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Posts: 42, Joined: Apr DavinJom Shames even the Largest of Men. John Gray received a D. Phil, in Political Science from Oxford in He has published articles on Karl Popper and J. Mill, and is writing a book on Mill. Hunt received a Ph. He has published extensively in the history of economic thought and in Marxist and radical economics. Tom Settle has undergraduate degrees in Physics and Theology.
He received a Ph. Thomas Flanagan received his Ph. Shadia Drury received a Ph.
Her interests include historial and analytical political philosophy as well as the philosophy of law. The essays can stand on their own merits as contributions to the theory of property. We have added only a short summary at the front of each essay which may be of some assistance to the reader.
We would like to thank those whose efforts have made this book possible. The University of Calgary and the Calgary Institute for the Humanities supported the workshop on "Property in the Western Tradition" in July, , and are further supporting the publication of this volume. Thanks are also due to Tamara Palmer, who helped edit the papers; and Allison Dube, who compiled the bibliography and index. Anthony Pare! Macpherson argues that most theorists of property have viewed it as a means to some greater end such as human happiness.
However some modern thinkers, such as Hobbes and above all Bentham, have virtually made the accumulation of property an end in itself by identifying wealth as the universal means of obtaining pleasure. This confusion still plagues liberal democratic theory, and no satisfactory theory of property will be possible until property is returned to its proper status of means to a more important end. One is to give a straightforward historical account of the successive theories justifying or criticizing the various types and amounts of property that have been of concern to the political theorists of different eras, showing the changing grounds on which their cases were based.
I want now to try out another way: to look for any pattern that may be found in the Western tradition between treating property as a means to ethical ends or to ontological concepts of man, on the one hand, and on the other hand to treating property as an end in itself. A search for any such pattern may seem a waste of time. For surely, it may be said, property has never, by any theorist, been treated as an end in itself, but always as a means to some other end the good life of the citizen Aristotle , the fulfilment of the will without which individuals are not fully human Hegel, Green - or as a prerequisite of individual freedom seen as the human essence Rousseau, Jefferson, Friedman.
In all these cases property is treated as means, not as end. But it must be noticed that in the liberal utilitarian tradition, from Locke to Bentham, the accumulation of private property is treated as an end. For them, maximization of utilities is the end, and by Ben- tham the command of utilities is measured by material wealth. Thus maximization of material wealth property is indistinguishable from the ethical end: property is virtually an end in itself.
And as early as Locke, the insistence that unlimited accumulation is a natural right of the individual comes close to making accumulation an end in itself. We may then at least hypothesize a continuum from property as means to property as end, and see where this leads us.
Aristotle and Aquinas, treating property as a means, concluded for a limited property right. Hegel and Green, also treating property as a means, concluded for an unlimited right. An explanation of this difference is required, and should be revealing. In the Utilitarian tradition there is more symmetry. From Locke to Bentham, accumulation of property, being treated as virtually an end, always meant a right of unlimited accumulation.
Before seeking a pattern in the treatment of property as means or end, it may be well to set out the limiting definition of property I shall be using. I confine myself here to private property, defined as an enforceable claim, of an individual - a natural or artificial individual - to some use or benefit of some thing land, capital, labour-power, or other commodities or to some revenue from the position he holds in the political society, and the right to exclude others from that use or benefit. This is narrower than the per- fectly intelligible and at one time prevalent definition of property embracing both private and common property - both the right to exclude others and the right not to be excluded by others.
But it is broader than the narrowest definition mentioned above, which confines property to the right to dispose of as well as to use material things or revenues.
There will be little dispute that in the prevalent concepts of property throughout the ancient and medieval eras of the Western tradition the institution of private property was justified as a means to some ethical or ontological end. Whether the institution was seen as natural Aristotle , or God-given Augustine , or both Aquinas , it was justified as a necessary means to the good life of the citizen Aristotle , or as necessary to counteract the avaricious nature of fallen man Augustine , or to provide for peaceable and orderly relations between individuals Aquinas.
A change to seeing property as an end in itself is foreshadowed by Hobbes and fully implicit in Bentham. Let us look first at Bentham, then show how it is foreshadowed by Hobbes: this should enable us to trace the reasons for the change. For Bentham the ultimate end to which all social arrangements should be directed was the maximization of the aggregate utility pleasure minus pain of the members of a society. And while he listed many kinds of pleasures, including non-material ones, he held that wealth - the possession of material goods - was so essential to the attainment of all other pleasures that it could be taken as the measure of pleasure or utility as such.
Those who are not satisfied with the accuracy of this instrument must find out some other that shall be more accurate, or bid adieu to politics and morals. The most general end, maximization of each individual's utilities, thus became 'indistinguishable from the general end of each individual's accumulation of material property. Property - not the institution of property, but the accumulation of property - has become an end in itself.
Moreover, Bentham recognized that wealth was indistinguishable from power, that is, power over others. They are each of them respectively an instru- ment of production of the other. Hence the intense and universal thirst for power; the equally prevalent hatred of subjection. It will now be apparent why I spoke of Hobbes as having foreshadowed Bentham's position.
