Property and Ownership: An Overview
Beginning with theories of absolute property, this introduction considers the merits of a more composite view, namely the ‘bundle of rights’ concept. Anthropologists discuss the relationships between people at the heart of property regimes, but personhood must also be seen as embedded in the things owned. The ideas of rules and control are key, and the concept of control at a distance provides useful conceptual purchase. Property is a complex idea to articulate, and natural law, religious and political frameworks of property are interwoven. Moreover, property is shaped by economic prerogatives, and its management shapes the relationship between the individual and the community, and the preservation of common resources. Property is, then, thoroughly embedded in social contexts, which in turn can render property highly unstable and contingent. It is precisely because of these kinds of tensions that legalism is so often invoked in order to manage and even create property relations.
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