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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Portrait by Gustave Courbet, 1865
Full name Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Born 15 January 1809(1809-01-15)
Died 19 January 1865 (aged 56)
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Socialism, anarchism, mutualism
Main interests Liberty, property, authority, poverty, social justice
Notable ideas Property is theft, Anarchy is order, economic federation, anarchist gradualism.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (15 January 1809 in Besançon – 19 January 1865 in Passy) was a French politician, mutualist philosopher and socialist. He was a member of the French Parliament, and he was the first person to call himself an "anarchist". He is considered among the most influential theorists and organisers of anarchism. After the events of 1848 he began to call himself a federalist.[1]

Proudhon was a printer who taught himself Latin in order to better print books in the language. His best-known assertion is that Property is Theft!, contained in his first major work, What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government (Qu'est-ce que la propriété? Recherche sur le principe du droit et du gouvernement), published in 1840. The book's publication attracted the attention of the French authorities. It also attracted the scrutiny of Karl Marx, who started a correspondence with its author. The two influenced each other: they met in Paris while Marx was exiled there. Their friendship finally ended when Marx responded to Proudhon's The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty with the provocatively titled The Poverty of Philosophy. The dispute became one of the sources of the split between the anarchist and marxist wings of the International Working Men's Association. Some, such as Edmund Wilson, have contended that Marx's attack on Proudhon had its origin in the latter's defense of Karl Grün, whom Marx bitterly disliked but who had been preparing translations of Proudhon's work.

Proudhon favored workers' associations or co-operatives, as well as individual worker/peasant ownership, over the nationalization of land and workplaces. He considered that social revolution could be achieved in a peaceful manner. In The Confessions of a Revolutionary Proudhon asserted that, Anarchy is Order, the phrase which much later inspired, in the view of some, the anarchist circled-A symbol, today "one of the most common graffiti on the urban landscape." [2] He unsuccessfully tried to create a national bank, to be funded by what became an abortive attempt at an income tax on capitalists and stockholders. Similar in some respects to a credit union, it would have given interest-free loans.[3]

Contents

Biography

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Early years

Proudhon and his children, by Gustave Courbet, 1865

Proudhon was born in Besançon, France; his father was a brewer's cooper. As a boy, he herded cows and followed other similar, simple pursuits. But he was not entirely self-educated; at age 16, he entered his town's college, though his family was so poor that he could not buy the necessary books. He had to borrow them from his fellow students in order to copy the lessons. At age 19, he became a working compositor; later he rose to be a corrector for the press, proofreading ecclesiastical works, and thereby acquiring a very competent knowledge of theology. In this way also he came to learn Hebrew, and to compare it with Greek, Latin and French; and it was the first proof of his intellectual audacity that on the strength of this he wrote an Essai de grammaire génerale. As Proudhon knew nothing of the true principles of philology, his treatise was of no value[citation needed]. In 1838, he obtained the pension Suard, a bursary of 1500 francs a year for three years, for the encouragement of young men of promise, which was in the gift of the Academy of Besançon.

Interest in politics

In 1839, he wrote a treatise L'Utilité de la célébration du dimanche, which contained the seeds of his revolutionary ideas. About this time he went to Paris, France where he lived a poor, ascetic and studious life, but became acquainted with the socialist ideas which were then fomenting in the capital. In 1840 he published his first work Qu'est-ce que la propriété (or "What Is Property"). His famous answer to this question, "La propriété, c'est le vol" ("property is theft"), naturally did not please the Academy of Besançon, and there was some talk of withdrawing his pension; but he held it for the regular period.

His third memoir on property was a letter to the Fourierist, M. Considérant; he was tried for it at Besançon but was acquitted. In 1846, he published the Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère (or "The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty"). For some time, Proudhon ran a small printing establishment at Besançon, but without success; afterwards he became connected as a kind of manager with a commercial firm in Lyon, France. In 1847, he left this job and finally settled in Paris, where he was now becoming celebrated as a leader of innovation. In this year he also became a Freemason[4]

Revolution of 1848

Proudhon was surprised by the Revolutions of 1848 in France. He participated in the February uprising and the composition of what he termed "the first republican proclamation" of the new republic. But he had misgivings about the new provisional government, headed by Dupont de l'Eure (1767–1855), who, since the French Revolution in 1789, had been a longstanding politician, although often in the opposition. Beside Dupont de l'Eure, the provisional government was dominated by liberals such as Lamartine (Foreign Affairs), Ledru-Rollin (Interior), Crémieux (Justice), Burdeau (War), etc., because it was pursuing political reform at the expense of the socio-economic reform, which Proudhon considered basic. As during the 1830 July Revolution, the Republican-Socialist Party had set up a counter-government in the Hotel de Ville, including Louis Blanc, Armand Marrast, Ferdinand Flocon, and the workman Albert.

