Persons, Property, and Community
Keywords:Property, the person, the commons, relationality
The terms ‘persons’ and ‘property’, and the connections between them, have been analysed very thoroughly in several disciplines, including law, philosophy, cultural studies, and anthropology. Like many technical terms, the legal concepts of persons and property are embedded in social practice and reflect its gendered discourse and practices. There is often cross-fertilisation of ‘legal’ and ‘everyday’ or social meanings, as well as a certain productive tension between them. This article introduces and reviews the person-property problematic, and considers how the discourse surrounding these terms and their relationship is changing under increased pressures from a more community-focused (and less individualistic) ethos, influenced in part by feminist thinking about relationality. The article is divided into three parts. First, I introduce some of the difficulties with the concepts of persons and property, and consider what they refer to, and how they are used. Second, I explain what I see as the relationship between these two ideas – how they are supposed to be diametrically opposed, and how they are in fact inextricably linked. Up to this point the article essentially draws pertinent points from a mountainous literature on the topic. The third and more substantial part of the paper takes the matter in a new direction. Here I try to capture new ways of thinking about property which in some ways loosen the property-person nexus, without breaking it altogether. In essence, these new approaches introduce values associated with the community, the environment, and our material futures into our thinking.
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