chapter  IX
12 Pages

THE GENETIC DEVELOPMENT OF RIGHTS IN PROPERTY

L e a v i n g aside for the next chapter a consideration of the part that ownership of property objects plays in the develop­ ment of self-consciousness and the integration of sentiments about the self, I may proceed at once to a discussion of the second problem. This concerns the genetic development of property rights and the process whereby sentiments of ownership, built up about the enduring property values, are given full recognition in the life of others just as their recognition is demanded in one’s own life. It is almost a platitude to say that this recognition of ownership in others is the outcome of a long educational process carried on by home, school, church and play-group. It is only through the forces of education, exerted by means of cultural insti­ tutions, that the conational make-up of the child is moulded and fitted so that it conforms to the prevailing culture patterns of that group in which the child has the fortune to find itself. The young child is a natural egoist, an extreme individualist driven by conational energy to satisfy its impulsive needs. It is only when the home and play-group step in, in the interests of social organization, that this individualism is modified, moulded, re-formed, re-patterned, and so adapts itself to prevailing folk-ways. The nature and principle behind this complex interaction is equally the same for all the major instincts. So sex impulses are organized into the prevailing erotic patterns of the group; so aggressive impulses are organized into the pattern of a head-hunting society, on the one hand, or into that of a Quaker group, on the other hand; and so likewise are

organized into characteristic sentiments those impulses involved in the acquisition of primitive property values. We have studied this last process in regard to the social patterning of sentiments of ownership among the various grades of primitive peoples. We may now briefly consider the manner in which this patterning takes place in the life of a maturing child in a Western community.