Proudhon published his own perspective for reform which was completed in 1849, Solution du problème social ("Solution of the Social Problem"), in which he laid out a program of mutual financial cooperation among workers. He believed this would transfer control of economic relations from capitalists and financiers to workers. The central part of his plan was the establishment of a bank to provide credit at a very low rate of interest and the issuing "exchange notes" that would circulate instead of money based on gold.

During the Second French Republic (1848–1852), Proudhon made his biggest public impact through journalism. He got involved with four newspapers: Le Représentant du Peuple (February 1848 - August 1848); Le Peuple (September 1848 – June 1849); La Voix du Peuple (September 1849 - May 1850); Le Peuple de 1850 (June 1850 – October 1850). His polemical writing style, combined with his perception of himself as a political outsider, produced a cynical, combative journalism that appealed to many French workers but alienated others. He repeatedly criticised the government's policies and promoted reformation of credit and exchange. To this end, he tried to establish a popular bank (Banque du peuple) early in 1849, but despite over 13,000 people signing up (mostly workers), receipts were limited falling short of 18,000FF and the whole enterprise was essentially stillborn.

Proudhon ran for the constituent assembly in April 1848, but was not elected, although his name appeared on the ballots in Paris, Lyon, Besançon, and Lille, France. However he was later successful, in the complementary elections of June 4, and served as a deputy during the debates over the National Workshops, created by the February 25, 1848 decree passed by Republican Louis Blanc. The Workshops were to give work to the unemployed. Proudhon was never enthusiastic about such workshops, perceiving them to be essentially charitable institutions that did not resolve the problems of the economic system. Still, he was against their elimination unless an alternative could be found for the workers who relied on the workshops for subsistence.

In 1848, the closing of the National Workshops provoked the June Days Uprising, and the violence shocked Proudhon. Visiting the barricades personally, he later reflected that his presence at the Bastille at this time was "one of the most honorable acts of my life". But in general during the tumultuous events of 1848, Proudhon opposed insurrection preaching peaceful conciliation, a stance that was in accord with his lifelong stance against violence. He disapproved of the revolts and demonstrations of February, May, and June, 1848, though sympathetic to the social and psychological injustices that the insurrectionists had been forced to endure.

Proudhon died on January 19, 1865, and is buried in Paris, at the cemetery of Montparnasse (2nd division, near the Lenoir alley, in the tomb of the Proudhon family).

Political philosophy

Whoever lays his hand on me to govern me is a usurper and tyrant, and I declare him my enemy.

—Proudhon, 1849

Proudhon was the first to refer to himself as an anarchist. In What is Property, published in 1840, he defined anarchy as "the absence of a master, of a sovereign", and in The General idea of the Revolution (1851) he urged a "society without authority." He extended this analysis beyond political institutions, arguing in What is Property? that "proprietor" was "synonymous" with "sovereign". For Proudhon:

“ "Capital"... in the political field is analogous to "government"... The economic idea of capitalism, the politics of government or of authority, and the theological idea of the Church are three identical ideas, linked in various ways. To attack one of them is equivalent to attacking all of them . . . What capital does to labour, and the State to liberty, the Church does to the spirit. This trinity of absolutism is as baneful in practice as it is in philosophy. The most effective means for oppressing the people would be simultaneously to enslave its body, its will and its reason.[5] ”

Proudhon in his earliest works analyzed the nature and problems of the capitalist economy. While deeply critical of capitalism, he also objected to those contemporary socialists who idolized association. In a sequence of commentaries, from What is Property? (1840) through the posthumously-published Théorie de la propriété (Theory of Property, 1863–64), he declared in turn that "property is theft", "property is impossible", "property is despotism" and "property is freedom". When he said "property is theft", he was referring to the landowner or capitalist who he believed "stole" the profits from laborers. For Proudhon, the capitalist's employee was "subordinated, exploited: his permanent condition is one of obedience".[6]

In asserting that property is freedom, he was referring not only to the product of an individual's labor, but to the peasant or artisan's home and tools of his trade and the income he received by selling his goods. For Proudhon, the only legitimate source of property is labor. What one produces is one's property and anything beyond that is not. He advocated worker self-management and was in favor of private ownership of the means of production. He strenuously rejected the ownership of the products of labor by society, arguing in What is Property? that while "property in product [...] does not carry with it property in the means of production"[7] [...] The right to product is exclusive [...] the right to means is common" and applied this to the land ("the land is [...] a common thing"[8]) and workplaces ("all accumulated capital being social property, no one can be its exclusive proprietor".[9]) But he didn't approve of "society" owning means of production or land, but rather that the "user" own it (under supervision from society, with the "organising of regulating societies" in order to "regulate the market".[10] Proudhon called himself a socialist, but he opposed state ownership of capital goods in favour of ownership by workers themselves in associations. This makes him one of the first theorists of libertarian socialism. Proudhon was one of the main influence for the theorization, at the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, of workers' self-management (autogestion).

