This review essay contains four parts. The first briefly recounts the contours of Rafe Blaufarb’s thesis in The Great Demarcation: The French Revolution and the Invention of Modern Property (Oxford University Press, New York, 2016). The review is not intended to be a full assessment of the book; rather, Blaufarb’s work sets the stage for the focus of my reflections, which begin in Part 3. Using Louis Althusser’s understanding of law, we can see how the demarcation identified by Blaufarb made possible a further deployment of bourgeois law, which perpetuates the dominant ideology ensuring the concentration of resources in a small number of people, seemingly without obligation to the great majority who hold no power in relation to any resources. Part 4 explains the true inequity which this demarcation has wrought, establishing and perpetuating deep divisions between those who hold the ‘social function’ inherent in property – the power unilaterally to alter social relationships – and those who do not – those who suffer the alteration of social relationships to their detriment. In short, property itself is an ideology of power, the legacy of which is not equality, but exploitation. Part 5 concludes that the great demarcation, which Blaufarb so skilfully explicates, turns out to be nothing in which humankind ought to take any pride. Rather, it has served and serves the purposes of the few to work untold misery and hardship upon the many.
Paul Babie, A Great Exploitation: The True Legacy of Property — A Review Essay, International Journal for the Semiotics of Law – Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique. First Online: 2 August 2018.