For it was Hobbes who from a somewhat different basis concluded that the search for power over others was o the dominant end of man. I have argued elsewhere8 that it is only where capitalist relations of production prevail - or if you like, only in a fully possessive market society - that this is the necessary behaviour of all men.
We are then, I think, entitled to conclude that the shift from seeing the institution of property as a means to seeing the accumulation of property as an end comes with the rise of capitalist relations of production. And it is not difficult to see that the shift was initiated, even required, by that rise.
For the essence of the capitalist market society is that the decisions about what shall be produced and how the whole product shall be allocated among those who contributed to its production are left mainly to the market forces which respond only to the calculations of the enterprisers how to increase their accumulations of capital. To justify that system of productive and distributive relations one must hold that unlimited accumulation is just.
To follow up on Gadamer's redescription, we should have to give up the idea of a natural terminus to the process of understanding either matter, or the Mass, or the Iliad, or anything else—a level at which we have dug down so deep that our spade is turned. We are grateful to the editors for their labours in assembling the text, and to Gerry Dyer for the heavy work of preparing the final manuscript from successive drafts. Posts: 39, Joined: Apr The difficulty to which Aristotle's insistence upon a large and somewhat unwarranted supposition as to nature's providence responds is perhaps that acquisitiveness and a serious concern for mere life obstruct and distort concern for living well and yet contribute to that situation within which a life of noble activity becomes possible. I want to suggest that a much-quoted sentence from Gadamer might serve as a slogan for those philosophers of language and science who follow Putnam and Fine rather than Kripke and Lewis. With this development the obtaining of wealth through exchange became possible - "through experience money-making became more artful, discovering whence and how to make the greatest profit by exchange" b5. Shadia Drury received a Ph.
And in the Utilitarian tradition that required showing that maximization of accumulation is indistinguishable from maximization of utilities. Thus the shift to treating accumulation of property as an end was required to legitimate capitalist relations. For Hegel and the English Idealists, accumulation of property was perhaps less clearly an end than a means. Yet both Hegel and Green treated the right of unlimited accumulation as entailed in their ultimate moral end, the realization of the human will or the consciousness of oneself as a moral purposive being. As Hegel put it, "The ratio- nale of property is to be found not in the satisfaction of needs but in the supersession of the pure objectivity of personality.
In his n property a person exists for the first time as reason. And the Idealists, like the Utilitarians, were driven to this because they accepted capitalist society as the model of civil society. A further change in the treatment of property is evident in 20th century liberal-democratic theory, beginning indeed as early as John Stuart Mill in midth century. The move is back towards treating property as a means, not an end.
It was inaugurated by the liberals' realization that their market society which they generally failed to identify with capitalist society had produced a working-class which would not much longer put up with the exploitation to which it was subjected, or be persuaded by the Benthamist rationale of an unlimited property right. Mill still held to a virtually unlimited right, but his 20th century followers increasingly recognized that that was incompatible with the end they espoused, i. So they moved towards property as a right limited in various ways by the end: property tended to become again a means rather than an end.
What of the future? Can we expect that property as a means will entirely replace property as an end? Here we must emphasize one distinction already made and introduce an additional one.
But the institution itself, whether it confers limited or unlimited rights in things or revenues, has never been thought to be justifiable as an end. What can be and has been justified as an end is not the institution of property but the accumulation of property, specifically the accumulation of capital. Accumulation is the heart of capitalism, so much so that, as I have argued, it became indistinguishable from maximization of utilities as an end.
The theories were openly avowed: no concealment was 8 Theories of Property necessary as long as those whose opinion counted were, or saw themselves as, beneficiaries of the structure. So from Aristotle to say Bentham, the successive prevalent theories were those which supported the structure of property that was required by successive modes of production - slave, feudal, nascent and expanding capitalist. If this correspondence between theory and practice still held, one would expect that now, with capitalism globally contracting and under heavy pressure in its homelands, the theory of property accumulation as an end in itself, indistinguishable from the end of maximization of utility, would disappear.
And indeed as an avowed theory it has virtually disappeared. Yet as long as our Western societies continue to rely on capitalist incentives as the motor of production, they will have to sanction accumulation of capital as an end. The predictable result is increasing obfuscation. For property theory must then sanction accumulation as an end while concealing that it is doing so.
I do not suppose deliberate falsification by the writers who do and will touch on property theory.
They may, especially if they start from a position of ethical liberalism, be unaware of the constraint imposed by the accumulation factor, or may conceal it from themselves. A few will justify modern property simply on grounds of prescriptive right. But most will justify some institution of property as a means to some further end - justice, efficiency, freedom, consumers' sovereignty, or whatever - and will deduce the desirable types and limits of property from that end.
Such an exercise can be carried out honestly and conscientiously without any clear awareness of the accumulation constraint: indeed, only with such unawareness could it be done conscientiously. But the constraint is still there: although property is treated as a means, accumulation as an end cannot be denied if capitalist property institutions, in however modified a form, are to be supported. I suggest that the recent Western tradition, from Mill or even Hegel through to Rawls and Milton Friedman, sustains this analysis, and offers us a murky theoretical prospect.