This book, now under contract at Manchester University Press, looks at whiteness, masculinity, and the intellectual history of private property from the seventeenth century onwards in the anglophone Atlantic world. I am studying 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; and I am interested in the role of race and gender within such imaginary visions of private property.
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 re-told precisely because of a simultaneously parallel narrative about the imminent disappearance of private property.
Jacques Brownson with his wife, Doris, and his self-built home, Aurora, Illinois (1947)
This is a close reading of some of the dominant theorists of private property in the Anglophone world – Locke, Burke, Marx and Engels, Harry Truman, Thatcher – as well as more obscure figures like the pro-slavery ideologue George Fitzhugh.
Taken as a whole, all of these disparate figures provide a genealogy of ideas of private property within capitalist modernity and show how modern conceptions of private property always have racial and gendered logics and a fear of the mob operating within them.
The initial work for this project was funded by a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Irish Research Council/An Comhairle um Taighde in Éirinn and the History Department at Trinity College Dublin.