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Sample essay topic, essay writing: The Theory Of Property - 1287 words
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The Theory of Property While Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines property as 'somethingregarded as being possessed by, or at the disposal of, a person or group ofpersons species or class,' (p. 1078) this definition hardly holds theconnotations so emphatically discussed by the anthropologist Morgan. To Morgan,'property has been so immense..so diversified its uses so expanding..that ithas become..an unmanageable power.' (p.561) Why has it become such anunmanageable power? Morgan answers this question with the simple answer that itis due to the linear evolution of the social institution of property from beingcollectively owned to being individually owned which has planted the seed of itsown destruction in modern society. Morgan, in an attempt to study the roleproperty has played in shaping social structures throughout history, hasconcluded that the influences property has had on reshaping societies and viceversa can teach the historian many things about both the society being studiedand the environment in which it strove to survive. To Morgan, the 'germ' of theinstitution of property slowly infected many different societies in manydifferent parts of the world.
His teleological approach states that due to the'unity of mankind' various technological innovations, which gave rise to theever-growing availability of property, allowed social change to occur in manyareas of the globe independently. Every area, went through its own version ofevolution in which the importance of wealth grew at varying rates. Thisdiscovery leads Morgan to believe that while the past was unified in itsvariation, it is the future which must presently be addressed. For Morgan, instudying the past one can learn much about the future. Not only does Morgananalyze the social emergence of various types of property, but he is alsoextremely interested in the human tendencies evident in various societies whichsurfaced as a result of the ever-growing list of ownable objects. As timeprogressed from the Status of Savagery through Barbarism and into Civilizationnew wants and needs arose mostly due to new inventions
It is on thisrelationship between property, technology, and the human desire for more of eachwhich Morgan centers his work, and it is from this study which he hopes futuregenerations will learn how to improve their institutions until they can beimproved no more. Morgan structures his essay around three basic 'ethnical periods ofhuman progress' (p. 535) and the basic assumption that the more modes ofproduction and subsistence there are the greater the proliferation of individualobjects of ownership. As technology advances and discoveries are made, theamount of ownable objects grow as does the need to own. Every invention leadsto new processes for agriculture, pastoralism and industry as well as newmethods for invention. Thus, each new invention, whether it is a revolutionaryidea or an actual object, births many new inventions which lead to many newmodes of production causing many new objects previously not thought of asproperty to grow in value. The higher in value and demand these objects are themore people want to individually own them.
How does one measure the growth oftechnology and importance of property in past cultures? Morgan feels that bystudying the laws of ownership which govern these societies one can gain anunderstanding of the importance, or unimportance, of individual property. In the Status of Savagery, the first of the periods, property basicallytook 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 wasowned by the loosely organized tribes, and the tenant houses were owned by allthe occupants. As intensive agriculture and pastoralism had not yet beeninvented the need to own land was not great either.
As people died their mostvaluable possessions were either buried with the corpse or given to the next ofkin. This process assured the first rule of inheritance which keeps allproperty in the gen and does not allow anyone from remote gens to inherit. The Lower Barbaric, the Middle Barbaric, and the Upper Barbaric sub-periods comprise the second ethnical period. In the Lower Barbaric period belts,picture writing, stockades for village defense, shields, war clubs, air guns forshooting, the mortar and pestle and pipes were invented. These objects weremore intricate and specialized than those found in the Savage period and theneed for acquiring them also grew slightly. Ties to property began to form, butfor Morgan these objects had not yet reached the plane of desirability he feelswas necessary to institute change in the social structures of society. Theseobjects still, however, remained attached to the blood lines in which theyoriginated and any attempt to detach them from these lines met with considerableopposition.
In the Mid-Barbaric period the progress continued. Better and bettertools as well as vessels were being made to do more and more specialized tasksand to hold newly discovered materials and beverages. 'When the great discoverywas made that the wild horse, cow, sheep, ass, sow and goat might be tamed..toproduce a source of permanent subsistence' (p. 544) the need for land began togrow. This land, though, was commonly 'owned' by the tribe while often some wasdivided with allotments for government, religion, and gentes.
This is the firstattempt at subdividing a land originally owned by the common people for whilethere was no single ownership, the owning bodies began to shrink. People didwant to own objects and land, but they wanted it for the gen or for their group,not for themselves. It is in this time that the second rule of inheritance waspresent where inheritance was more specified for the agnatic kindred within thegen. As time progressed into the Upper barbaric stage, settled agriculture,small scale industry, local trade, and foreign commerce led to property 'inmasses.' Slavery was invented as a means to raise production, but it was theincreased abundance of subsistence methods through field agriculture thatdeveloped which led to the never-ending struggle for land. Ownership began totake two forms: the state and the individual.
'In the land of Solon..lands ingeneral were owned by individuals, who already learned to mortgage them.'(p.551) It is in this time that Morgan notes the marked difference ofinheritance from being passed along matrilineal lines to patrilineal lines.There were so many houses, lands, flocks and herds as well as exchangeable goodsthat inheritance became crucial for the Greeks. Fathers adopted any practicethey could to allow their sons to inherit the land and property worked on bythemselves. The assertions that the immediate family, especially sons, deservedto inherit the property associated with their father had more validity now thatmodes of subsistence became more labor intensive and required more work from thesons for the family. This is the third and final rule of inheritance; childrenshould inherit from their parents. As methods for domestication of animalsimproved it was discovered that they held the most value as they could reproducethemselves and allow the owner to gain in both prestige and monetary wealth.The fact that the Greek leader Solon permitted a person to will his property towhomever he chose while he was still alive markedly shows the presence ofindividual ownership during this period. Somewhere between the Upper Barbaric period and the period known ascivilization the position of Aristocracy arose.
It arose out of the fact thatproperty along with ownership of slaves, the growth of the gap between ownersand non-owners as well as the emergence of official social and governmentalpositions all contributed to a 'wealth' which distinguished the 'haves' fromthe 'have-nots.' It is this social change which Morgan mostly feels describesthe effects of property on social institutions. For Morgan the emergence ofproperty created by technological innovations in agriculture, industry andpastoralism spurs the need to have more than others. This is the 'end and aim'(p.561) that Morgan feels is the ultimate shame of modern civilizatio ...
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