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Chapter 12 - Property and Political Power

Neo-feudal Entanglements

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2021

John Christman
Affiliation:
Pennsylvania State University
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Summary

Over the last century, many philosophers have argued in favour of a liberal-egalitarian accommodation of capitalism, in which the liberty of the market is to be combined with an egalitarian distribution of property. Theorists of positive freedom, amongst others, have been prominent in arguing for the liberal-egalitarian accommodation. They have argued that an egalitarian distribution of private property is necessary to give every citizen equal positive freedom. To lead an autonomous life, every citizen needs control over some private property. The liberal-egalitarian accommodation to capitalism has come under threat in the last decades, as documented by a renewed widening of inequalities in wealth and income. In this essay, I will argue that this predicament requires us to look at one important precondition of the positive freedom argument. This precondition I call the de-politization of private property. Private property is conceived of as a purely private phenomenon, which has no effects on the exercise of political power. However, whether this precondition is met is a contingent matter; and so defenders of the positive freedom argument therefore need to turn their attention to the problem posed by the relation between private property and political power.

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Positive Freedom
Past, Present, and Future
, pp. 217 - 235
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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