Land is to rule
Un concept enveloppant du lien politique

Walter C. Neale, "Land is to rule,"
dans Robert Eric Frykenberg, Ed.,
Land Control and Social Structure in Indian History,
Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1969, pp.3–15

(6) In the European tradition there are at least three distinct social meanings /7/ of land: there is land as an area to be farmed or owned; there is land as the sum total of natural resources, which is the economists' view of land; and there is land as the area over which a political sovereign wields power, as in the word "fatherland." Generally the context makes the meaning clear and we, who know what we are talking about, are rarely confused. But to divide up topography to prohibit the entry of others, to exploit nature to produce useful things, and to delimit the outer reaches [les limites jusqu'où s'étend, la portée] to which the king's writ runs—these are not the only ways to perceive the place and function of the surface of the earth in man's social behavior. I submit that the differentiation between land-to-own and land-to-rule may be peculiar to those who take both their natural and legal ideas from the Greco-Roman tradition. Further, it seems likely that over much of the earth's surface the idea of land-to-rule includes the idea of land-to-own.

I often suspect that land-to-rule is an idea anterior to and more all-embracing than land-to-own — in fact, that land-to-own was a late differentiation of a more general concept of land-to-rule, a differentiation that occurred in the history of Roman-European law as it developed the idea of citizen as distinct from the idea of a person as a member of a group which in turn was a member of a larger grouping of groups. This view seems to be implied by the whole tenor of Sir Henry Maine's argument in Ancient Law (1861). If I am right in so interpreting his argument, then I am willing to go along with Maine's parallelism between Rome and India, as spelled out in Village Communities in the East and West (1876), restating it thus.

Land to the early Romans was one of a number of items which made up the family or clan under the authority of the pater familias. The family was a sovereignty — later a subsovereignty — defined in sociopolitical terms; that is, interactions of its members with members of other families occurred through the agency of the pater familias, these interactions frequently involving decisions to use or augment power. Our idea of land as territory-to-rule is derived from this aspect of early Roman law and became explicitly political as the state superseded the pater familias.

Land in pre-British Indian society was one of the aspects of rulership, whether viewed in the person of a raja, in the body corporate [la personne morale] of a bhaichara (brotherhood) village [une commune villageoise, village community au sens technique du mot en anthropologie historique de l'Inde depuis Maine], or in the person of the zamindar [landlord, chargé de lever l'impôt sur les tenures foncières], the closest approximation to the pater familias. Thus the Indian view of land was also political, if we may call a view political when it embraces more than does our concept of politics.