Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (/ˈpruːdɒn/;[1] French: [pjɛʁʒozɛf pʁudɔ̃]; 15 January 1809 – 19 January 1865) was a French politician and the founder of mutualist philosophy. He was the first person to declare himself an anarchist,[2][3] using that term and is widely regarded as one of the ideology's most influential theorists. Proudhon is even considered by many to be the "father of anarchism".[4] He became a member of the French Parliament after the Revolution of 1848, whereafter he referred to himself as a federalist.[5]

Proudhon, who was born in Besançon, 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 and 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 possession over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces. He considered social revolution to be achievable in a peaceful manner. In The Confessions of a Revolutionary, Proudhon asserted that "Anarchy is Order Without Power", 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".[6] He unsuccessfully tried to create a national bank, to be funded by what became an abortive attempt at an income tax on capitalists and shareholders. Similar in some respects to a credit union, it would have given interest-free loans.[7]

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Portrait of Pierre Joseph Proudhon 1865
Portrait by Gustave Courbet, 1865
Born15 January 1809
Died19 January 1865 (aged 56)
Era19th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolSocialism, anarchism, mutualism
Main interests
Liberty, property, authority, atheism
Notable ideas
Property is theft, anarchy is order, economic federation, anarchist gradualism, Mutualism, dual power[note 1]


Early life and education

Proudhon was born in Besançon, France on 15 January 1809 at 23 Rue du Petit Battant in the suburb of Battant.[8] His father Claude-François Proudhon, who worked as a brewer and a cooper,[9] was originally from the village of Chasnans, near the border with Switzerland. His mother Catherine Simonin was from Cordiron.[8] Claude-François and Catherine had five boys together, two of whom died at a very young age. Proudhon's brothers Jean-Etienne and Claude were born in 1811 and 1816 respectively and both maintained a very close relationship with Proudhon.[9]

As a boy, he mostly worked in the family tavern, helped with basic agricultural work and spent time playing outdoors in the countryside. Proudhon received no formal education as a child, but he was taught to read by his mother, who had him spelling words by age three. However, the only books that Proudhon was exposed to until he was 10 were the Gospels and the Four Aymon Brothers and some local almanacs. In 1820, Proudhon's mother began trying to get him admitted into the city college in Besançon. The family was far too poor to afford the tuition, but with the help of one of Claude-François' former employers she managed to gain a bursary which deducted 120 francs a year from the cost. Proudhon was unable to afford books (or even shoes) to attend school which caused him great difficulties and often made him the object of scorn by his wealthier classmates. In spite of this, Proudhon showed a strong will to learn and spent much time in the school library with a pile of books, exploring a variety of subjects in his free time outside of class.[10]

Entrance into the printing trade

In 1827, Proudhon began an apprenticeship at a printing press in the house of Bellevaux in Battant. On Easter of the following year, he transferred to a press in Besançon owned by the family of one of his schoolmates, Antoine Gauthier.[11] Besançon was an important center of religious thought at the time and most of the works published at Gauthier were ecclesiastical works. During the course of his work, Proudhon spent hours every day reading this Christian literature and began to question many of his long held religious beliefs which eventually led him to reject Christianity altogether.[12]

Over the years, Proudhon rose to be a corrector for the press, proofreading their publications. By 1829, he began to become more interested in social issues than religious theory. Of particular importance during this period was his encounter with Charles Fourier, who in 1829 came to Gauthier as a customer seeking to publish his work Le Nouveau Monde Industriel et Sociétaire. Proudhon supervised the printing of the book, which gave him ample opportunity to talk with Fourier about a variety of social and philosophical issues. These discussions left a strong impression on Proudhon and influenced him throughout his life.[13] It was also during this time that Proudhon formed one of his closest friendships with Gustave Fallot, a scholar from Montebéliard who came from a family of wealthy French industrialists. Impressed by Proudhon's corrections of one of his Latin manuscripts, Fallot sought out his friendship and the two were soon regularly spending their evenings together discussing French literature by Michel de Montaigne, François Rabelais, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Denis Diderot and many other authors to whom Proudhon had not been exposed during his years of theological readings.[14]

