Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Labor, the subjective essence of private property as exclusion of property, and capital, objective labour as exclusion of labour, constitute private property as its developed state of contradiction.*

- Karl Marx, right?
- Right. I'm not one much for him ordinarily. But the association of private property with slavery is about as fundamental and revolutionary** an idea as you can get. But maybe you don't like his language, his resolution of the problem in communism?
- I don't.
- What if it is correct that private property results in a state of slavery for those without property?
- Is that what you think?
- I think that property, when made the foundation of human relations, leads to a constant threat of being enslaved. Life and freedom are dependent on having property. If you continue to exist without property, it can only be as a slave, dependent for life and freedom on the will of those who allow you to be on their land, eat their food, or use their tools. And the ever-present potential loss of life or liberty creates the sense that slavery, in those lucky enough to escape it, is part of the human condition.
- Then we'll just have to live with the threat of being enslaved, because private property, the need to be in control of things that are around us, is human nature.
- Could be it is. Still, we don't have to make private property the foundation of our societies. When we do, we are sure, if we avoid outright slavery, to be stuck with hierarchy, each level giving up some freedom to the direction of the higher level.
- Private property creates hierarchy?
- Private property when made the foundation of society. It can be present without being made the foundation of society.
- How?
- By putting cooperation before private property. Cooperation sees other people are a resource to be protected, their lives and their ability to do things freely benefiting everyone, with everything accomplished providing more material to work with.***
- What if people are not willing to share what they produce?
- But why wouldn't they? A creative person wants to get rid of what's been finished and move on to the next project.
- You're assuming we don't need to use everything we make.
- Assuming, yes, we are not on the verge of death. Our current worship of money and property, our "Neo-Liberalism", is the product of, is an attempt to make sense of being at real risk of death and slavery when without money and property.
- And what about private property in cooperative society?
- It enters into society as a means of cooperation, when it turns out people cooperate better with their own house and own tools and within their own family.**** Anthropologists are discovering that both hierarchical societies and cooperative societies can be found at all times, often in contact with each other. Neither is the destined outcome of history. Hierarchy and cooperation appear to be divergent paths, depending on whether property is primary or secondary to their foundation.*****

Further reading: The Game Against The Game
* Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
** See A Discourse On The Origin And The Foundation Of Inequality Among Mankind, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1754
*** Killer Metaphysics
**** Property Is Silence
***** The Golden Rule & The Deviant Path


- What about Aristotle?
- What about him?
- He wrote that some human beings were born slaves, and some made slaves.
- Once slavery has been instituted, some 'by nature', those not disposed to violence, are going to be made slaves.
- Those with better nature. But that's not what he meant. Aristotle wrote that natural slaves are better off being slaves.
- Sure, in a slave society.
- Is there any other kind?
- Yes. We can be fairly sure of that. Anthropology and ethnography show* our first societies consistently had ranks reflecting achievement, but when ranks were not inherited they did not translate into slavery.
- Why not?
- Because in these societies generosity is prestigious. Achieved wealth in the form of food, shelter, tools is given away, not monopolized in families. Studies show that chimps too have rank societies, but ranking cannot be passed on by inheritance. Each generation has to acquire rank for itself. Humans though, developing from out of the earlier societies that rank by generosity, with the heightened foresight that language allows have learned to teach their descendants how to frighten outsiders into submission, and institutionalize slavery by monopolizing food, shelter, and tools.
- Slavery is not natural. It's our first, characteristically human, culture.**
* See The Creation Of Inequality, Flannery and Marcus, 2012
** See Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse On The Arts And Sciences, 1750 
Dolphin mothers recently have been observed teaching tool use for hunting, not generally practiced in their group, only to their own offspring. This exclusivity however does not establish social relations.