party.

Here there was no notion of individual property, neither that of
the Laird nor of the individual huntsman.


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