Property, Possession and Knowledge
In Gagliardi F., Gindis D. eds. Institutions and Evolution of Capitalism. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham pp. 157-177 (final version)
25 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021
Date Written: May 15, 2016
As Hodgson has nicely pointed out, capitalism can be only understood if we accept that, unlike possession, property is a social construction and a relation among individuals. Unlike possession, property does not require a material thing on which it should be applied. Property rights can create fictitious commodities on intangible assets symbolizing the relationships among persons.
The commoditization of knowledge and the emergence of contemporary intellectual monopoly capitalism must be understood in this framework. Knowledge is a non-rival good and its possession by others is not incompatible. Since we can all possess the same piece of knowledge, the so-called knowledge economy is often seen as place where capitalist relations should weaken. However this view confuses property with possession. In modern societies, intellectual property is becoming the most important part of capital. In spite of the non-rival possession of knowledge, intellectual property rights can be defined as the exclusive right to a piece of knowledge involving the corresponding restriction of others' liberties to use it. Modern intellectual monopoly capitalism is built on sophisticated property rights that should be not confused with any sort of primitive possession.
Keywords: Evolution, Intellectual Property Rights, John Stuart Mill, Liberty, Legal Positions
JEL Classification: K00,P00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation