The Critique of Possessive Individualism.

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  • Author(s): Kohn, Margaret
  • Source:
    Political Theory. Oct2016, Vol. 44 Issue 5, p603-628. 26p.
  • Additional Information
    • Subject Terms:
    • Abstract:
      This essay investigates a strand of left-republicanism that emerged in France in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The solidarists developed a distinctive theory of social property and a thorough critique of the liberal, republican, and socialist alternatives. Solidarism rests on the claim that the modern division of labor creates a social product that does not naturally belong to the individuals who control it as their private property; property, therefore, should be conceived as “common wealth,” divided into individual and public shares. When the wealthy appropriate a disproportionate share, they have a quasi-contractual debt to society that they are obliged to repay. The concepts of social debt, common-wealth, reparations, and rent (“unearned increment”) played an important role in legitimizing egalitarian policies, but they have been largely forgotten today. This article resuscitates the theoretical arguments introduced by the solidarists and explains their relevance for contemporary debates about alternative economic arrangements. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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