The material conditions of non-domination: Property, independence, and the means of production

European Journal of Political Theory 22 (3):425-444 (2023)
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While it is a point of agreement in contemporary republican political theory that property ownership is closely connected to freedom as non-domination, surprisingly little work has been done to elucidate the nature of this connection or the constraints on property regimes that might be required as a result. In this paper, I provide a systematic model of the boundaries within which republican property systems must sit and explore some of the wider implications that thinking of property in these terms may have for republicans. The boundaries I focus on relate to the distribution of property and the application of types of property claims over particular kinds of goods. I develop this model from those elements of non-domination most directly related to the operation of a property regime: (a) economic independence, (b) limiting material inequalities, and (c) the promotion of common goods. The limits that emerge from this analysis support intuitive judgments that animate much republican discussion of property distribution. My account diverges from much orthodox republican theory, though, in challenging the primacy of private property rights in the realization of economic independence. The value of property on republican terms can be realized without private ownership of the means of production.

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Alexander Bryan
Cambridge University


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