Front Page Titles (by Subject) (a) the genesis of landed property - The State
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(a) the genesis of landed property - Franz Oppenheimer, The State 
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
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(a) the genesis of landed property
we now return, as stated above, to that point where the primitive feudal State gave rise to the city State as an offshoot, to follow the upward growth of the main branch. As the destiny of the city State was determined by the agglomeration of that form of wealth about which the State swung in its orbit, so the fate of the territorial State is conditioned by that agglomeration of wealth which in turn controls its orbit, the ownership of landed property.
In the preceding, we followed the economic differentiation in the case of the shepherd tribes, and showed that even here the law of the agglomeration about existing nuclei of wealth begins to assert its efficacy, as soon as the political means comes into play, be it in the form of wars for booty or still more in the form of slavery. We saw that the tribe had differentiated nobles and common freemen, beneath whom slaves, being without any political rights, are subordinated as a third class. This differentiation of wealth is introduced into the primitive state, and sharpens very markedly the contrast of social rank. It becomes still more accentuated by settlement, whereby private ownership in lands is created. Doubtless there existed even at the time when the primitive feudal state came into being, great differences in the amount of lands possessed by individuals, especially if within the tribe of herdsmen the separation had been strongly marked between the prince-like owners of large herds and many slaves, and the poorer common freemen. These princes occupy more land than do the small freemen.
At first, this happens quite harmlessly, and without a trace of any consciousness of the fact that extended possession of land will become the means of a considerable increase of social power and of wealth. Of this, there is at this time no question, since at this stage the common freemen would have been powerful enough to prevent the formation of extended landed estates had they known that it would eventually do them harm. But no one could have foreseen this possibility. Lands, in the condition in which we are observing them, have no value. For that reason the object and the spoils of the contest were not the possession of lands, but of the land and its peasants, the latter being bound to the soil (glebæ adscripti of our later law) as labor substrat and labor motors, from the conjunction of which there grows the object of the political means, viz., ground rent.
Every one is at liberty to take as much of the uncultivated land existing in masses as he needs and will or can cultivate. It is quite as unlikely that any one would care to measure off for another parts of an apparently limitless supply, as that any one would apportion the supply of atmospheric air.
The princes of the noble clans, probably from the start, pursuant to the usage of the tribe of herdsmen, receive more “lands and peasants” than do the common freemen. That is their right as princes, because of their position as patriarchs, war lords, and captains maintaining their warlike suites of half-free persons, of servants, of clients, or of refugees. This probably amounts to a considerable difference in the primitive amounts of land ownership. But this is not all. The princes need a larger surface of the “land without peasants” than do the common freemen, because they bring with them their servants and slaves. These have, however, no standing at law, and are incapable, according to the universal concepts of folk law, of acquiring title to landed property. Since, however, they must have land in order to live, their master takes it for them, so as to settle them thereon. In consequence of this, the richer the prince of the nomad tribe the more powerful the territorial magnate becomes.
But this means that wealth, and with it social rank, is consolidated more firmly and more durably than in the stage of herdsman ownership. For the greatest herds may be lost, but landed property is indestructible; and men bound to labor, bringing forth rentals, reproduce their kind even after the most terrible slaughter, even should they not be obtainable full grown in slave hunts.
About this fixed nucleus of wealth, property begins to agglomerate with increasing rapidity. Harmless as was the first occupation, men must soon recognize the fact that rental increases with the number of slaves one can settle on the unoccupied lands. Henceforth, the external policy of the feudal state is no longer directed toward the acquisition of land and peasants, but rather of peasants without land, to be carried off home as serfs, and there to be colonized anew. When the entire state carries on the war or the robbing expedition, the nobles obtain the lion’s share. Very often, however, they go off on their own account, followed only by their suites, and then the common freeman, staying at home, receives no share in the loot. Thus the vicious circle constantly tends rapidly to enlarge with the increasing wealth of the lands owned by the nobles. The more slaves a noble has, the more rental he can obtain. With this, in turn, he can maintain a warlike following, composed of servants, of lazy freemen, and of refugees. With their help, he can, in turn, drive in so many more slaves, to increase his rentals.
This process takes place, even where some central power exists, which, pursuant to the general law of the people, has the right to dispose of uncultivated lands; while it is, in many cases, not only by sufferance, but often by the express sanction of that authority. As long as the feudal magnate remains the submissive vassal of the crown, it lies in the king’s interest to make him as strong as possible. By this means his military suite, to be placed at the disposal of the crown in times of war, is correspondingly increased. We shall adduce only one illustration to show that the necessary consequence in universal history is not confined to the well-known effect in the feudal states of Western Europe, but follows from these premises even under totally different surroundings: “The principal service in Fiji consisted in war duty; and if the outcome was successful it meant new grants of lands, including therein the denizens, as slaves, and thus led to the assumption of new obligations.”91
This accumulation of landed property in ever increasing quantity in the hands of the landed nobility brings the primitive feudal state of a higher stage to the “finished feudal state” with a complete scale of feudal ranks.
Reference to a previous work by the author, based on a study of the sources, will show the same causal connection for German lands;92 and in that publication it was pointed out that in all the instances noted a process takes place, identical in its principal lines of development. It is only on this line of reasoning that one can explain the fact, to take Japan as an example, that its feudal system developed into the precise details which are well known to the students of European history, although Japan is inhabited by a race fundamentally different from the Arians; and besides (a strong argument against giving too great weight to the materialistic view of history) the process of agriculture is on a totally different technical basis, since the Japanese are not cultivators with the plow, but with the hoe.
In this instance, as throughout this book, it is not the fortune of a single people that is investigated; it is rather the object of the author to narrate the typical development, the universal consequences, of the same basic traits of mankind wherever they are placed. Presupposing a knowledge of the two most magnificent examples of the expanded feudal state, Western Europe and Japan, we shall, in general, limit ourselves to cases less well known, and so far as possible give the preference to material taken from ethnography, rather than from history in its more restricted sense.
The process now to be narrated is a change, gradually consummated but fundamentally revolutionary, of the political and social articulation of the primitive feudal state: the central authority loses its political power to the territorial nobility, the common freeman sinks from his status, while the “subject” mounts.
[88.]Ratzel, l. c. I, p. 363.
[89.]Mommsen, l. c., p. 46.