Decision to pursue philosophy and writing

In September 1830, Proudhon became certified as a journeyman compositor. The period following this was marked by unemployment and poverty, with Proudhon travelling around France (also briefly to Neuchâtel, Switzerland) where he unsuccessfully sought stable employment in printing and as a schoolteacher.[15] During this period, Fallot offered financial assistance to Proudhon if he came to Paris to study philosophy. Proudhon accepted his offer despite concerns about how it might disrupt his career in the printing trade.[16] He walked from Besançon to Paris, arriving in March at the Rue Mazarin in the Latin Quarter, where Fallot was living at the time. Proudhon began mingling amongst the circle of metropolitan scholars surrounding Fallot, but he felt out of place and uncomfortable amidst people who were both wealthier and more accustomed to scholarly debate. Ultimately, Proudhon found that he preferred to spend the majority of his time studying alone and was not fond of urban life, longing to return home to Besançon.[17] The cholera outbreak in Paris granted him his wish as Fallot was struck with the illness, making him unable to financially support Proudhon any longer. After Proudhon left, he never saw Fallot (who died in 1836) again.[18] However, this friendship was one of the most important events in Proudhon's life as it is what motivated him to leave the printing trade and pursue his studies of philosophy instead.[19]

After an unsuccessful printing business venture in 1838, Proudhon decided to dedicate himself fully to scholarly pursuits. He applied for the Suard Pension, a bursary that would enable him to study at the Academy of Besançon. Proudhon was selected out of several candidates primarily due to the fact that his income was much lower than the others and the judges were extremely impressed by his writing and the level of education he had given himself while working as an artisan. Proudhon arrived in Paris towards the end of autumn in 1838.[20]

Early writings

In 1839, the Academy of Besançon held an essay competition on the subject of the utility of the celebration of Sunday in regard to hygiene, morality and the relationship of the family and the city. Proudhon's entry, titled De la Célébration du dimanche, essentially used the essay subject as a pretext for discussing a variety of political and philosophical ideas and in it one can find the seeds of his later revolutionary ideas. Many of his ideas on authority, morality and property disturbed the essay judges at the Academy and Proudhon was only awarded the bronze medal (something in which Proudhon took pride because he felt that this was an indicator that his writing made elite academics uncomfortable).[21] In 1840, he published his first work Qu'est-ce que la propriété (or What Is Property).

His third memoir on property was a letter to the Fourierist M. Considérant, published in 1842 under the title Warning to Proprietors.[22] Proudhon was tried for it at Besançon, but he was acquitted when the jury found that they could not condemn him for a philosophy that they themselves could not understand.[23] In 1846, he published the Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère (The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty), which prompted a book-length critique from Karl Marx entitled The Poverty of Philosophy, commencing a rift between Marxists and anarchists that lasts to this day.[23][24]

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.[25]

Revolution of 1848

Proudhon and his children by Gustave Courbet, 1865

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 Jacques-Charles 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 Alphonse de Lamartine (Foreign Affairs), Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin (Interior), Adolphe Crémieux (Justice) and Auguste Burdeau (War) 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 Alexandre Martin.

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 of exchange notes that would circulate instead of money based on gold.

During the Second French Republic (1848–1852), Proudhon had his biggest public effect through journalism. He got involved with four newspapers, namely Le Représentant du Peuple (February 1848–August 1848), Le Peuple (September 1848–June 1849), La Voix du Peuple (September 1849–May 1850) and 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. 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 he was not elected although his name appeared on the ballots in Paris, Lyon, Besançon and Lille. He was successful, in the complementary elections of 4 June 1848 and served as a deputy during the debates over the National Workshops, created by the 25 February 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. However, 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 he opposed insurrection by preaching peaceful conciliation, a stance that was in accord with his lifelong stance against violence. Proudhon disapproved of the revolts and demonstrations of February, May and June 1848, though he was sympathetic to the social and psychological injustices that the insurrectionists had been forced to endure.

