How would a non-authoritarian Communist society prevent an individual from owning private property?

A society can be non-authoritarian without being unable to use force to accomplish its goals. “Authoritarianism” tends to pick out the suppression of key political liberties or a kind arbitrary rule. Note, these are particular uses of force. Not use of force generally.

So, a non-authoritarian communist society could straightforwardly use the agents of the state to stop people owning property (and note, there is supposedly a distinction between property and possessions. The Stasi aren’t going to come round and take Little Timmy’s teddy bear), provided the rules were made in a robust democratic fashion and the use of force wasn’t especially brutal and so on. Property relations just wouldn’t be the sort of relations that could legally be established.

If that’s too authoritarian for you (and so we are basically talking anarchism) then:

  1. The person with property claims could just not have those respected. He erects a fence, you climb over it, do stuff with the land etc. If he objects and uses force, you might have a defence claim against him
  2. You could shun him. If nobody trades with him and he’s isolated, his Galt’s Gulch won’t last very long. And if it does last, who cares? Is crazy old Joe in the wilderness really threatening the communist utopia?

And so on.

(I’m not a communist, not that it matters for the purposes of this answer)

There cannot be a non-authoritarian communist society. Period. This phrase is simply an oxymoron. A communist society always requires an authoritarian form of governance, at least from the second generation of its citizens.

Basic structures in a healthy society such as the private ownership are practical, they evolve naturally (people naturally “discover” them or “rediscover” them), they serve people well – and not just the owners – and they are often connected with very intimate, private aspects of individual lives.

A society that wants to disable such things – private ownership, asymmetric relationships between people (employer, employee), and many other things we associate with freedom and capitalism – must always impose some violence and increasingly brutal power to achieve these goals and to preserve them simply because these conditions (such as non-existence of private ownership) aren’t satisfied in large groups of free people who aren’t subject to violence and oppression.

The first generation of a communist society may hypothetically be composed of people who are communist idealists and who voluntarily want to behave according to the communist ideals. It’s questionable whether a large number of such people exists in the world at all. But even if they do, this setup is bound to break when new children are born in this society because there’s no reason to expect that all of them (and even most of them) will be naturally communist idealists as well.

At most, such a communist society can choose what kind of oppression of the inconvenient people and their inconvenient, heretical behavior it chooses. Obviously, all communist societies want to maximally exploit schools as indoctrination centers because it’s a “soft kind of oppression” that every communist okays. But indoctrination at schools is simply not enough because one always finds people who just ignore it or who deliberately revolt. What can be done in those unavoidable cases?

Violators may be executed – and lots of others may be discouraged in this way. They may be “just” arrested. Alternatively, children who show tendencies to behave freely and rediscover private ownership may be killed or castrated. The society may regulate who is allowed to reproduce and only allow those who have displayed a sufficient degree of obedience.

But some significant violation of human freedoms is unavoidable in a communist society simply because the rules of communism assume the people’s behavior that doesn’t naturally and spontaneously occur in large groups of free people!

Peter Hawkins had an excellent answer, but I would like to point out another consideration. “Private Property” is a social convention. For property to be owned, not only does the ‘owner’ need to consider it to be his property, but society as a whole has to agree. If society does not agree, if society does not recognize the existence of private property, then there is no such thing. Instead, society will see an individual trying to control resources that belong to the community, and will then respond to this criminal act in a moral and just (for that society) way.

In other words, the very idea of private ownership requires society to recognize the concept.

This has already been done, in the past, many times. Several people pointed to some hints, already.

Even today in most CAPITALIST societies, some things are recognized by everyone as “not possible to be owned by individuals.”

Even the Marxist and other Communist theorists spoke about the fact that it is a TRANSITION from private ownership to public ownership, which might require the use of authoritarian means. And they never solved the attendant problem of how to transition from the “temporary” authoritarian state, to the true communal state later. Hence why every early socialist state got stuck in the authoritarian stage.

Anyway, the short answer is that in the ideal communist society, there is no NEED to “prevent an individual from owning private property,” because the communal “property” is seen by all, as unable to BE OWNED.

By the way, despite what some of the more virulently anti-socialist people of the world may tell you, no modern state which tried or tries to be socialist, has ever declared that there can be NO private property. Only that specific things can’t be permanent private property.

The thing is, so far, is that there hasn’t been a MAJOR socialist state, which has managed to figure out how to manage the wealth produced by the labor of it’s people. Unless you count modern China, which MAY be stumbling towards such a solution.

But I digress.

What is property?
Clothes, cars, computers, land, buildings???
Assuming you mean land then it is easy. In the UK all the territory is crown land and property is held as an estate. Otherwise ownership of land would make everyone an individual state.
If you mean ‘all’ property then that would be interesting. Ones clothes on ones back held as an estate from the state. Interesting concept.

People keep asking variants of this question.

“How does socialism / communism take people’s property without violence!!!!”

It’s quite shocking that they haven’t worked out that property is created by society. (As Mark Baldwin points out). And it is ONLY the threat of government violence that makes it exist in the first place.

So, you want to abolish land property? Simply have the government tear up all the land title deeds that it keeps, and don’t bother to send the police around when people ring up about trespassers. Getting rid of corporations is just as easy. Turn off the computers at Companies House. Etc.

Libertarians love to tell you that property is created by the magical thinking of “homesteading”. Religious conservatives will tell you that it’s made by God.

But the truth is that it’s just a shared story we choose to tell ourselves. And there’s nothing easier, or more peaceful, than just stopping telling ourselves that story.

All we have to do to eliminate property is to clap our hands and stop believing in it.