The Moral Economy and Political Ecology of Land Ownership
Alexander Mather, October 1999
|Contrasting attitudes to land|
|The prevailing notion of (economic) justice|
|What are the factors driving change?|
|The private and community dimensions of discordance|
|The political dimensions of environmental issues|
|The concept of sustainability offers a framework for integration|
|Adding the moral dimension to the sustainability trilogy|
For many centuries, there have been two main concepts of land in relation to its ownership. In the Bible, 1 Kings 21, we read of an encounter between Ahab and Naboth that illustrates a fundamental contrast in attitudes to land. Ahab, in coveting Naboth's vineyard, sees land simply as an object or commodity that can be bought and sold: "….. I will give thee the worth of it in money". But to Naboth, land is not just a tradable commodity: "The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my father unto thee". Land to Naboth was an inheritance over which he had stewardship and not something that could simply be bought and sold.
One view sees land simply as a commodity, as something that can be bought and sold just like any other object. The other view sees land as different and special, and as something that is regarded as heritage. The first view correlates with private ownership, whereas the second relates more to communal ownership - the notion that land is the common heritage of humankind.