Private property and the fear of social chaos

Aidan Beatty
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This book is an intellectual and political history of private property from the seventeenth century onwards in the Anglophone Atlantic world. It studies what people imagine it means to live in a world where private property is dominant and their fears (and sometimes hopes) about living in a future world where private property has disappeared. In the propertied imagination, private property is a fragile thing, a socially positive institution beset by terrifying enemies. That threatened social chaos is the central unifying story of this book. The narrative of private property as a source of harmony and social stability had to be told and retold precisely because of a simultaneously parallel narrative about the imminent disappearance of private property. The book provides a genealogy of ideas of private property within capitalist modernity and shows how modern conceptions of private property always have racial and gendered logics and a fear of the mob operating within them.

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