Few political ideas are as divisive and controversial for some – and yet taken for granted by others – as the ownership of private property. For critics, property is institutionalised theft, responsible for lamentable levels of inequality and poverty; for its defenders, private ownership is a fundamental right that protects individual freedom and ensures wider economic benefits for the community.
In this book, Robert Lamb explores philosophical arguments deployed to conceptualise, justify, and criticize private property ownership. After explaining what the right to ownership means, he introduces the radical case against property, as put by anarchist and socialist writers like Proudhon and Marx. He goes on to outline possible responses to this radical critique – through discussions and assessments of the various defences of property advanced by Locke, Hume, Hegel, J.S. Mill, and Nozick – before considering how more recent theorists, such as John Rawls and Elinor Ostrom, push us to rethink the nature of ownership in a democratic society.
This engaging synthesis of historical and contemporary theories of property will be essential reading for students and scholars of normative questions in political philosophy.