Land and Locke, synopsis

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Land and Locke is a look at how and what we use land for, through the things we build on it. Examining the connection between the potential uses of a specific area, and the monetary value we prescribe to it. Whether we build homes, factories, farms or shopping centres, the value of land is dictated by its use, or the potential uses to society at that time. **** as this use changes so does the value we place upon it

In order to study this subject properly I felt that it was important to look at the ideas that gave us this carved up, privately owned world.

Throughout the 16th century and the preceding thousand years, ownership of the land was the ‘God given right’ of the King. Though some privileged members of society could own land it was always at the whim of the monarchy, and this land could be taken from them at any time. By the 17th century enlightenment thinkers were looking at the right to land in a different way. The reformation had challenged many long held notions of the ‘God given rights’ of the monarchy and stirred an explosion of thinking regarding each individual’s ‘God given rights’.

John Locke published Two Treaties of Government in 1689; in it he concluded that it was the right of any individual to own land. Locke gave three requirements that a person must meet in order to rightfully claim an area as theirs. Firstly they must leave enough land for others to use, secondly it must not destroy the area, and thirdly they must “mix their labour with the land”. Three requirements that seem reasonable and fair, not only to other people but also to nature.

But, Locke whilst recognising the natural rights of individuals and property, also defends money as an autonomous natural entity, driving “an expandable wedge between natural rights and the rational social purposes used to explain their genesis.” This concept of money being a natural commodity turns Locke’s requirements for land ownership on their head. Now a person does not need to put their labour into the work as they can use money to pay for labour, and they do not need to worry about destroying the environment as long as they are making money. Locke’s ideas on property and money, along with Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations published in 1776 are seen as the foundation of modern economics and the free market economy. And, their ideas have been shaping government policies pretty much universally ever since.

The addition of the brick column into the frame is a reference to Locke’s three rules of land ownership. As I made the bricks myself, and built the structure I am mixing my labour with the land, I am leaving space for others and also not ruining the surrounding environment. The column also stands in the face of the idea that use dictates value as my structure has no use, it cannot be used to make money and therefore means the land has no monetary value.


Written by patrick_cahill

February 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Posted in uni work

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