This is a post to clarify (or perhaps complicate) some of the insights that I gleaned from the short post by Warg Franklin on “Three Types Of Property”. First let’s discuss the distinction that Franklin has made between Primary and Secondary Property, taking his example of a wallet as an instance of the first category. Now, what Franklin has done to justify this categorical induction is that he has implicitly placed the wallet in a system of intensive (and extended) agency. In other words, the wallet has been included as a component in an imminent relation with a sovereign assemblage that is defined by its capacity to effectuate a credible defense and deterrence threat. This is Franklin’s “contest of force” whereby the wallet is a secure possession backed by the potential vigor of its securing agent. Arguably the wallet is not in fact sovereign (or primary) property and is rather secondary property in relation to the securing agent that can affect their rights of possession. What this means is that if you leave your wallet somewhere unattended, outside of the range of its potential security, then it becomes inert, the object becomes a standing reserve that can be expropriated, appropriated, or stolen. In my definition primary property cannot be considered apart from the system of agency that enacts rights of possession. More nuanced, we can say the wallet is a primary property as long as it has been secured in range of an extended system of agency, or what’s the same thing, has become a component in the assemblage that secures it. We can keep the idea of secondary property if the deterrence or defense threat is effectuated by an assemblage that is exterior (and separate) from its imminent relations. For example, the police academy is an assemblage that secures your wallet by a law of authority (credible deterrence) but is exterior to the “man-wallet-fist” assemblage in which the wallet is a territorial component (in Franklin’s terms, the form of this security relies on the “grace of a higher power”, or a transcendental relation). A heavily encrypted digital wallet is less ambiguously a primary property as its security is imminent to the functions of its use. An iphone can be stolen as hardware but the private keys that lock its software effect a credible, and even unassailable, defensive composition. In this instance we would say the software is primary and the hardware is secondary.
To include consensus property in our definition we will need to accommodate for a theory of perceptive materialism. This is not so difficult. All it means it that an assemblage (as a formal, and irreducible, relation of composition) exists independently of our minds, but also that the perception of the reality of the assemblage can be erroneous to a minimum or maximum degree. Take for a study the Howard Hawkes film “The Outlaw”. Pat Garret is an officer of the law, but in the desert this authoritative declaration of official rights is a purely transcendental relation and predictably neither outlaw, Billy The Kid or Doc Holliday, recognize his legitimacy apart from his capacity to affect its emergence. They aren’t going to take his word for it. They ride by the law of the gun. The Kid is a formidable gunfighter who aims before he draws his weapon, because “his hands are quicker than his eyes”. In a one-on-one contest he will outdraw Garret every time. So a theory of primary property here will have to account for the co-efficient of speed of the hand-tool affect and its dynamic relation with the visual precision that achieves the accuracy of its discharge. Other characteristics of the gunfighter are also relevant, such as his retention of composure under pressure etc. All of these factors combine to create an emergent property that is dependent on its components without being thus reducible. Now, in the final scenes (spoiler alert) there is a variation of the “it works better with bullets” trope, whereby Garret believes he has deceived The Kid into accepting an unloaded weapon, thereby decomposing the dynamic assemblage by which The Kid can execute a credible threat. Long story short, The Kid perceives the emptiness of the cartridge by the weight of the gun in his hand and accomplishes a “double switcheroo” whereby Garret ends up with the disassembled component. Garret acts as though he has a loaded gun, falling victim to a misperception of the content of the assemblage, which of course does not change the configuration of its real (independent) material properties. We can conclude that an action of an agent does not need to be in alignment with the reality of its constitution. This in turn has far-reaching consequences for ideas of consensus property, and goes a short way towards explaining the concept of preference cascades. Garret’s disposition changes irrevocably once he learns of the objective attributes of sovereign formation and is confronted by a fully-armed and flawlessly calm Billy The Kid.
There’s a lot more to be said about the game-theoretic aspects of sovereign contests (games of chicken and bluff), as well as ideas of institutional legitimacy as an emergent property of formal rules of relation. This would take us into questions of empirical thresholds, as well as distinctions between pragmatics, tradition, and charisma as qualifying rules of legitimacy, and even the problem of succession. That would be moving into another post so I will leave it here for now.