Thinking about Property: From Antiquity to the Age of Revolution

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This book explores ancient 'foundational' texts relating to property and their reception by later thinkers in their various contexts up to the early nineteenth century. The texts include Plato's vision of an ideal polity in the Republic, Jesus' teachings on renunciation and poverty, and Golden Age narratives and other evolutionary accounts of the transition of mankind from primeval communality to regimes of ownership. The issue of the legitimacy of private ownership exercises the minds of the major political thinkers as well as theologians and jurists throughout the ages. The book gives full consideration to the historical development of Rights Theory, with special reference to the right to property. It ends with a comparative study of the Declarations of Rights in the American and French Revolutions and seeks to explain, with reference to contemporary documents, why the French recognised an inalienable, human right to property whereas the Americans did not.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
''This marvellous book combines very substantial and wide-ranging scholarship with great conceptual and analytic rigour to present a sophisticated, entirely original and highly compelling history of conceptions of property in the West from the Greeks to the 19th century.' Raymond Geuss, Professor in Philosophy, University of Cambridge

'Garnsey’s meticulous and focused scholarship will fundamentally change our basic thinking about the origins and legitimation of property in the western tradition … I know of no other work that so accurately traces the genealogy of modern debts to ancient thought on this important subject.' Brent Shaw, Professor of Classics and Andrew Fleming West Professor of Classics, Princeton University

"As should be clear from this (partial) survey of its contents, this is a wide-ranging, learned and ambitious book that is intended to appeal to a wide audience. It should interest historians of ideas, students of political thought, scholars of religion, and anyone interested in the intellectual roots of rights theory." BMCR

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521876773
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2007
  • Series: Ideas in Context Series, #90
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Garnsey is Director of Research in the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge, having previously been Professor of Ancient History. His recent books include Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine (1996), Food and Society in Classical Antiquity (1999), (with Caroline Humfress) The Evolution of the Late Antique World (2001) and (with Anthony Bowen) a translation of Lactantius' Divine Institutes (2003).

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Plato's 'communism', Aristotle's critique and Proclus' response; 2. Plato's 'communism': from late antiquity via Islamic Spain to the Renaissance; 3. Renunciation and communality: thinking through the primitive Church; 4. The poverty of Christ: crises of asceticism from the Pelagians to the Franciscans; 5. The state of nature and the origin of private property: Hesiod to William of Ockham; 6. The state of nature and the origin of private property: Grotius to Hegel; 7. Property as a legal right; 8. Property as a human right; Conclusion.

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