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For many economic historians, everything I have said up to now is the worst kind of sentimental bunk, romanticizing a form of life that was neither comfortable nor noble, and certainly not very egalitarian. The big point about the enclosure movement is that it worked; this innovation in property systems allowed an unparalleled expansion of productive possibilities. - James Boyle [1]

Property is one way of managing both the products of labor, and the inputs labor needs to do its work. Property systems assign the rights to these products and inputs to owners (either actual, natural individuals or legal individuals such as corporations) and give these individuals a great deal of control over the resources they own.


Appearances in the class reading

  • In Marx's The Communist Manifesto, he argues against private property. To convey Marx’s view about property in one simple quotation, “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” [2] Marx believed that private property, modern bourgeois private property, should be done away with since it only served to widen the gap between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Petty artisanship, pre-bourgeois property, need not be abolished as industry already essential eliminated it. Contrary to the belief that private property stands for freedom and independence, Marx argued that it only served to exploit the poor. Wage labor does not produce property, rather capital, which for the poor is barely even enough for subsistence. When capital is therefore converted into common property, it helps to abolish the idea of social hierarchy.
  • In Shelly’s Frankenstein, the monster observes a correlation between property and happiness. In his study of the cottagers, the monster describes a degree of unhappiness, represented primarily by tears. This initially confuses the monster because from his point of view, the cottagers have everything a being could desire: “They possessed a delightful house (for such it was in my eyes) and every luxury; they had a fire to warm them when chill and delicious viands when hungry; they were dressed in excellent clothes; and, still more, they enjoyed one another's company and speech, interchanging each day looks of affection and kindness.” This contradiction leads the monster to question his first impression that tears represented pain. After further examination, the monster realizes that even though the cottagers had a lot compared to him, they were very poor indeed, and often “suffered the pangs of hunger very poignantly.” This realization unearths a controversial quality of property: The more one has, the more one wants. The cottagers have a lot, compared to the monster, but still want more. This is one critique of Marx’s communism. Human nature is greedy. It may seem extreme to compare the want of food to minor avarice, the sole fact that they have more than the monster and want even more is a prime example of how property influences the owner. It also shows how the comparative lack of property tends to effect an individual’s emotions.
  • Property is a very influential motif in The Dispossessed. On Urras, property ownership is the central element of society (enough so that the Annaresti call them 'propertarians'). This system allows the Urrastian society to greatly develop, specialize, and individualize, but as a result lets those with more possessions have power over those with less. The Annaresti society is strongly against property ownership, and this puts everyone on an equal level and allows more friendship and personal interaction. However, the society is very underdeveloped, and everything that an individual does is for his or her society, nothing is done for the sake of the individual, which prevents things like personal identities and interests from forming.

Appearances in other media

Copyright Law

Copyright laws are a way of giving the creators of mental work ownership of their created content. Some products of labor are created with distribution in mind, like music and printed works. Because these works are often distributed across a wide audience, it may be difficult to retain ownership over each copy of the work. Copyright laws allow creators to establish ownership over all instances of their work.

In the past, in order for an creator to establish ownership over his distributable content, he had to explicitly copyright his work. If he didn't the product of his labor would be placed under public domain, where anyone could do as they pleased with the work. Today, however, all mental work is placed under copyright law by default. As soon as a person writes it, it becomes his property.

Profits & Profit Margins

Within markets for resources, the particular exchange of property that's favored is the system of exchange where the person in possession of the most properties is in return rewarded with the acquisition of more property through profits made in sales. Therein we see an example of system were property acquisition fuels more property acquisition. It evolves as a competition directly linked to survival.

Intersections with other Tropes


  1. Boyle, James. The Second Enclosure Movement. p 35
  2. Mark, K. (1848). The Communist manifesto [pp. 16]. Retrieved from
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