This use-ownership he called "possession", and this economic system mutualism. Proudhon had many arguments against entitlement to land and capital, including reasons based on morality, economics, politics, and individual liberty. One such argument was that it enabled profit, which in turn led to social instability and war by creating cycles of debt that eventually overcame the capacity of labor to pay them off. Another was that it produced "despotism" and turned workers into wage workers subject to the authority of a boss.

In What Is Property? Proudhon wrote:

Property, acting by exclusion and encroachment, while population was increasing, has been the life-principle and definitive cause of all revolutions. Religious wars, and wars of conquest, when they have stopped short of the extermination of races, have been only accidental disturbances, soon repaired by the mathematical progression of the life of nations. The downfall and death of societies are due to the power of accumulation possessed by property.

Joseph Déjacque attacked Proudhon's support for notions of patriarchy, what late 20th century anarchists would term sexism, as quite at odds with anarchist principles.

Towards the end of his life, Proudhon modified some of his earlier views. In The Principle of Federation (1863) he modified his earlier anti-state position, arguing for "the balancing of authority by liberty" and put forward a decentralised "theory of federal government". He also defined anarchy differently as "the government of each by himself", which meant "that political functions have been reduced to industrial functions, and that social order arises from nothing but transactions and exchanges." This work also saw him call his economic system an "agro-industrial federation", arguing that it would provide "specific federal arrangements is to protect the citizens of the federated states from capitalist and financial feudalism, both within them and from the outside" and so stop the re-introduction of "wage labour." This was because "political right requires to be buttressed by economic right."

In the posthumously published Theory of Property, he argued that "property is the only power that can act as a counterweight to the State." Hence, "Proudhon could retain the idea of property as theft, and at the same time offer a new definition of it as liberty. There is the constant possibility of abuse, exploitation, which spells theft. At the same time property is a spontaneous creation of society and a bulwark against the ever-encroaching power of the State."[11]

He continued to oppose both capitalist and state property. In Theory of Property he maintains: "Now in 1840, I categorically rejected the notion of property...for both the group and the individual", but then states his new theory of property: "property is the greatest revolutionary force which exists, with an unequaled capacity for setting itself against authority..." and the "principal function of private property within the political system will be to act as a counterweight to the power of the State, and by so doing to insure the liberty of the individual." However, he continued to oppose concentrations of wealth and property, arguing for small-scale property ownership associated with peasants and artisans. He still opposed private property in land: "What I cannot accept, regarding land, is that the work put in gives a right to ownership of what has been worked on." In addition, he still believed that that "property" should be more equally distributed and limited in size to that actually used by individuals, families and workers associations.[12] He supported the right of inheritance, and defended "as one of the foundations of the family and society."[13] However, he refused to extend this beyond personal possessions arguing that "[u]nder the law of association, transmission of wealth does not apply to the instruments of labour."[14]

"Why, how can you ask such a question? You are a republican."
"A republican! Yes; but that word specifies nothing. Res publica; that is, the public thing. Now, whoever is interested in public affairs â€“ no matter under what form of government â€“ may call himself a republican. Even kings are republicans."
"Well! You are a democrat?"
"No."
"What! "you would have a monarchy?"
"No."
" A Constitutionalist?"
"God forbid."
"Then you are an aristocrat?"
"Not at all!"
"You want a mixed form of government?"
"Even less."
"Then what are you?"
"I am an anarchist."
"Oh! I understand you; you speak satirically. This is a hit at the government."
"By no means. I have just given you my serious and well-considered profession of faith. Although a firm friend of order, I am (in the full force of the term) an anarchist. Listen to me."

“
”
"Dialogue with a Philistine" from What is Property?

