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Conclusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Peter Garnsey
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

It may not be a natural or human right to own property, but it is no accident that humans in complex societies strive assiduously to acquire, possess and attach the label ‘mine’ to external objects that are felt to be needed or seen to be of value. Aristotle was reflecting the communis opinio, then as now, when he claimed that a private property regime was preferable to one of communal ownership. His specific arguments, too, have struck a chord with theorists and politicians down the ages. They are primarily utilitarian: private property makes good social and economic as well as moral sense. It is important however not to overlook two other aspects of his intervention: first, the fact that he spoke out at all, and second, the fact that he misrepresented Plato in the course of doing so.

On the first of these points: Aristotle was provoked by the arrangements that Plato prescribed for his ideal state. It was the same with slavery (though in this case Plato was not the provocateur). There is no reason to suppose that Aristotle would ever have produced his theory of natural slavery, had not its basis been queried by certain (unnamed) individuals. Private property was an even more firmly established institution in Greek society than was slavery.

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Chapter
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Thinking about Property
From Antiquity to the Age of Revolution
, pp. 233 - 237
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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  • Conclusion
  • Peter Garnsey, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Thinking about Property
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511482786.011
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  • Conclusion
  • Peter Garnsey, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Thinking about Property
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511482786.011
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Conclusion
  • Peter Garnsey, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Thinking about Property
  • Online publication: 22 September 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511482786.011
Available formats
×