In Spain, Ramón de la Sagra established the anarchist journal El Porvenir in La Coruña in 1845 which was inspired by Proudhon´s ideas.[26] Catalan politician Francesc Pi i Margall became the principal translator of Proudhon's works into Spanish[27] and later briefly became President of Spain in 1873 while being the leader of the Federal Democratic Republican Party. According to George Woodcock, "[t]hese translations were to have a profound and lasting effect on the development of Spanish anarchism after 1870, but before that time Proudhonian ideas, as interpreted by Pi, already provided much of the inspiration for the federalist movement which sprang up in the early 1860's".[28] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "[d]uring the Spanish revolution of 1873, Pi i Margall attempted to establish a decentralized, or "cantonalist," political system on Proudhonian lines".[26]

Later life

Proudhon was arrested for insulting President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte and was imprisoned from 1849 to 1852. After his release, he remained in exile from 1858 to 1862 in Belgium. Upon the liberalization of the empire in 1863, he returned to France.


Proudhon died in Passy on 19 January 1865 and was buried in Paris at the cemetery of Montparnasse (2nd division, near the Lenoir alley in the tomb of the Proudhon family).[29]



According to Mikhail Bakunin, Proudhon was the first person to refer to himself as an "anarchist".[30][31] In What is Property?, published in 1840, he defined anarchy as "the absence of a master, of a sovereign" and wrote: "As man seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy".[32] He declared in 1849 in "Confessions of a Revolutionary" that "[w]hoever lays his hand on me to govern me is a usurper and tyrant, and I declare him my enemy".[33]

In The General Idea of the Revolution 1851, Proudhon urged a "society without authority". In a subchapter called "What is Government?", he wrote:

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.[34]


"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.[35]

In his earliest works, Proudhon analyzed the nature and problems of the capitalist economy. While deeply critical of capitalism, he also objected to those contemporary socialists who advocated centralized hierarchical forms of association or state control of the economy. In a sequence of commentaries from What is Property? (1840), posthumously published in the Théorie de la propriété (Theory of Property, 1863–1864), 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".[36]

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 opposed to the private ownership of the means of production. As he put it in 1848:

Under the law of association, transmission of wealth does not apply to the instruments of labour, so cannot become a cause of inequality. [...] We are socialists [...] under universal association, ownership of the land and of the instruments of labour is social ownership. [...] We want the mines, canals, railways handed over to democratically organised workers' associations. [...] We want these associations to be models for agriculture, industry and trade, the pioneering core of that vast federation of companies and societies, joined together in the common bond of the democratic and social Republic.[37]

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 influences on the theory of workers' self-management (autogestion) in the late 19th and 20th century.

Proudhon strenuously rejected the ownership of the products of labor by society or the state, arguing in What is Property? that while "property in product [...] does not carry with it property in the means of production.[38] [...] The right to product is exclusive [...] the right to means is common" and applied this to the land ("the land is [...] a common thing")[39] and workplaces ("all accumulated capital being social property, no one can be its exclusive proprietor").[40] He argued that while society owned the means of production or land, users would control and run them (under supervision from society) with the "organising of regulating societies" in order to "regulate the market".[41]

Proudhon's grave in Paris

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.

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 [...] 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".[42]

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 that "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 "property" should be more equally distributed and limited in size to that actually used by individuals, families and workers associations.[43] He supported the right of inheritance and defended "as one of the foundations of the family and society".[44] 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".[45]

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 and 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".[46]

Proudhon opposed the charging of interest and rent, but he 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".[47]


Proudhon was a revolutionary. However, 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.

Karl Marx

He made no public criticisms of Karl 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. However, he did criticize authoritarian socialists of his period. This included the state socialist Louis Blanc, of whom 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 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". However, Marx 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 their letters, Proudhon expressed disagreement with Marx's views on revolution: "I believe we have no need of it in order to succeed; and that consequently we should not put forward revolutionary action as a means of social reform, because that pretended means would simply be an appeal to force, to arbitrariness, in brief, a contradiction".[48]

Nationalism, militarism and war

Proudhon opposed militarism, dictatorship and war, arguing that the "end of militarism is the mission of the nineteenth century, under pain of indefinite decadence"[49] and that the "workers alone are capable of putting an end to war by creating economic equilibrium. This presupposes a radical revolution in ideas and morals".[50] As Robert L. Hoffman notes, War and Peace "ends by condemning war without reservation" and its "conclusion [is] that war is obsolete".[51] Marxist philosopher John Ehrenberg summarized Proudhon's position as such:

If injustice was the cause of war, it followed that conflict could not be eliminated until society was reorganised along egalitarian lines. Proudhon had wanted to prove that the reign of political economy would be the reign of peace, finding it difficult to believe that people really thought he was defending militarism.[52]

Proudhon argued that under mutualism "[t]here will no longer be nationality, no longer fatherland, in the political sense of the words: they will mean only places of birth. Man, of whatever race or colour he may be, is an inhabitant of the universe; citizenship is everywhere an acquired right".[53]

Proudhon also rejected dictatorship, stating in the 1860s that "what I will always be [...] a republican, a democrat even, and a socialist into the bargain".[54] Henri de Lubac argued that in terms of Proudhon's critique of democracy "we must not allow all this to hoodwink us. His invectives against democracy were not those of a counter-revolutionary. They were aimed at what he himself called 'the false democracy'. [...] They attacked an apparently liberal 'pseudo-democracy' which 'was not economic and social' [...] 'a Jacobinical democracy'". Proudhon "did not want to destroy, but complete, the work of 1789" and while "he had a grudge against the 'old democracy', the democracy of Robespierre and Marat", he repeatedly contrasted it "with a 'young democracy', which was a 'social democracy'".[55]

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.[56] 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. – 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"). In the same document, Proudhon also 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".[57]


In addition to being considered a founding father of anarchism, some have tried to link him to the extreme right. He was first used as a reference in the Cercle Proudhon, a right-wing association formed in 1911 by Georges 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, Georges 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:

[T]he Action Française [...] from its inception regarded the author of La philosophie de la misère as one of its masters.[58] 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.

However, K. Steven Vincent states that "to argue that Proudhon was a proto-fascist suggests that one has never looked seriously at Proudhon's writings".[59]

J. Salwyn Schapiro argued in 1945 that Proudhon was a racist, "a glorifier of war for its own sake" and his "advocacy of personal dictatorship and his laudation of militarism can hardly be equalled in the reactionary writings of his or of our day".[60]

Other scholars have rejected Schapiro's claims. Robert Graham states that while Proudhon was personally racist, "anti-semitism formed no part of Proudhon's revolutionary programme".[61]

Albert Meltzer has said 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".[62]

Proudhon also engaged in an exchange of published letters between 1849 and 1850 with Frédéric Bastiat discussing the legitimacy of interest.[63] As Robert Leroux argued, Bastiat had the conviction that Proudhon's anti-interest doctrine "was the complete antithesis of any serious approach".[64] Proudhon famously lost his temper and declared to Bastiat: "Your intelligence is asleep, or rather it has never been awake. You are a man for whom logic does not exist. You do not hear anything, you do not understand anything. You are without philosophy, without science, without humanity. Your ability to reason, like your ability to pay attention and make comparisons is zero. Scientifically, Mr. Bastiat, you are a dead man".[65]

Antisemitism and sexism

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. 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". It would have stated: "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 who hate us". (Carnets, vol. 2, p. 337: No VI, 178)".[66] Proudhon differentiated his antisemitism from that of the Middle Ages, presenting it as quasi-scientific: "What the peoples of the Middle Ages hated by instinct, I hate upon reflection and irrevocably".[67]

