Erik Olsen, ‘The early modern “creation” of property and its enduring influence’

This article redescribes early modern European defenses of private property in terms of a theoretical project of seeking to establish the true or essential nature of property. Most of the scholarly literature has focused on the historical and normative issues relating to the various accounts of original acquisition around which these defenses were organized. However, in my redescription, these so-called ‘original acquisition stories’ appear as methodological devices for an analytic reduction and resolution of property into its fundamental elements and axioms. Through these stories, property is ‘created’ in the form of the classical liberal paradigm of presumptively exclusive, private ownership of material things. The problem is that this project of ‘creation’ is also a project which arbitrarily excludes or marginalizes other forms and systems of property, and especially usufructuary forms of common property. After critically explicating this early modern project of creation, I go on to argue that the classical liberal paradigm and its problems continue to inform property theory and discourse in the late modern era.

Erik J Olsen, The early modern ‘creation’ of property and its enduring influence, European Journal of Political Theory. First Published November 10, 2019.

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