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Anarchist critique of the concept of self-ownership?

+3 votes
What are your thoughts on the concept? Is it actually useful for anything? Is it just crap capitalist rhetoric? Are there any good writings on the topic that anyone would recommend?
asked Sep 6, 2013 by anonymous
my critique is that it follows the logic of capitalism. the example i know the best is roe-vs-wade, which allowed women to own their own bodies (for the purposes of abortion anyway). this didn't change anything fundamental, just encouraged women to view themselves in an alienated way. {it also didn't give them the power to act on themselves, just to allow someone with expertise to act on them, but that's another issue...)

so yea, crapitalist rhetoric. i'd be interested in some good readings on it also. maybe i'll remember some myself in a minute...

3 Answers

+5 votes
I don't own myself, I AM myself. The concept of self-ownership, and ownership in general, relies on bullshit moral and natural rights ideologies which have as their basis nothing more than wishful thinking. You want a right to something, therefore you have it? That's inverted thinking. If it's not true, bad things will happen? Still doesn't make it true. People are deprived constantly of their self-determination, so we do not have self-ownership. Our actions within the dominant social form are not voluntary or consensual, we are not given "free will". Nevertheless, *should* we have self-ownership? There's no objective, universal claim to such a prescriptive, normative moral statement. In addition to the issues of moralism, the concept of self-ownership arises from the problematic Cartesian notion of the mind and body as separate entities within a hierarchy where the mind controls the body. Moreover, advocates of "self-ownership" often have confusingly contradictory beliefs, such as the notion that "I own myself so therefore I am free to sell myself so that someone else rents or owns me".
answered Sep 7, 2013 by AutumnLeavesCascade (8,970 points)
+3 votes
I'm not well read enough to offer any reading recommendations for direct critiques, but I am reminded of the single footnote in Malatesta's 'Anarchy', where he gives a nice concise explanation of alienation/reification (I think): -

'The metaphysical condition, which is a disease of the mind in which Man, once having by a logical process abstracted an individuals qualities, undergoes a kind of hallucination which makes him accept the abstraction for the real being.

I'd argue that the concept of self-ownership encourages you to rationalise your conception of yourself, to accept an abstraction of yourself as the self-image that you relate to, and because we're dealing with ownership, in a capitalist/propertarian society, that abstraction of you is a specific kind of abstraction - you as a commodity.  Thinking of ourselves as commodities has some serious implications, that i'd argue go beyond the immediate issue of conditioning us into being willing wage slaves, marketing ourselves in the labour market.  

I'd argue that it also encourages us to situate ourselves, every aspect of our experience of existing, first and foremost in an economic context, as an economic action - our ambitions become careers, our desires become products we have yet to buy and our play becomes leisure.  The concept of self ownership is one of the elements of capitalist civilisation that conditions us into a mindset that is useful to and functional in economic society, whilst subverting the desire to feel autonomous in such a way that it deforms the individual's power to be genuinely autonomous in thought, feeling or action.

As a side note, I'm pretty sure I've invoked the concept of self ownership on here before, so I'm glad this came up, it's not every day you get to seriously challenge/correct a way of thinking you've been conditioned into :)

Edited for typos.
answered Sep 10, 2013 by Yosemite (6,310 points)
edited Sep 10, 2013 by Yosemite
–2 votes
There's a serious problem with ownership in terms private property, which gives birth the idea of "natural rights" which doesn't exist in reality and is just used to manipulate people into being slaves. This is the whole basis of the police protecting the wealthy.

However, I can't be completely be completely opposed to the idea of ownership in general, because I wouldn't like it if somebody just came along and took things from me on the basis of "communal possession."
answered Sep 13, 2013 by anonymous
I think that personal property ownership is fundamentally different than private property "ownership". Personal property can be something you can pick up and walk off with and reasonably be said to possess on or about your person.
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