cover image The Abuse of Property

The Abuse of Property

Daniel Loick, trans. from the German by Jacob Blumenfeld. MIT, $17.95 trade paperback (136p) ISBN 978-0-262-54550-1

Political philosopher Loick (Reinventing Critical Theory) critiques prevailing theories of property in this brief yet bustling treatise. He begins by tracing current notions about property to the philosophers John Locke and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. For Locke, common property encompasses the entirety of the earth—but is transformed into private property through the expenditure of labor. Locke argued that the state can best protect individual liberty by protecting the right of the individual to ownership, and Hegel similarly hypothesized that private property was the necessary bedrock of interpersonal relations and civil society. According to Loick, these frameworks have resulted in an atomized, hyperindividual socioeconomic landscape where humans are forced to relate only to themselves, each other, and the planet in socially deforming, ecologically unsustainable, and economically exploitative ways. Although Loick’s Marxian criticisms are well-founded, the proposed alternatives remain intriguing but underdeveloped. He suggests that a combination of Franciscan monastic poverty, Marxian economy, and feminist political philosophy can overcome the current entrenched systems of property. And while he uses file-sharing, pirating, Wikipedia, Creative Commons, 3D printing, open-source software, and squatting as examples of alternatives to private property, these hardly qualify as systemic alternatives. Though nuanced and stimulating, this falls short in its practical applications. (Aug.)