Self-Ownership as Personal Sovereignty

Social Philosophy & Policy, Forthcoming

32 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2018 Last revised: 2 Sep 2019

Date Written: July 20, 2018


Self-ownership has fallen out of favor as a core moral and political concept. I argue that this is because the most popular conception of self-ownership, what I call the property conception, is typically linked to a libertarian (of the left or right) political program. Seeing self-ownership and libertarianism as being necessarily linked leads those who are not inclined towards libertarianism to reject the idea of self-ownership altogether. This, I argue, is mistaken. Self-ownership is a crucial moral and political concept that can earn its keep if we understand it not as a type of property right in the self, but rather as a set of territorial rights one has over one’s body. This territorial conception of self-ownership, which I call the sovereignty conception of self-ownership avoids the traditional arguments raised against the property conception of self-ownership and has other benefits besides. Accepting this conception of self-ownership, I argue, has considerable moral and political benefits without taking on the costs associated with other forms of self-ownership.

Keywords: Self-Ownership, Sovereignty, Rights, Property, Autonomy

Suggested Citation

Thrasher, John, Self-Ownership as Personal Sovereignty (July 20, 2018). Social Philosophy & Policy, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN:

John Thrasher (Contact Author)

Chapman University ( email )

Orange, CA 92866
United States
7146287343 (Phone)

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