Property as Entrance
85 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2005
One of the central values of private ownership in liberal property thought is its freedom-guaranteeing function. The precise mechanism by which private property rights accomplish this guarantee, however, is frequently left unexplored. When theorists discuss the issue, they often identify property's liberty-securing quality with the power that property confers upon its owner to exit from society into the protective cocoon of his stuff. This mechanism of property as exit draws its strength from an implicit assumption that people are the sorts of beings that can withdraw from social relations into the cocoon of their property. But there are reasons to think that withdrawal would be very costly for most people. As a consequence, the power of property to facilitate exit may be substantially weaker than is often assumed. In addition, scholars' affinity for property's exit function has obscured the degree to which property works, not solely as a means of facilitating withdrawal, but also as a crucial mechanism for tying individuals into social groups.
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