Property and Political Theory

Alan Ryan, Property and Political Theory (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985).

A philosophical analysis (not a history of ideas) of the relationship between work and property among a number of key western thinkers, concentrating upon how property is justified or criticized, and how it has been related to notions of citizenship. Ryan begins with Locke… Locke is primarily honored, and secondly Rousseau, because Ryan finds that in these thinkers two modern traditions of thinking about property begin. One of these is the “instrumental” view, in which social institutions, like private property, are justified by their contribution to the mutual well-being of all. The second is the “self developmental” theory, in which mankind is also viewed as God’s creature, expressing itself through fulfillment of its duty to God (though this obligation is gradually secularized).

(From The American Political Science Review, 1986.)