In an introduction to Proudhon's works, Iain McKay, author of An Anarchist FAQ (AK Press, 2007), cautions readers by saying that "[t]his is not to say that Proudhon was without flaws, for he had many"[68][69] and adding the following:

He was not consistently libertarian in his ideas, tactics and language. His personal bigotries are disgusting and few modern anarchists would tolerate them – Namely, racism and sexism. He made some bad decisions and occasionally ranted in his private notebooks (where the worst of his anti-Semitism was expressed). While he did place his defence of the patriarchal family at the core of his ideas, they are in direct contradiction to his own libertarian and egalitarian ideas. In terms of racism, he sometimes reflected the less-than-enlightened assumptions and prejudices of the nineteenth century. While this does appear in his public work, such outbursts are both rare and asides (usually an extremely infrequent passing anti-Semitic remark or caricature). In short, "racism was never the basis of Proudhon's political thinking" (Gemie, 200-1) and "anti-Semitism formed no part of Proudhon's revolutionary programme." (Robert Graham, "Introduction", General Idea of the Revolution, xxxvi) To quote Proudhon: "There will no longer be nationality, no longer fatherland, in the political sense of the words: they will mean only places of birth. Man, of whatever race or colour he may be, is an inhabitant of the universe; citizenship is everywhere an acquired right." (General Idea of the Revolution, 283)

— Iain McKay[70]

While racism was not overtly part of his political philosophy, Proudhon did express sexist beliefs. He held patriarchal views on women's nature and their proper role in the family and society at large. In his Carnets (Notebooks), unpublished until the 1960s, Proudhon maintained that a woman's choice was to be "courtesan or housekeeper". To a woman, a man is "a father, a chief, a master: above all, a master". His justification for patriarchy is men's greater physical strength and recommended that men use this greater strength to keep women in their place, saying: "A woman does not at all hate being used with violence, indeed even being violated". In her study of Gustave Courbet, who painted the portrait of Proudhon and his children (1865), art historian Linda Nochlin points out that alongside his early articulations of anarchism Proudhon also wrote and published "the most consistent anti-feminist tract of its time, or perhaps, any other", La Pornocratie ou les femmes dans les temps modernes, which "raises all the main issues about woman's position is society and her sexuality with a paranoid intensity unmatched in any other text".[71]

Proudhon's defenses of patriarchy did not go unchallenged in his lifetime and Joseph Déjacque attacked Proudhon's anti-feminism as a contradiction of anarchist principles. Déjacque directed Proudhon "either to 'speak out against man's exploitation of woman' or 'do not describe yourself as an anarchist'".[72]


  • Qu'est ce que la propriété? (What is Property?, 1840)
  • Avertissement aux Propriétaires (Warning to Proprietors, 1842)
  • Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère (The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty, 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)
  • Correspondence (Correspondences, 1875)

On Proudhon

  • Justice, Order and Anarchy: The International Political Theory of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon by Alex Prichard. Routledge. 2013

Works online

See also


  1. ^ The dual power was first used by Vladimir Lenin, but it was conceptually first outlined by Proudhon. Murray Bookchin (1996). The Third Revolution: Popular Movements in the Revolutionary Era. Volume 2. A&C Black. p. 115: "Proudhon made the bright suggestion, in his periodical Le Représentant du peuple (April 28, 1848), that the mass democracy of the clubs could become a popular forum where the social agenda of the revolution could be prepared for use by the Constituent Assembly—a proposal that would essentially have defused the potency of the clubs as a potentially rebellious dual power".


