The U.S.-Mexican War and
    the Peoples of the Year 2000


Communal Property and Transnational Services


Inputs from Politics  

Inputs from History  

The Future of New/Old Nations  

Community ties and the flow of money:  here, people's complaints at the end of the 20th century are picking up on an old problem, still alive from 1847:  the conflict between popular cooperation and command-level cooperation. In standard history, of course, this clash was covered up by that between community survival and the rights of individuals. 
  • Traditional indigenous communities often limited land-ownership to members of the community.  Even to members they might grant only the use of land, for some limited period and without real ownership. 
  • Mexican liberals, over the long pull of the 19th century, went to great lengths to break the lock on community lands.
  • The Mexican state, after its experience with Texas, and after its later experience with U.S. corporations taking up enormous tracts of land in the northern parts of the Republic, placed legal limits against outsiders buying land in the border regions. 
  • Mexico's Dual Nationality law of 1998 would address this problem, by permitting individuals to retain property in border areas forbidden to foreigners.  It would also continue their "property" in educational and social benefits. 
The logic of that law could apply to any family, or to any indigenous community, whose individuals move away. If a community's property is identified with its territory, how can individuals maintain community identity when they migrate to other parts? How can such a collectivity continue to offer protection? 

But consider: 

  • that property is not always -- in the present age, not even usually -- geographical, with lines that can be drawn on a map
  • that property, in any modern definition, is a flow of values, available for the benefit of an ownership group, which may be a family, or a community, or a political party, or a banking system. 
Therefore, alongside the property clauses of the Dual Nationality law, we might consider: 
  • the serious accusation that family property is attacked by high charges for electronic remittances from the United States to Mexico and Central America
  • the defining role, in urban crime, of kidnappings designed to draw "ransom" from ATM cards.
    Any community can retain a core of geographical property even while it extends itself as a trustee for non-landed resources.  The relation between these two aspects is very much a matter for the group to determine on its own account

    The emergence of new kinds of community or nationality may well generate new/old ways of breaking the link between personal identity and a mere territorial property.  Nonlocal property and nonlocal protections can also act as incentives to loyalty.

    Nevertheless, the very same circulation of private funds, through international networks, sets the stage for conflict between the two types of transnationalism -- that is, the popular and the authoritarian or corporative.  Remittances of money, by individuals in the United States, to family members in their old communities, create a flow that is open to two very different kinds of development.  It can be woven by implicit links into a web of payments useful to individuals.  Or it can be siphoned off to benefit the electronic transfer companies, such as Western Union, that are linked to the banking "community."  The family networks are equivalent to the "community chest," once upon a time really local; the corporate network, to the officials once employed to collect funds for some imperial treasury.

    It is not that a community chest was always the center for a primordial virtue.  The corrupt we always have with us, even among the "community leaders" who may take advantage of their personal strength in order to exploit their neighbors.  Populism, just as much as authoritarianism (or as patriotism), can offer refuge to scoundrels.  The question is not one for sentimental judgments about personal merit, nor for simple distinctions between local property and global. Rather, it is simply that transnational "property" can take alternate forms:  against the networks of distributed action, there works that other network of concentrated deals.


    Home | Site Map | Inputs from Politics | Inputs from History | The Future of New/Old Nations
    Copyright 1998 The Intermountain History Group, All rights reserved.