The Interpretation of Ownership: Insights from Original Institutional Economics, Pragmatist Social Psychology and Psychoanalysis

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Abstract

In this work we analyse the main interpretations of ownership in Original Institutional Economics (OIE) and their links with social psychology and psychoanalysis.

We consider Thorstein Veblen’s notion of ownership as a relation of possession of persons, and John R.Commons’s distinction between “corporeal” and “intangible” property, that marks the shift from a material possession of goods and arbitrary power over the workers to the development of human faculties in a more participatory environment. For space reasons we do not address other contributions developed both by the OIE and by the New Institutional Economics.

We then consider a number of contributions of pragmatist social psychology and psychoanalysis that, although not dealing directly with the notion of ownership, can cast light not only on the private and “material“ aspects of ownership but also on its collective and “relational  aspects”.

We conclude the work by highlighting how these different but complementary notions of ownership can help illuminate the manifold aspects of human relations, also with a view to provide a more tailored policy action for the solution of their more problematic aspects.

Posted for comments on 30 Apr 2021, 9:49 am.

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