  1. ^ Jones, Daniel (2011). Roach, Peter; Setter, Jane; Esling, John, eds. Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (18th ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-15255-6.
  2. ^ John M. Merriman, The Dynamite Club (2009), p. 42.
  3. ^ Leier, Mark (2006). Bakunin: The Creative Passion. Seven Stories Press. p. 211. ISBN 978-1-58322-894-4.
  4. ^ Daniel Guerin, Anarchism: From Theory to Practice (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970).
  5. ^ Binkley, Robert C. Realism and Nationalism 1852–1871. Read Books. p. 118.
  6. ^ Marshall, Peter. Demanding the Impossible. Fontana, London. 1993. p. 558.
  7. ^ Martin, Henri and Alger, Abby Langdon. A Popular History of France from the First Revolution to the Present Time. D. Estes and C. E. Lauria. p. 189.
  8. ^ a b Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 1. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  9. ^ a b Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 3. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  10. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  11. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 9. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  12. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  13. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 13. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  14. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  15. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  16. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 16. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  17. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 17. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  18. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 18. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  19. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. p. 19. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  20. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. pp. 28–30. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  21. ^ Woodcock, George (1972). Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: His Life and Work. Schocken Books. pp. 39–42. ISBN 0-8052-0372-9.
  22. ^ See bibliography below.
  23. ^ a b "Pierre-Joseph Proudhon". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  24. ^ See First International.
  25. ^ Henri du Bac. The Un-Marxian Socialist: A Study of Proudhon . New York: Sheed and Ward, 1848. p. 9.
  26. ^ a b "Anarchism" at the Encyclopædia Britannica online.
  27. ^ George Woodcock. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. p. 357
  28. ^ George Woodcock. Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. p. 357
  29. ^ Pierre Joseph Proudhon at Find a Grave.
  30. ^ Rod Bush, The End of White World Supremacy: Black Internationalism and the Problem of the Color Line, Temple University Press, 2009, p. 226, ISBN 1592135749, 9781592135745
  31. ^ Roger Eatwell, Anthony Wright, Contemporary Political Ideologies: Second Edition, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999, p. 132, ISBN 082645173X, 9780826451736
  32. ^ Josephus Nelson Larned, The New Larned History for Ready Reference, Reading and Research, C.A. Nichols Publishing Company, 1922, pp. 336–37
  33. ^ From Les Confessions d'un Revolutionnaire, 1851, quoted in Alexander Gray, The Socialist Tradition: Moses to Lenin, 1946, reprinted by Ludwig von Mises Institute, p. 246, ISBN 1610163389, 9781610163385.
  34. ^ P.-J. Proudhon, "What Is Government?", written in General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, translated by John Beverly Robinson (London: Freedom Press, 1923), pp. 293–94.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (1851), Sixth Study, § 3 ¶ 5.
  37. ^ Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph. 'Oeuvres Complètes' (Lacroix edition), volume 17, pp. 188–189.
  38. ^ P.-J Proudhon, What Is Property? (Dover, 1970), p. 109.
  39. ^ P.-J Proudhon, What Is Property? (Dover, 1970), p. 92.
  40. ^ P.-J Proudhon, What Is Property? (Dover, 1970), p. 120.
  41. ^ Proudhon, Selected Writings, p. 70.
  42. ^ Copleston, Frederick. Social Philosophy in France, A History of Philosophy, Volume IX, Image/Doubleday, 1994, p. 67.
  43. ^ Proudhon, Theory of Property in Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon pp. 129, 133, 135–136.
  44. ^ Steward Edwards, Introduction to Selected Writings of P.J. Proudhon.
  45. ^ In Daniel Guérin (ed.), No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 62.
  46. ^ Du principe Fédératif [Principle of Federation] (1863)
  47. ^ Proudhon's Solution of the Social Problem, Edited by Henry Cohen. Vanguard Press, 1927.
  48. ^ "Proudhon to Karl Marx".
  49. ^ quoted by George Woodcock, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 233
  50. ^ Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 214
  51. ^ Revolutionary Justice, pp. 210–211.
  52. ^ Proudhon and His Age, p. 145.
  53. ^ General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, p. 283.
  54. ^ Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 201.
  55. ^ The Un-Marxian Socialist: A Study of Proudhon, pp. 28–29.
  56. ^ George Woodcock Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: A Biography, Black Rose Books, 1987, p. 128.
  57. ^ "Programme révolutionnaire." Mélanges. Tome I. Paris: Lacroix, 1868. 72, 70.
  58. ^ Griffiths, Richard. 2005. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 23–24.
  59. ^ Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism, p. 234.
  60. ^ Schapiro, J. Salwyn (1945). "Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Harbinger of Fascism". American Historical Review. American Historical Association. 50 (4): 714–737. doi:10.2307/1842699. JSTOR 1842699.
  61. ^ "Introduction", General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, p. xxxvi.
  62. ^ Albert Meltzer. Anarchism: Arguments for and Against, AK Press, 2000, p. 12.
  63. ^ "Bastiat-Proudhon Debate on Interest". Praxeology.net. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  64. ^ Leroux, Robert. "Political Economy and Liberalism: The Economic Contribution of Frédéric Bastiat", Routledge, 2011, p. 118.
  65. ^ Roche, Charles George. "Frederic Bastiat: A Man Alone". Arlington House, 1971, p. 153.
  66. ^ "Carnets de P. J. Proudhon. Paris, M. Rivière, 1960", translated by Mitchell Abido for marxists.org. "On the Jews".
  67. ^ Rubenstein, Richard L. and John K. Roth (1987). Approaches to Auschwitz: The Legacy of the Holocaust. London: SCM. p. 71.
  68. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 January 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  69. ^ "An Anarchist FAQ - Anarchist Writers".
  70. ^ Iain McKay (2011). Property Is Theft! A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Anthology. AK Press UK: Edinburgh. p. 36.
  71. ^ Nochlin, Courbet. Thames & Hudson, 2007. p. 220, note 34).
  72. ^ Jesse Cohn "Anarchism and gender" in: The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest. Immanuel Ness (ed.), 2009.

