return to list of latest ideas

Single Idea 19777

[catalogued under 25. Society / D. Social Rights / 1. Legal Rights / c. Property rights]

Full Idea

The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say 'this is mine' and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society.

Gist of Idea

Persuading other people that some land was 'owned' was the beginning of society


Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality [1754], Part II)

A Reaction

A wonderful riposte to Locke, who thought political legitimacy was based on property! Locke is way too simplistic about whether someone has a true right to their property. Highy dubious claims become ossified after a generation or two.

Book Reference

Rousseau,Jean-Jacques: 'The Basic Political Writings', ed/tr. Cress,Donald A. [Hackett 1987], p.60