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The Landowners' Ethic: Aldo Leopold, Game Management, and Private Property

The Capitalist Commodification of Animals

ISBN: 978-1-83982-681-8, eISBN: 978-1-83982-680-1

Publication date: 30 November 2020


Aldo Leopold's idea of a land ethic was inspired by his work in game management. The land ethic merged ecology with an aesthetic and ethical sensibility. This chapter traces the origins of the idea to Leopold's efforts to devise incentives for private landowners to share their land with wildlife. Scholars have failed to account for how Leopold's affection for the institution of private property shaped his ethical philosophy. Although the land ethic is conventionally understood as a defense of the rights of animals, plants, and the environment they inhabit, it was also a defense of property rights. The limitations of the land ethic as philosophical basis of wildlife management and conservation stem from these contradictory purposes. Although Leopold's ecological aesthetic may help people to visualize an alternative to the violent simplification and diminished biodiversity of the modern form of capitalist agricultural commodity production, his emphasis on voluntary mechanisms has detracted from the objective of liberating wildlife and the land they inhabit from human exploitation.



Jameson, C. (2020), "The Landowners' Ethic: Aldo Leopold, Game Management, and Private Property", Clark, B. and Wilson, T.D. (Ed.) The Capitalist Commodification of Animals (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 161-179.



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