Property and Power in Social Theory: A Study in Intellectual Rivalry

By Dick Pels | Go to book overview

2

INSIDE THE DIAMOND

Rivalry and reduction

VOCABULARY SWITCHES

In the previous chapter I have sought to demonstrate that the ideological stereotype which sets the logic of property and civil law at right angles to that of power and public law naturalized a fragile and transient conjuncture in the genealogy of Western juridical and political philosophy. But the ontological distance which was perceived between the realms of property and power—the differential sharpness with which the line of demarcation was drawn—is not the only variable present. The liberal dichotomy, as was intermittently noticed, simultaneously presumed a definite order of causal priority, which established the realm of production as infrastructural and basic, and set up property as an unlimited right of exclusion which could not be infringed by the public power. Although likewise presented as a natural fact, this sequence of causal and productive primacy turned out to be equally contextual and historically fragile as the idea of the divide itself. Indeed, it constituted a reversal of an older sequence in which the sphere of politics was characterized as most decisive, and in which sovereignty was depicted as a radiating substance from which property rights ultimately depended and derived.

This reversal of theoretical priorities should not be interpreted as a singular and definitive occurrence which sharply demarcated the political and legal philosophy of the Ancien Régime from that of the subsequent liberal era. The great watershed of modern political thought was not marked by a once-and-for-all switch of last instances, but was both preceded and followed by many lesser alternations, which were repeated at regular intervals within the diamond-shaped pattern of conceptual fission and fusion which was schematically outlined above. 1 In order to grasp the relevant details of this complex intellectual dialectic, it is therefore essential to observe a measure of distance between the two constituent variables which liberal theory itself normally tended to conflate. Liberalism immediately identified the ontological separation between property and power with the claimed natural primacy of the former over the latter. As will be shown, however, the question of differentiation and the question of priority are much more loosely interconnected and

-47-

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Property and Power in Social Theory: A Study in Intellectual Rivalry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Liberal Dichotomy and Its Dissolution 18
  • 2 - Inside the Diamond 47
  • 3 - Marxism Vs. Anarchism 74
  • 4 - Fascism and the Primacy of the Political 101
  • 5 - Social Science as Power Theory 126
  • 6 - Power, Property, and Managerialism 164
  • 7 - Intellectual Closure and the New Class 192
  • 8 - Towards a Theory of Intellectual Rivalry 225
  • Notes 260
  • Bibliography 287
  • Index 311
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