As a consequence of his opposition to profit, wage labour, worker exploitation, ownership of land and capital, as well as to state property, Proudhon rejected both capitalism and communism. He adopted the term mutualism for his brand of anarchism, which involved control of the means of production by the workers. In his vision, self-employed artisans, peasants, and cooperatives would trade their products on the market. For Proudhon, factories and other large workplaces would be run by "labor associations" operating on directly democratic principles. The state would be abolished; instead, society would be organized by a federation of "free communes" (a commune is a local municipality in French). In 1863 Proudhon said: "All my economic ideas as developed over twenty-five years can be summed up in the words: agricultural-industrial federation. All my political ideas boil down to a similar formula: political federation or decentralization."

Proudhon opposed the charging of interest and rent, but did not seek to abolish them by law: "I protest that when I criticized... the complex of institutions of which property is the foundation stone, I never meant to forbid or suppress, by sovereign decree, ground rent and interest on capital. I think that all these manifestations of human activity should remain free and voluntary for all: I ask for them no modifications, restrictions or suppressions, other than those which result naturally and of necessity from the universalization of the principle of reciprocity which I propose."[15]

Proudhon was a revolutionary, but his revolution did not mean violent upheaval or civil war, but rather the transformation of society. This transformation was essentially moral in nature and demanded the highest ethics from those who sought change. It was monetary reform, combined with organising a credit bank and workers associations, that Proudhon proposed to use as a lever to bring about the organization of society along new lines. He did not suggest how the monetary institutions would cope with the problem of inflation and with the need for the efficient allocation of scarce resources.

He made few public criticisms of Marx or Marxism, because in his lifetime Marx was a relatively minor thinker; it was only after Proudhon's death that Marxism became a large movement. He did, however, criticize authoritarian socialists of his time period. This included the state socialist Louis Blanc, of which Proudhon said, "Let me say to M. Blanc: you desire neither Catholicism nor monarchy nor nobility, but you must have a God, a religion, a dictatorship, a censorship, a hierarchy, distinctions, and ranks. For my part, I deny your God, your authority, your sovereignty, your judicial State, and all your representative mystifications." It was Proudhon's book What is Property? that convinced the young Karl Marx that private property should be abolished.

In one of his first works, The Holy Family, Marx said, "Not only does Proudhon write in the interest of the proletarians, he is himself a proletarian, an ouvrier. His work is a scientific manifesto of the French proletariat." Marx, however, disagreed with Proudhon's anarchism and later published vicious criticisms of Proudhon. Marx wrote The Poverty of Philosophy as a refutation of Proudhon's The Philosophy of Poverty. In his socialism, Proudhon was followed by Mikhail Bakunin.

Legacy

Although ultimately overshadowed by Karl Marx, who dismissed him as a bourgeois socialist for his pro-market views,[16] Proudhon had an immediate and lasting influence on the anarchist movement, and, more recently, in the aftermaths of May 1968 and after the end of the Cold War. His essay on What Is Government? is quite well known:

To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.

—P.-J. Proudhon, "What Is Government?", General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, translated by John Beverly Robinson (London: Freedom Press, 1923), pp. 293-294.

In addition to being considered a philosophical anarchist, he has also been considered by some to be a forerunner of fascism.[17] He was first used as a reference, surprisingly, in the Cercle Proudhon, a right-wing association formed in 1911 by George Valois and Edouard Berth. Both had been brought together by the syndicalist Georges Sorel. But they would tend toward a synthesis of socialism and nationalism, mixing Proudhon's mutualism with Charles Maurras' integralist nationalism. In 1925, George Valois founded the Faisceau, the first fascist league which took its name from Mussolini's fasci. Historian of fascism, in particular of French fascists, Zeev Sternhell, has noted this use of Proudhon by the far-right. In The Birth Of Fascist Ideology, he states that:

"the Action Française...from its inception regarded the author of La philosophie de la misère as one of its masters.[18] He was given a place of honour in the weekly section of the journal of the movement entitled, precisely, 'Our Masters.' Proudhon owed this place in L'Action française to what the Maurrassians saw as his antirepublicanism, his anti-Semitism, his loathing of Rousseau, his disdain for the French Revolution, democracy, and parliamentarianism: and his championship of the nation, the family, tradition, and the monarchy."

But Proudhon's legacy has not been limited to the instrumentation of his thought by the revolutionary right (la droite révolutionnaire). He also influenced the non-conformists of the 1930s,[19] as well as classical anarchism. In the 1960s, he became the main influence of autogestion (workers' self-management) in France, inspiring the CFDT trade-union, created in 1964, and the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), founded in 1960 and led until 1967 by Édouard Depreux. In particular, autogestion influenced the LIP self-management experience in Besançon.

