chapter  V
26 Pages


We come in this chapter to consider the property relation between the individual and objects which he appropriates from his environment. Before we do so, however, a caution is required as to the meaning connoted by such terms as proprietor, ownership, landed property, or rights to a tract of country. It is rarely possible to apply these words to primitive societies in the sense in which they are applied to higher societies and to our own in particular. With us, these words have a connotation presupposing the existence of highly developed systems of legal and economic conditions and sanctions which are meaningless when transferred to native society. Firth has this point in mind when he writes of primitive society that "the essential factors in the situation — the individual, the goods, and the other members of his community-remain unchanged, but the set of concepts by which these are related has been formed against a different cultural background. Hence the impression that is conveyed to a European by the simple and satisfying statement that an object is owned by a certain person may be entirely divorced from reality through his ignorance of all those rights and qualifications which to the native form an integral part of the situation."1