chapter
property
Pages 2

Property was a key subject in the *evolutionist arguments of several of the greatest pioneers of anthropology. For *L.H.Morgan (1877:6), ‘A critical knowledge of the evolution of the idea of property would embody, in some respects, the most remarkable portion of the mental history of mankind’. However, property has been a casualty of increasing specialization in intellectual practice in modern anthropology. It tends to fall between the sub-disciplines of *economic anthropology and the anthropology of *law, and much of the work on property has been polemical: e.g. †Leach’s (1961) investigation of whether property relations should take priority over *kinship relations. The true significance of property is precisely that it supplies the necessary link between material economic factors on the one hand and ideal or ideological factors on the other. Understood in this way it could again become a central integrating concept for anthropology.