I broke down various meanings and aspects of property awhile back. Since some of what I wrote in the last post depends on an understanding of appropriation that I haven’t made explicit in some time, maybe a sort of summary is in order. In order to have an adequate theory of appropriation—in traditional, more-or-less Lockean terms—we need—one way or another—to provide ourselves with at least:
- An understanding of the subject of appropriation (“individual,” “collective,” irreducibly individual-collective, etc.;
- A theory of the nature of that subject’s relation to itself as “self-ownership,” “self-enjoyment,” etc.;
- A theory of nature (active or passive? productive? capable of “projects” worthy of acknowledgment?) and of the relation between nature and the subject of appropriation;
- Some answer to the question “is there a right of appropriation”?—and some reasonable account for any such right, grounded in the previous elements;
- A theory of justice in the exercise of appropriation (provisos, etc.);
- A mechanism for appropriation;
And if we can pull all of that together, we can begin to talk about rights with regard to actually appropriated property, abandonment, expropriation, etc.
Neo-Lockean property frequently seems to me to end up with a “universal right to ‘devil take the hindmost.'” But I would rather attribute that to incomplete theory than propertarian depravity.