Proudhon's thought has seen some revival since the end of the Cold War and the fall of "real socialism" in the Eastern Bloc. It can be loosely related to modern attempts at direct democracy. The Groupe Proudhon, related to the Fédération Anarchiste (Anarchist Federation), published a review from 1981 to 1983 and again since 1994. (The first period corresponds with the 1981 election of Socialist candidate François Mitterrand and the economic liberal turn of 1983 taken by the Socialist government.) It is staunchly anti-fascist and related to the Section Carrément Anti Le Pen which opposes Jean-Marie Le Pen).[20] English-speaking anarchists have also attempted to keep the Proudhonian tradition alive and to engage in dialogue with Proudhon's ideas: Kevin Carson's mutualism is self-consciously Proudhonian, and Shawn P. Wilbur has continued both to facilitate the translation into English of Proudhon's texts and to reflect on their significance for the contemporary anarchist project.

Criticisms and alleged racism

Stewart Edwards, the editor of the Selected Writings Of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, remarks: "Proudhon's diaries (Carnets, ed. P. Haubtmann, Marcel Rivière, Paris 1960 to date) reveal that he had almost paranoid feelings of hatred against the Jews, common in Europe at the time. In 1847 he considered publishing an article against the Jewish race, which he said he "hated". The proposed article would have "called for the expulsion of the Jews from France... The Jew is the enemy of the human race. This race must be sent back to Asia, or exterminated. H. Heine, A. Weil, and others are simply secret spies. Rothschild, Crémieux, Marx, Fould, evil choleric, envious, bitter men etc., etc., who hate us." (Carnets, vol. 2, p. 337: No VI, 178)

J. Salwyn Schapiro wrote in 1945:

Proudhon had the tendency, inevitable in the Anti-semite, to see in the Jews the prime source of the nation's misfortunes, and to associate them with persons and groups that he hated...Anti-semitism, always and everywhere, the acid test of racialism, with its division of mankind into creative and sterile races, led Proudhon to regard the Negro as the lowest in the racial hierarchy. During the American Civil War he favored the South, which, he insisted, was not entirely wrong in maintaining slavery. The Negroes, according to Proudhon, were an inferior race, an example of the existence of inequality among the races of mankind...[21]

According to historian of anarchism George Woodcock, some positions Proudhon took "sorted oddly with his avowed anarchism". Woodcock cited for example Proudhon's proposition that each citizen perform one or two years militia service.[22] The proposal appeared in the Programme Revolutionaire, an electoral manifesto issued by Proudhon after he was asked to run for a position in the provisional government. The text reads: "7° 'L'armée. â€“ Abolition immédiate de la conscription et des remplacements; obligation pour tout citoyen de faire, pendant un ou deux ans, le service militaire ; application de l'armée aux services administratifs et travaux d'utilité publique." ("Military service by all citizens is proposed as an alternative to conscription and the practice of "replacement", by which those who could avoided such service.") However, in the same document, Proudhon described the "form of government" he was proposing as "a centralization analogous with that of the State, but in which no one obeys, no one is dependent, and everyone is free and sovereign."[23]

Albert Meltzer has said that that though Proudhon used the term "anarchist", he was not one, and that he never engaged in "anarchist activity or struggle" but rather in "parliamentary activity".[24]

Bibliography

  • Qu'est ce que la propriété? (What is Property?, 1840)
  • Warning to Proprietors (1842)
  • Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère (The System of Economic Contradictions or the Philosophy of Misery, 1846)
  • Solution of the Social Problem, (1849)
  • Idée générale de la révolution au XIXe siècle (General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, 1851)
  • Le manuel du spéculateur à la bourse (The Manual of the Stock Exchange Speculator, 1853)
  • De la justice dans la révolution et dans l'Eglise (Of Justice in the Revolution and the Church, 1858)
  • La Guerre et la Paix (War and Peace, 1861)
  • Du principe Fédératif (Principle of Federation, 1863)
  • De la capacité politique des classes ouvrières (Of the Political Capacity of the Working Class, 1865)
  • Théorie de la propriété (Theory of Property, 1866)
  • Théorie du mouvement constitutionnel (Theory of the Constitutionalist Movement, 1870)
  • Du principe de l'art (The Principle of Art, 1875)
  • Correspondences (Correspondences, 1875)

