Critical Reflections on Human Rights and the Environment series
Chapter 5: Common ownership 2: some more modest forms
Common ownership has frequently been discussed, and indeed practised, in contexts narrower than the global revolutions that Marx had envisaged. For Marx had a general theory of human nature, namely that what distinguishes man from other animals is that he alone produces what will meet his needs, while all other animals rely on finding it. And this theory requires that all the producers of goods, the workers, should regard themselves, worldwide, as one society, owning together both the means of production and what is produced. If such a change in perspective were to be achieved, the relationship between one human being and another would be radically changed, and the whole existing structure of political power thrown into the melting pot. We have seen that the post-revolutionary Paris utopia-writers did not have anything so radical in their sights when they thought of the possible future. Some of them had followers who set up small communes, especially in the USA, within which everything was held in common for the benefit of all. Many of these had a specifically religious basis, and sought to avoid the supposed corruption of man’s sense of duty towards God, nature and fellow human beings by returning to a primitive way of life, everyone, man, woman and child, contributing to the life of the self-supporting, essentially agricultural, community, as little reliant on modern technology as possible, and owning no personal property.
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