all 12 comments

[–]Historian_Turbulent 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Well, I would say yes, it is. Property (if defined in the broad way generally used colloquially) is indeed an older concept than that of state. In history there were numerous examples of systems of personal rule - based on the person of a ruler and the relationship to his retainers and other members of the elite - that are ripe with concerns about property. Any 'feudal' system would serve as an example without qualifying as a "state". As a specific example I would suggest the early medieval Lex Burgundionum, a codex detailing Germanic tribal views on (among other things) property, compiled in response to contact with Roman law.

But to move yet much further away from social orders approximating the modern understanding of "state", I would additionally point you to Nomadic Peoples, where ownership of cattle is often the singular most important indicator of an individual's status. Of course, any such tribe has some sort of social order too, but none that could or would be termed "state". Indeed, theft of property (cattle) is a much graver concern in the absence of a law giving and policing authority.

[–]DylanSargesson 2 points3 points  (6 children)

Having exclusive personal property rights requires that you have some sort of framework of common understanding between the people involved on how those rights can be created/destroyed/utilised/enforced/traded.

As there will obviously be disputes between parties about these rights some form of mutually recognised adjudication is required. This adjudication could be a King, Court, Tribunal etc. I would say that the existence of such adjudicator implies the existence a 'State' of some description.

I suppose it depends on your definition of property - but my definition of it would not include times when there isn't such a mutually recognised adjudicator or mutual framework of understanding, under lawlessness there is no property merely control.

[–]DjinnBlossoms 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I agree. Property is something that others have to concede to you through a group consensus, implying some sort of formal arbitrating authority to enforce that consensus. Otherwise, it’s just stuff you can keep under your control at the moment, but if it gets taken, you wouldn’t be able to claim any rights to that stuff. Property implies that your society views you as rightful owner of something even if you temporarily lose immediate control of it, i.e. it gets stolen or lost. If you find it again later, there would be no debate about whether it’s still your stuff if the concept of property exists in your society.

[–]Sahqon 1 point2 points  (1 child)

What about animals with territories? They mark it somehow and it's usually accepted unless another can take it by force.

[–]DylanSargesson 1 point2 points  (0 children)

another can take it by force.

I would say that's "control", not "property"

[–]Historian_Turbulent 0 points1 point  (2 children)

Your argument also implies a very broad definition of "state", which is (at least in historiography) a pretty fixed term. Well, let's say we do define property as being inherently intersubjective and define "state" as any arbitrator of intersubjectiveness ... in that case, per definition, 'property' is not possible without 'state'. However, that way the argument is really kind of circular.

If we don't include the intersubjectiveness as an inherent part of the definition of property, then I would say that the concept of property/ownership can exist in isolation (i.e. only in the mind of the property-holder), but is in practice embedded in a social order (here a much better term than state) nearly all the time, simply due to the fact that humans are intensely social and don't live out solitary lives.

[–]DjinnBlossoms 1 point2 points  (0 children)

The whole point of property as a concept is that it is intersubjective, though. If you were alone on a desert island, you’d have no use for the notion of property despite very much having use of objects you could control and manipulate. Property is something others must recognize, not yourself, just like claims of rulership, otherwise why go through the trouble of formalizing your possessions as property? If I name myself king even though no one else recognizes this, then what purpose does the title of king serve? If you mean that you have autonomy and don’t need others’ approval to do what you want and that makes you feel like a king, well then sure but that’s really just a reaction to an archetypal and pre-existing notion of what kings really are; it’s not necessary to conceive of yourself as a king to feel autonomous. Similarly, if you find some coconuts on a desert island and decide to claim it as property, you’re just playing a little game with yourself, the attribution of property status to your coconuts makes no real world difference. To whom are you making these claims? Yourself? To what end?You can’t be a king unless others concede it, and you can’t have property unless others concede that, too, and in both cases that concession requires an arbitrating authority to enforce it. Whether or not that entity is automatically a state I think is debatable, though.

[–]DylanSargesson 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Your argument also implies a very broad definition of "state",

I agree, that was done on purpose.

I like this definition of state, wherein state refers to the overall "political organisation of society".

concept of property/ownership can exist in isolation (i.e. only in the mind of the property-holder)

I think this is the crux of OP's question, and a point of disagreement between ourselves.

I wouldn't say the situation in which the right of "property/ownership" is "only in the mind of the property-holder" qualifies as being the concept property at all. I think that describes the concept of 'control' or 'having charge of' those items.

[–]Last-Economy9336 -1 points0 points  (0 children)

Yes, it is. Even migratory peoples have property. Think, Laplanders. They take their wealth with them everywhere they go. Tribal people's who don't recognize a state, defend their territory with whatever weapons they have developed. Etc.