Let’s say we gather the usual suspects, down by the river, in the State of Nature, or thereabouts, for a bit of property theory and a few “good draughts.” John Locke says everybody can appropriate some river-water, as long as what they make their own “property” leaves “a whole river of the same water.” Now, Locke has a reputation for saying things like “my labor” when maybe he means the labor of someone else, so there’s some hesitation, but it seems like a pretty good deal, assuming it’s possible. Now, in literal terms, it seems impossible: a quantity of water, X, minus some non-zero “good draught,” G, is unlikely to = X. But, out in the State of Nature, talking about individual-scale “draughts” and a naturally resilient river-system, perhaps it is at least as good as possible.
Lots of things have intervened in the discussion of mutualist property theory over the last two years, not the least of which has been a whole lot of additional research and translation. It has, for one reason or another, been a little more than I could manage to pick up where I left the fairly straightforward exploration of the question which was interrupted in the midst of the “property is impossible” series, way back in June 2010. But there’s no getting on to the next phase of things without wrapping up this particular discussion, so I’m working on finally pulling together a summary of the analysis I’ve generated in fits and starts since the 2008 Proudhon Seminar. Fortunately, I had started that summarizing process, before I so rudely interrupted myself, so let me draw attention back to that beginning, in the post “Take me to the river…,” which begins:
I’ll be continuing, in a similar vein, to let the various “usual suspects” have a little more uninterrupted say, and then moving on to spelling out just how the various pieces of the “gift economy of property” fit together. Because I’ve had a chance to do so much work on the question over the last couple of years, I think even those who followed along pretty closely the first time will find new reasons to smile, shake their heads or gnash their teeth.