Works online

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Binkley, Robert C. Realism and Nationalism 1852-1871. Read Books. p. 118
  2. ^ Marshall, Peter. Demanding the Impossible. Fontana, London. 1993. p. 558
  3. ^ Martin, Henri, & Alger, Abby Langdon. A Popular History of France from the First Revolution to the Present Time. D. Estes and C.E. Lauria. p. 189
  4. ^ Henri du Bac. The Un-Marxian Socialist: A Study of Proudhon . New York: Sheed and Ward, 1848. p. 9.
  5. ^ P.-J. Proudhon, Les confessions d'un révolutionnaire, (Paris: Garnier, 1851), p. 271., quoted by Max Nettlau, A Short History of Anarchism, pp. 43-44.
  6. ^ General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (1851), Sixth Study, § 3 ¶ 5.
  7. ^ P.-J Proudhon, What Is Property? (Dover, 1970), p. 109.
  8. ^ P.-J Proudhon, What Is Property? (Dover, 1970), p. 92.
  9. ^ P.-J Proudhon, What Is Property? (Dover, 1970), p. 120.
  10. ^ Proudhon, Selected Writings, p. 70.
  11. ^ Copleston, Frederick. Social Philosophy in France, A History of Philosophy, Volume IX, Image/Doubleday, 1994, p. 67
  12. ^ Proudhon, Theory of Property in Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon p. 136, p. 129, p. 133, p. 135, p. 129.
  13. ^ Steward Edwards, Introduction to Selected Writings of P.J. Proudhon.
  14. ^ In Daniel Guérin (ed.), No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 62.
  15. ^ Proudhon's Solution of the Social Problem, Edited by Henry Cohen. Vanguard Press, 1927.
  16. ^ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, part 3, section 2.
  17. ^ Roche, George Charles. 1977. Frederic Bastiat; a Man Alone. Hillsdale College Press. p. 152
  18. ^ Griffiths, Richard. 2005. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 23-24
  19. ^ Jean-Louis Loubet del Bayle, A 2001 Interview (p.3) in the Revue Jibrile (French)
  20. ^ Drapeau Noir (Black Flag), review of the Groupe Proudhon (French)
  21. ^ Schapiro, J. Salwyn (1945). "Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Harbinger of Fascism". American Historical Review 50 (4): 714–737. doi:10.2307/1842699. 
  22. ^ George Woodcock Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: A Biography, Black Rose Books, 1987, p. 128.
  23. ^ "Programme révolutionnaire." Mélanges. Tome I. Paris: Lacroix, 1868. 72, 70.
  24. ^ Albert Meltzer. Anarchism: Arguments for and Against, AK Press, 2000, p. 12

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I build no system. I ask an end to privilege, the abolition of slavery, equality of rights, and the reign of law. Justice, nothing else; that is the alpha and omega of my argument: to others I leave the business of governing the world.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (pronounced [ˈpruːd ɒn] in BrE, [pʁu dɔ̃] in French) (15 January 1809 – 19 January 1865) was the first individual to call himself an "anarchist," and the first documented as using the word "Capitalist" to mean property-owner.

Contents

Sourced

To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right, nor the knowledge, nor the virtue.
Of what consequence to you, reader, is my obscure individuality? I live, like you, in a century in which reason submits only to fact and to evidence. My name, like yours, is truth-seeker...
  • To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right, nor the knowledge, nor the virtue. ... To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.
    • Idée Générale de la Révolution au XIXe Siècle [The General Idea of the Revolution] (1851); quoted in The Anarchists (1964) by James Joll, Ch. 3, p. 78
  • All my economic ideas as developed over twenty-five years can be summed up in the words: agricultural-industrial federation. All my political ideas boil down to a similar formula: political federation or decentralization.
    • Du principe Fédératif [Principle of Federation] (1863)
  • I stand ready to negotiate, but I want no part of laws: I acknowledge none; I protest against every order with which some authority may feel pleased on the basis of some alleged necessity to over-rule my free will. Laws: We know what they are, and what they are worth! They are spider webs for the rich and mighty, steel chains for the poor and weak, fishing nets in the hands of government.
    • "The Authority Principle" in No Gods, No Masters : An Anthology of Anarchism (1980) Daniel Guérin, as translated by Paul Sharkey (1998), p. 90
  • All parties without exception, when they seek for power, are varieties of absolutism.
    • As quoted in Crown's Book of Political Quotations : Over 2500 Lively Quotes from Plato to Reagan (1982) by Michael Jackman, p. 160

What is Property? (1840)

