SENVI

Social Economics New Visions Incubator

Observations: On The Concept of Ownership

Posted by Lorraine Luntsford on July 1, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Let's face it.  It feels good to "own" things.  From pretty pieces of jewelry, to land, cars, and unfortunately for some people, even other people.  It makes us feel important, well off, even powerful.  The concepts of entitlement and ownership are learned at a very young age, say about 2 or 3.  The idea of ownership is a very powerful one.  Even in small children.  Let's explore why...

 

 

At that age, we are just learning to express ourselves.  We learned about ownership first by hearing others talk about their things, and when someone gave us something and told us it's ours, and when someone took something away from us only to be told to give it back because "it's not theirs".

 

These experiences cause the child to feel they have some significance in this vast new world of theirs.  They feel important like a grown up.  They see their parents and want to be like them.  They are starting to discover their own individuality.. that they are their own persons.

 

This idea is so powerful that children are often disinclined to share with others, so the parent must instill the virtue of sharing within the child.  It may be that the child is afraid of losing an imagined status or a sense of self importance in giving HIS property to another child, hence giving away their place in a sense, even if only temporarily, that they now feel entitled to.  As the child grows older the desire to be like their parents shifts to a desire to be like their peers (thus begins the notion of 'keeping up with the Joneses').  It's just a perception, but it's a very strong one and it stays with us.

 

To "own" something is to be able to use that thing exclusively and to be able to do what you want with it.  For grown ups, ownership reflects ones status as a free and independent person.  After all, slaves were denied ownership of anything - including their own children.  They themselves were property.  People who are denied ownership rights are generally viewed as lesser beings.  Women for example, were once restricted from being able to own certain things in their own right (and this is still the case today in some countries) such as property inheritance, owning a business, and even their own dowries.  They were viewed as second class citizens, only slightly higher on the totem pole than slaves, and technically 'owned' by their husbands.

 

So, these are the reasons why the concept of personal ownership is so important to people in our civilization.  It is why people defend this concept so vehemently.  All purely psychological reasons.  For in a full blown resource-based economic society, there really is no concept of personal 'ownership' and this alone scares people away from it.  But what most don't understand is that although personal ownership wouldn't exist, one would still have the entitlement to the things they acquire through the community just for being a functional part of that community.  In fact there is so much abundance in this world (the only thing truly scarce now is money) that we've made that the concept would be rendered meaningless on it's own.

 

The definition of 'entitlement' is basically to furnish one with a right or claim to something.  Therefore it is something bestowed by some higher authority such as a parent, employer, or government.  In the case of a resource-based economy, entitlement is bestowed by the community itself.  So even though you wouldn't "own" the home you live in or the car you drive, no one else would have the right to move in or drive off while you have a claim on it.

 

In closing, reality is that we don't really own anything in this world.  We cannot take our personal possessions with us when we die.  Technically, everything we have is merely borrowed for a time and CAN be taken away from us by a strong enough power in spite of our 'ownership rights'. Ownership is an illusion.  Just one of the many illusions in which we put faith in our civilization. We may have claims on things and take responsibility for them, but we don't really "own" them.  It's really a rather liberating thought in a way.  Instead of viewing it as not being able to own anything, I view it as not having to.

Categories: Sociology, Psychology, Politics, Religion, General Discussion

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