[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Xmca-l] Is Property "Natural"?

I'm reading Merleau-Ponty's Sorbonne lectures on Child Psychology and
Pedagogy. On p. 76 he takes Engels to task for not explaining the origins
of private property, and informs him, brimming with confidence, that
according to Hegel the origins of private property are simply an attempt by
man to extend the sovereignty he exercises over his own body.  (On p. 77 he
once again scolds Engels for explaining partriarchy as a form of slavery,
and once again calls on Hegel to inform Engels that there exists a "special
relationship" between husband and wife!)

I leave aside whether Hegel is really to blame for this reasoning (it later
transpires that the real culprit is Freud). I leave aside the fact that
none of this does what Merleau-Ponty is trying to do. He is trying to show
that property is not natural, but foreign (I think what he means is
"cultural" or maybe "social"). Merleau-Ponty only succeeds in arguing that,
since it is supposedly an extension of the body and of the will to
reproduction property and patriarchy really ARE natural.

Even while Hegel was still alive, Hazlitt was arguing that the self who
profits from the enjoyment of property requires far more imagination than
has less immediacy to children than the other selves who take pleasure and
pain in our good times and bad (You would think that the author
"Phenomonology of Perception" would be all too ready to acknowledge
this!).  Actually, it now appears that this is something we share with
other primates. Although chimps and bonobos are not particularly well known
for their business acuity, it appears that even capuchin monkeys are
acutely sensitive to wage disparity.


I remember showing a North Korean monster movie to a toddler as part of an
elaborate attempt to elicit certain forms of stative verb that have a moral
as well as an aesthetic dimension: instead, the toddler pointed to some
characters who were sleeping caves and asked "How can they sleep there, in
the wet, while we are so comfortable here in this apartment?" When I read
Max's work, I am struck by how "natural" it is that a young person who is
not starving or on the street should look at those who are, and respond
with solidarity, indignation, and above all incredulity at its supposed

David Kellogg
Macquarie University