Using primarily the translation of Benjamin R. Tucker What is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government (1890)
I recognized at once that we had never understood the meaning of these words, so common and yet so sacred: Justice, equity, liberty; that concerning each of these principles our ideas have been utterly obscure...
To name a thing is easy: the difficulty is to discern it before its appearance.
All men in their hearts, I say, bear witness to these truths; they need only to be made to understand it.
Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases... to act from judgment, not by command...
As man seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy.
  • If I were asked to answer the following question: What is slavery? and I should answer in one word, It is murder, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: What is property! may I not likewise answer, It is robbery, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?
    I undertake to discuss the vital principle of our government and our institutions, property: I am in my right. I may be mistaken in the conclusion which shall result from my investigations: I am in my right. I think best to place the last thought of my book first: still am I in my right.
    • Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"
  • Property is robbery! That is the war-cry of '93! That is the signal of revolutions!
    Reader, calm yourself: I am no agent of discord, no firebrand of sedition. I anticipate history by a few days; I disclose a truth whose development we may try in vain to arrest; I write the preamble of our future constitution. This proposition which seems to you blasphemous — property is robbery — would, if our prejudices allowed us to consider it, be recognized as the lightning-rod to shield us from the coming thunderbolt; but too many interests stand in the way! ... Alas! philosophy will not change the course of events: destiny will fulfill itself regardless of prophecy. Besides, must not justice be done and our education be finished?
    • Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"
    • Property is theft! is a more famous translation of the original: La propriété, c'est le vol!
  • Of what consequence to you, reader, is my obscure individuality? I live, like you, in a century in which reason submits only to fact and to evidence. My name, like yours, is truth-seeker. My mission is written in these words of the law: Speak without hatred and without fear; tell that which thou knowest! The work of our race is to build the temple of science, and this science includes man and Nature. Now, truth reveals itself to all; to-day to Newton and Pascal, tomorrow to the herdsman in the valley and the journeyman in the shop. Each one contributes his stone to the edifice; and, his task accomplished, disappears. Eternity precedes us, eternity follows us: between two infinites, of what account is one poor mortal that the century should inquire about him?
    Disregard then, reader, my title and my character, and attend only to my arguments.
    • Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"
  • I build no system. I ask an end to privilege, the abolition of slavery, equality of rights, and the reign of law. Justice, nothing else; that is the alpha and omega of my argument: to others I leave the business of governing the world.
    • Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"
  • I have made every effort to obtain exact information, comparing doctrines, replying to objections, continually constructing equations and reductions from arguments, and weighing thousands of syllogisms in the scales of the most rigorous logic. In this laborious work, I have collected many interesting facts which I shall share with my friends and the public as soon as I have leisure. But I must say that I recognized at once that we had never understood the meaning of these words, so common and yet so sacred: Justice, equity, liberty; that concerning each of these principles our ideas have been utterly obscure; and, in fact, that this ignorance was the sole cause, both of the poverty that devours us, and of all the calamities that have ever afflicted the human race.
    • Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"
  • To name a thing is easy: the difficulty is to discern it before its appearance. In giving expression to the last stage of an idea, — an idea which permeates all minds, which to-morrow will be proclaimed by another if I fail to announce it to-day, — I can claim no merit save that of priority of utterance. Do we eulogize the man who first perceives the dawn?
    Yes: all men believe and repeat that equality of conditions is identical with equality of rights; that property and robbery are synonymous terms; that every social advantage accorded, or rather usurped, in the name of superior talent or service, is iniquity and extortion. All men in their hearts, I say, bear witness to these truths; they need only to be made to understand it.
    • Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"
  • The purchaser draws boundaries, fences himself in, and says, “This is mine; each one by himself, each one for himself.” Here, then, is a piece of land upon which, henceforth, no one has a right to step, save the proprietor and his friends; which can benefit nobody, save the proprietor and his servants. Let these sales multiply, and soon the people — who have been neither able nor willing to sell, and who have received none of the proceeds of the sale — will have nowhere to rest, no place of shelter, no ground to till. They will die of hunger at the proprietor’s door, on the edge of that property which was their birthright; and the proprietor, watching them die, will exclaim, “So perish idlers and vagrants!”
  • Property is impossible.
    • Ch. IV: "That Property Is Impossible"
  • The elements of justice are identical with those of algebra.
    • Ch. IV
  • AXIOM. — Property is the Right of Increase claimed by the Proprietor over any thing which he has stamped as his own.
    • Ch. IV
  • The proprietor, producing neither by his own labor nor by his implement, and receiving products in exchange for nothing, is either a parasite or a thief.
    • Ch. IV
  • Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it be disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance, fortune; force of accumulated property, &c. In communism, inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence. This damaging equation is repellent to the conscience, and causes merit to complain; for, although it may be the duty of the strong to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out of generosity, — they never will endure a comparison. Give them equal opportunities of labor, and equal wages, but never allow their jealousy to be awakened by mutual suspicion of unfaithfulness in the performance of the common task.
    Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest feelings. Any plan which could be devised for reconciling it with the demands of the individual reason and will would end only in changing the thing while preserving the name. Now, if we are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words.
    Thus, communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience, and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property is impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism would soon become so through the desire to shirk.
    • Ch. V: "Psychological Explanation of the Idea of Justice and Injustice, and the Determination of the Principle of Government and of Right," Part 2: Characteristics of Communism and of Property
  • As man seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy.
    • Ch. V, Part 2; this might be the ultimate inspiration of the later slogan coined in 1848 by Anselme Bellegarrigue (and often attributed to Proudhon): "Anarchy is order, government is civil war."

