|Name:||Floyd Webster Rudmin|
|Current Position:||Emeritus Professor of Social & Community Psychology|
|Institute & Organization:||Psychology Dept., Faculty of Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway|
|Main Research Interests:||psychology of a) peace, b) ownership, c) history, d) acculturation, e) suicide.|
|Short Biography:||My academic degrees are BA, philosophy, Bowdoin College; MA, audiology, SUNY Buffalo; MA & PhD, social psychology, Queen’s University. Canada’s SSHRC funded doctoral studies and two post-docs with cross-appointment to Queen’s schools of law and business. My entrance to psychology of ownership and possession was via political philosophy, not via consumer behavior nor via law. In the 5th century BC, communal vs. private ownership was debated by Plato’s analysis and Aristotle’s evidence, in the 19th and early 20th centuries debated by holocultural sociology (sampling cultures), and in the 1950s-1980s debated by saber-rattling nuclear missiles. I wanted to re-empiricize the debate by laying inter-disciplinary foundations: 2 bibliographies, 1 biography (Litwinski), 2 history papers, 6 holocultural studies to finish the project of Aristotle, Hobhouse, Beaglehole, etc., 6 semantics/semiotics studies, 4 psychometric studies, 1 special journal issue, “To Have Possessions” (1991), and a monthly emailed newsletter, “Multidisciplinary Letter on Property, Ownership and Possession”. Despite encouragement from Russell Belk, Lita Furby, Yi-fu Tuan, and others, these efforts had little resonance and rare citation. In 1995, employment required that I change topics and methods to conventional applied social psychology. The topic of ownership is now coming into vogue; I had been 40 years too early.|
|Contact Information:||9 Gibson Avenue, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L4R1|
(1) How do you define ownership in your research?
Floyd Webster Rudmin: Ownership is an interpersonal dominance relationship to control resources for imagined future utility, secured by semiotically shared perceptions and by their institutionalization in law.
(2) How does your research relate to ownership? What are you interested in specifically?
Floyd Webster Rudmin: I was trying to find the cultural and cognitive foundations of possession and ownership.
(3) How did you first get involved with the topic and why? Are there any specific events or people from your academic or your personal life that have influenced your interest in ownership research?
Floyd Webster Rudmin: Cervantes and Thoreau both recommended unrealistic idealism. I was hoping to bring the communism vs. capitalism debate back to the intellectual domain where it had been discussed and debated for 2500 years prior to the geo-politics and militarization of the 20th century.
(4) What surprises you about ownership as a human phenomenon?
Floyd Webster Rudmin: Adults in a propertied world have so habituated ownership self-regulation that they are unable to see or feel the extreme self-restraint that ownership imposes on us, as we restrict ourselves to the spaces, objects, and persons to which we have rightful access or permission of the owners. More than 99% of the world around us is off-limits to any one of us, and we rarely notice that.
(5) In Your Opinion:
- What is the most influential article or piece of writing relevant to the phenomenon of ownership? Plato’s Republic and Laws and Aristotle’s rejoinder in his Politics and Ethics.
- What is your favorite personal possession? My body, especially my brain’s verbal engine.
- Would you share it? I would love to, but know of no borrowers.
- Which of your own contributions are you most proud of? “The economic psychology of Leon Litwinski” (1990); “To own is to be perceived to own” (1991); “Gender differences in the semantics of ownership” (1994); “Cross-cultural correlates of the ownership of private property” (1996).
(6) What do you think are the most promising avenues of ownership research in the future? Where do you see the field of ownership in the future?
Floyd Webster Rudmin: Except perhaps for the child studies, I am pessimistic about the future of the topic because it is easy for consumer psychology and behavioral economics to fixate our focus on mere possession, i.e., on the possessor-possession relationship, and to equate possession with ownership, ignoring possession without ownership (eg, love and protection of a child, a park, or a landscape) and ownership without possession (eg, owning shares of a corporation or owning vacation time-share rights). We easily ignore the interpersonal essence of ownership. Such failings might be corrected, for example, if every data collection on ownership of favored possessions, also included data collection on ownership of disliked or discarded possessions, on ownership of unknown or forgotten possessions, of lost or stolen possessions, of communal possessions, or data collection on the liabilities of ownership, on the semiotic marking of ownership, on the cognitive and emotional costs of ownership, on the imagined persons or agencies who threaten ownership, on the shift of access by ownership to access by renting, borrowing, and stealing.
Editor’s note: For references see Links & Resources