Smelly theory of private property

The genesis of private property has been a recurring theme in political philosophy since ancient times. In his essays on the five senses the French philosopher Michel Serres proposes a “smelly theory of private property”:

Accordingly, disgusting smells deter us from approaching the property of others:

The privatization of the common and the appropriation of space do not occur only by yelling or spitting; sometimes excrement is enough. (…) Those who see only public space have no sense of smell. (…) The first one who, having shit on a terrain, then decided to say, this is mine, immediately found people who were disgusted enough to believe him. They distanced them­ selves from his territory, without war or treaty.

Taking this intellectual game a step further one can envision an arm race with repulsive  smells. Is this the reason why we sometimes seem to move through clouds of repellent smells?

Image source: Quast, Pieter Jansz: De Reuk, 1618 –  1645. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Serres, M. (2009). The five senses: a philosophy of mingled bodies. (M. Sankey & P. Cowley, Übers.). London; New York: Continuum.

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