The Philosophy of Misery (1846)

The Philosophy of Misery (1846) (also translated as The Philosophy of Poverty)
  • Before entering upon the subject-matter of these new memoirs, I must explain an hypothesis which will undoubtedly seem strange, but in the absence of which it is impossible for me to proceed intelligibly: I mean the hypothesis of a God.
    To suppose God, it will be said, is to deny him. Why do you not affirm him?
    Is it my fault if belief in Divinity has become a suspected opinion; if the bare suspicion of a Supreme Being is already noted as evidence of a weak mind; and if, of all philosophical Utopias, this is the only one which the world no longer tolerates? Is it my fault if hypocrisy and imbecility everywhere hide behind this holy formula?
  • Tormented by conflicting feelings, I appealed to reason; and it is reason which, amid so many dogmatic contradictions, now forces the hypothesis upon me. A priori dogmatism, applying itself to God, has proved fruitless: who knows whither the hypothesis, in its turn, will lead us?
    I will explain therefore how, studying in the silence of my heart, and far from every human consideration, the mystery of social revolutions, God, the great unknown, has become for me an hypothesis, — I mean a necessary dialectical tool.
    • Introduction
  • In order better to grasp the thought of Malthus, let us translate it into philosophical propositions by stripping it of its rhetorical gloss: —
    "'"Individual liberty, and property, which is its expression, are economical data; equality and solidarity are not."
    "Under this system, each one by himself, each one for himself: labor, like all merchandise, is subject to fluctuation: hence the risks of the proletariat."
    "Whoever has neither income nor wages has no right to demand anything of others: his misfortune falls on his own head; in the game of fortune, luck has been against him."
    From the point of view of political economy these propositions are irrefutable; and Malthus, who has formulated them with such alarming exactness, is secure against all reproach. From the point of view of the conditions of social science, these same propositions are radically false, and even contradictory.
    • Chapter I

Confessions of a Revolutionary (1849)

As translated in "P. J. Proudhon in the Revolution of 1848" by Mary B. Allen The Journal of Modern History (1952) 24:1-14.
  • Power, instrument of the collective force, created in society to serve as mediator between capital and labor, has become inescapably enchained to capital and directed against the proletariat. No political reform can resolve this contradiction, since, according to the avowal of politicians themselves, such a reform could only end by giving more energy and expansion to power, and until it had overthrown the hierarchy and dissolved society, power would not be able to attack the prerogatives of monopoly. The problem consists, then, for the working classes, not in capturing, but in defeating both power and monopoly, which would mean to make rise from the bowels of the people, from the depths of labor, a power greater, an action more powerful which would envelop capital and the State and subjugate them.
  • It is necessary to have lived in this insulator which is called the national assembly, in order to perceive how the men who are the most completely ignorant of the state of the country are almost always the ones who represent it. I set myself to read everything that the distribution bureau sends the representatives: proposals, reports, brochures, even the Moniteur and the Bulletin of the laws. The greater part of my colleagues of the left and the extreme left were in the same perplexity of spirit, in the same ignorance of the daily facts. The national workshops were spoken of only with a kind of fright; for fear of the people is the defect of all those who belong to authority; the people, as concerns power, is the enemy.

Quotes about Proudhon

  • Proudhon is the master of us all.
  • Proudhon, like the Communists, fights against egoism. Therefore they are continuations and consistent carryings-out of the Christian principle, the principle of love, of sacrifice for something general, something alien. They complete in property, only what has long been extant as a matter of fact — namely, the propertylessness of the individual. ... In this too Proudhon is like the Christians, that he ascribes to God that which he denies to men. He names him the Proprietaire of the earth. Herewith he proves that he cannot think away the proprietor as such; he comes to a proprietor at last, but removes him to the other world.
    • Max Stirner, in The Ego and Its Own [Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum] (1845)

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