Property and habit: On the political anthropology of ownership in Western modernity


The subproject is dedicated to the political anthropology of property from the 18th to the early 20th century. It examines the assumption, widespread in human science discourses, that property systems are linked to specific habitus formations.

The project commences with an examination of the colonialist perspective on the formation of productive habits through land ownership. This is followed by an investigation of alternative models of socialisation, which link private property and subjectivation. The project focuses on this sequence with regard to the socio-ecological transformation of early modern societies that is expressed in it. It also pays particular attention to the socially integrative effect that an early liberal thought pattern of property individualism has had in Western Europe since the 18th century.

The thesis is that the idea of private property loses its early modern connection to land ownership and increasingly becomes an idea of private property related to consumer goods.

The scientific history of corresponding positions and their embedding in various interpretation patterns and development logics is thus combined with a governmentality-historical analysis of (early) liberal governance over the care of property. In addition, alternative ideas should be taken into account that question the human-scientific assumption of emancipation through private ownership.

Project activities


  • Bernhard Kleeberg, Anna Möllers und Dirk Schuck (eds.) (2024): Nomad Properties. Political Anthropologies of Nomadism from the 18th Century until Today, Campus, Frankfurt Main/Chicago, (forth.).
  • Schuck, Dirk (2024): "Agriculture, Property and Habits. A Comparison of Adam Smith and James C. Scott", In: Kleeberg et. al. (eds.): Nomad Properties. Political Anthropologies of Nomadism from the 18th Century until Today, Campus, Frankfurt Main/Chicago, (forth.).
  • Schuck, Dirk (2024): "Letters from an American Farmer: An Eighteenth Century Agrarian Utopia?", In: Bianchi Mancini (eds.) et. al.: Relating to Landed Property, Campus, Ffm/Chicago, 2024, (forth.).
  • Schuck, Dirk (2023): "Zur Genese individueller Selbständigkeit bei John Locke", In: D. Sölch, M. E. Bähr (eds.): Geschichte und Gegenwart der Erziehungsphilosophie, Heidelberg u. Berlin: J. B. Metzler (Springer Verlagsgruppe).
  • Möllers, Anna (2023): “The figure of the ‘savage’ and landed property in colonial contexts”, part V of the SFB-Blog series „Verfügung über Dinge: Historische und aktuelle Perspektiven des Eigentums im Wandel”, In: blog of the Collaborative Research Centre “Structural Change of Property”. (published 02.10.2023)
  • Mulsow, Martin (2022): Überreichweiten. Perspektiven einer globalen Ideengeschichte. Berlin: Suhrkamp.
  • Kleeberg, Bernhard (2020): “Factual Narrative in Economics”, In: M. Fludernik; M.-L. Ryan (eds.): Narrative Factuality. A Handbook. De Gruyter, 379-389.


Project Staff