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Anthropology By Morgan And Wolf Essay

2873 words - 12 pages

While Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines property as 'something regarded as being possessed by, or at the disposal of, a person or group of persons species or class,' (p. 1078) this definition hardly holds the connotations so emphatically discussed by the anthropologist Morgan. To Morgan, 'property has been so immense...so diversified its uses so expanding...that it has become...an unmanageable power.' (p.561) Why has it become such an unmanageable power? Morgan answers this question with the simple answer that it is due to the linear evolution of the social institution of property from being collectively owned to being individually owned which has planted the seed of its own ...view middle of the document...

As time progressed from the Status of Savagery through Barbarism and into Civilization new wants and needs arose mostly due to new inventions. It is on this relationship between property, technology, and the human desire for more of each which Morgan centers his work, and it is from this study which he hopes future generations will learn how to improve their institutions until they can be improved no more.Morgan structures his essay around three basic 'ethnical periods of human progress' (p. 535) and the basic assumption that the more modes of production and subsistence there are the greater the proliferation of individual objects of ownership. As technology advances and discoveries are made, the amount of ownable objects grow as does the need to own. Every invention leads to new processes for agriculture, pastoralism and industry as well as new methods for invention. Thus, each new invention, whether it is a revolutionary idea or an actual object, births many new inventions which lead to many new modes of production causing many new objects previously not thought of as property to grow in value. The higher in value and demand these objects are the more people want to individually own them. How does one measure the growth of technology and importance of property in past cultures? Morgan feels that by studying the laws of ownership which govern these societies one can gain an understanding of the importance, or unimportance, of individual property.In the Status of Savagery, the first of the periods, property basically took the form of rude weapons, fabrics utensils, apparel, implements of flint, stone, bone, and other various personal ornaments. Due to the fact, though, that these objects were relatively uncomplicated and crude, there was not much 'passion for possession.' In other words, people did not need to own. Land was owned by the loosely organized tribes, and the tenant houses were owned by all the occupants. As intensive agriculture and pastoralism had not yet been invented the need to own land was not great either. As people died their most valuable possessions were either buried with the corpse or given to the next of kin. This process assured the first rule of inheritance which keeps all property in the gen and does not allow anyone from remote gens to inherit.The Lower Barbaric, the Middle Barbaric, and the Upper Barbaric sub-periods comprise the second ethnical period. In the Lower Barbaric period belts, picture writing, stockades for village defense, shields, war clubs, air guns for shooting, the mortar and pestle and pipes were invented. These objects were more intricate and specialized than those found in the Savage period and the need for acquiring them also grew slightly. Ties to property began to form, but for Morgan these objects had not yet reached the plane of desirability he feels was necessary to institute change in the social structures of society. These objects still, however, remained attached to the blood lines in...

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