Imitating Christ: The Legal and Ethical Content of Property in the Tradition of Christian Mendicant Orders
Over the centuries, within the church itself, legal and social projects have arisen that are alternative to private property. In two completely different Christian and national traditions, with a time gap of more than two centuries, rather similar monastic movements arose, which are united by criticism of the institution of property and personal enrichment. The first one is the Franciscans – a Catholic mendicant monastic order founded by St. Francis of Assisi and the second one is nestyazhateli (non-possessors) – a monastic movement in the Russian Orthodox Church of the late 15th – first half of the 16th centuries, associated with a dispute over monastic land ownership, which they opposed.
The idea of the holy poverty of the Franciscans, according to the interpretation of the philosopher Giorgio Agamben, is based on the concept of a common life – an all-encompassing communitarian life, an innovation of Christian monasticism, since before that there was only a republican community of Aristotle’s policy. Franciscans do not own things, but use them by right of necessity, that is, the norm of Franciscan life is a state of emergency.
In turn, nestyazhateli assumed a gradual individual spiritual development of a person, which in the final case should have led him not only to the renunciation of property, but also to the maximum refusal from consumption and use, that is, the de facto exclusion of a person from legal relations – that, something the Franciscans could only dream of. The teaching of Nilus of Sora, the founder of nestyazhateli movement, about property is largely directed to a specific person in isolation from social structures.
Thus, in the framework of this study, we will consider two different Christian legal alternatives to the right to property: collective Franciscan and individualistic non-possessive. In the first case, we are dealing with a fundamentally collective beginning of associations of believers: from the formation of a quasi-public isolated material base of the community, as in a republican policy, to a conceptual rethinking of the possibility of applying positive law to internal church relations with a theological interpretation of existing real-law institutions. In the second – with private ascetic practices that deny the legal reality within the boundaries of one individual.
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