What is property for? Property is a second-order value: a means tohigher ends (Alexander 2003, 739). A dominant perspective emphasizes property as serving to protect the privacy of the individual. This can beusefully compared with an older, yet still significant tradition that sees private property as serving public ends. Property derives from a Latin word, proprius, meaning own or peculiar, as opposed to communis (common) oralienus (another’s). We speak of the proprietor as he or she who owns, and a propriation as the enactment of ownership. However, we also speak ofanother word with the same etymological root—propriety—signifying aconformity to that which is proper. Propriety is a now-defunct synonym for property. Yet the association between property and propriety is by no means incidental or archaic.
The garden, Ishallargue, is one crucial site in which this tension works it self out. Drawing from both gardening debates over the past century and an empirical survey in Vancouver, Canada, I will conclude by suggesting that these two strands should in fact be thought of not as counterposed but as interrelated or, as I shall put it, entangled. My focus on gardening and property is not accidental. Patricia Seed, in particular, argues for the importance of gardening within Anglo-American culture as a means by which property claims can be enacted and legitimated. She documents the ways in which for English colonists in the New World, the garden was ‘‘a symbol of possession’’ (1995, 29), rooted in culturally specific interpretations of scrip-ture, as well as traditional Anglo-Saxon folk culture. This meaning is evidentin Locke’s narrative of property, which invokes acts of enclosure and cultivation as means by which property is actually produced: ‘‘As much land as amantills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property’’ ( 1980, x 32)..
The Borrowed View: Privacy, Propriety, and the Entanglements of Property