Anthropology by Morgan and Wolf

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While Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines property as 'something regarded as being possessed by, or at the disposal of, a person or group of persons species or class,' (p. 1078) this definition hardly holds the connotations so emphatically discussed by the anthropologist Morgan. To Morgan, 'property has been so diversified its uses so expanding...that it has unmanageable power.' (p.561) Why has it become such an unmanageable power? Morgan answers this question with the simple answer that it is due to the linear evolution of the social institution of property from being collectively owned to being individually owned which has planted the seed of its own destruction in modern society. Morgan, in an attempt to study the role property has played in shaping social structures throughout history, has concluded that the influences property has had on reshaping societies and vice versa can teach the historian many things about both the society being studied and the environment in which it strove to survive.

To Morgan, the 'germ' of the institution of property slowly infected many different societies in many different parts of the world. His teleological approach states that due to the 'unity of mankind' various technological innovations, which gave rise to the ever-growing availability of property, allowed social change to occur in many areas of the globe independently. Every area, went through its own version of evolution in which the importance of wealth grew at varying rates. This discovery leads Morgan to believe that while the past was unified in its variation, it is the future which must presently be addressed. For Morgan, in studying the past one can learn much about the future. Not only does Morgan analyze the social emergence of various types of property, but he is also extremely interested in the human tendencies evident in...