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Property, Possession and Knowledge


  • Ugo Pagano



As Hodgson has nicely pointed out, capitalism can be only understood if we accept that, unlike possession, property is a social construction and a relation among individuals. Unlike possession, property does not require a material thing on which it should be applied. Property rights can create fictitious commodities on intangible assets symbolizing the relationships among persons. The commoditization of knowledge and the emergence of contemporary intellectual monopoly capitalism must be understood in this framework. Knowledge is a non-rival good and its possession by others is not incompatible. Since we can all possess the same piece of knowledge, the so-called knowledge economy is often seen as place where capitalist relations should weaken. However this view confuses property with possession. In modern societies, intellectual property is becoming the most important part of capital. In spite of the non-rival possession of knowledge, intellectual property rights can be defined as the exclusive right to a piece of knowledge involving the corresponding restriction of others' liberties to use it. Modern intellectual monopoly capitalism is built on sophisticated property rights that should be not confused with any sort of primitive possession

Suggested Citation

  • Ugo Pagano, 2016. "Property, Possession and Knowledge," Department of Economics University of Siena 744, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:744

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Asad Zaman, 2016. "The Methodology of Polanyi's Great Transformation," Economic Thought, World Economics Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-44, March.
    2. Ugo Pagano, 2014. "Love, war and cultures: a reply to my commentators," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 203-211, July.
    3. Ugo Pagano, 2013. "Love, war and cultures: an institutional approach to human evolution," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 41-66, April.
    4. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 2015. "What Humpty Dumpty might have said about property rights – and the need to put them back together again: a response to critics," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(04), pages 731-747, December.
    5. Barzel, Yoram, 2015. "What are ‘property rights’, and why do they matter? A comment on Hodgson's article," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(04), pages 719-723, December.
    6. Gintis, Herbert, 2007. "The evolution of private property," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 1-16, September.
    7. Alberto Battistini & Ugo Pagano, 2008. "Primates’ fertilization systems and the evolution of the human brain," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 1-21, April.
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    JEL classification:

    • K11 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Property Law
    • K30 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - General
    • B15 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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