Land and Property

The relationship between landowners and big business is a capitalist one. In the middle ages there was no big business, but there were landowners. While many other classes of society were eliminated by the development of capitalism (the peasantry, guild workers, knights) the landowners remained. They are still with us today.

Land is a source of profit in different ways. Through the raw materials it can produce (food crops, animal products, wood, cotton, linen and so on) and through rents and the extraction of minerals at sub-subterranean levels. It can also be extremely profitable to be bought and sold, to be speculated on, to be developed. And yet so much of current landownership has originated through violence (conquest) and appropriation (enclosure). Land sold in property markets does not reveal its origins.

It is imagined by those whose views are determined by prejudice rather than evidence that the land is best looked after by ‘conservatives’. But this is a long way from the truth, or from what actually happens. Conservatives tend to have a relationship with the land which is based on profit. And that’s capital accumulation. And capital accumulation is a global force which is not interested or caring for ancient footpaths, medieval barns, meadows, fish ponds, open access. Footpaths are constantly threatened by development. Some of the have origins which go back to the earliest human activity on the land.

Out of town shopping’ (what a strange idea) is partly driven by land values and prices. Land outside town centres is cheaper. The road infrastructure (if it needs to be ‘improved’ will be paid through general taxation (we all pay for it regardless if we have a car or not or whether we ever go to these places).

The public footpath is across this busy road. And then alongside solar panels, protected by CCTV and electric fences. What sort of society produces people who want to vandalise that societies sources of power?

The development of railways in Kent led to fierce competition with different companies racing to get to the ports. This nineteenth century infrastructure development still shapes the commuter lines into London. As one gets closer to the coast between Deal and Dover there is also railway infrastructure from the Second World War. It can be difficult to untangle.

And therefore it can be difficult to work out why this is cut into the land, and within a few hundred yards becomes a tunnel (there is no obvious hill or incline). A landowner issue? A landowner refusing to have the railway cross their land? Only days in the archive might answer this. The photograph was taken from Hangman’s Lane. Which can only mean one thing. Justice was generally dispensed by the landowner. Property rights gave judicial power and the power of life and death. How did a lane in the countryside get such a name? Such things were not done lightly.

This is a junction of time, space, things, relations, technologies. People use symbols and metaphors as a way of explaining; theories, histories. Along the dirt track. A farmer drives a tractor past on the narrow track. I’m glad he doesn’t wave. That might affect the steering. He looks at me. A small dog sits in the cab with him. There are two railway bridges. One current and one is from an earlier time. This is good brickwork. It is being overgrown, or grown over, with ivy and climbing plants. The atrophy of capital is less well understand, rarely discussed. Michael Kidron wrote an essay in his book ‘Capitalism and Theory’ on Waste. He threw out an idea. Puzzling why so few picked up the cue. This is Famine Down. Nomenklatura of when and what and how?

I stopped along the track here and had an entertaining conversation with an elderly woman who was vigorously sweeping leaves.
‘Good to see someone working’.
She was up for this and gave back in equal measure.
‘Leaves for sale’, she said, pointing to the pile she had been working on.
‘One penny each’, she paused, ‘and there will be more tomorrow’.

The church of St Peter at Westcliffe, built in the 12th century with a 14th century tower. Like many churches it is closed during lock-down. Did this happen during times of plague? It is surrounded by some very fine and mature yew trees.

I walked through St Margaret’s and used the footpaths to reach the sea.

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