Further reading

External links

Anarchist Manifesto

Anarchist Manifesto (or The World's First Anarchist Manifesto) is a work by Anselme Bellegarrigue, notable for being the first manifesto of anarchism. It was written in 1850, ten years after Pierre-Joseph Proudhon became history's first self-proclaimed anarchist with the publication of his seminal What Is Property?.

It was translated into English by Paul Sharkey and republished in 2002 as a 42-page political pamphlet by the Kate Sharpley Library with an introduction placing the manifesto in historical context by Anarchist Studies editor Sharif Gemie.

Anarchist Portraits

Anarchist Portraits is a 1990 history book by Paul Avrich about the lives and personalities of multiple prominent and inconspicuous anarchists.

Mikhail Bakunin

Peter Kropotkin

Chummy Fleming

Sergei Nechaev

Sacco and Vanzetti

Nestor Makhno


Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Anatoli Zelhezniakov

Mollie Steimer

Gustav Landauer

Ricardo Flores Magon

Paul Brousse

Charles Mowbray

Benjamin Tucker


Anti-authoritarianism is opposition to authoritarianism, which is defined as "a form of social organisation characterised by submission to authority", "favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom" and to authoritarian government. Anti-authoritarians usually believe in full equality before the law and strong civil liberties. Sometimes the term is used interchangeably with anarchism, an ideology which entails opposing authority or hierarchical organization in the conduct of human relations, including the state system.

Free-market anarchism

Free-market anarchism, or market anarchism, includes several branches of anarchism that advocate an economic system based on voluntary market interactions without the involvement of the state. A branch of market anarchism is left-wing market anarchism such as mutualists or Gary Chartier and Kevin Carson, who consider themselves anti-capitalists and self identify as part of the socialist movement.On the other hand, people who identify as anarcho-capitalists stress the legitimacy and priority of private property, describing it as an integral component of individual rights and a free market economy. There is a strong current within anarchism which does not consider that anarcho-capitalism can be considered a part of the anarchist movement because anarchism has historically been an anti-capitalist movement and for definitional reasons which see anarchism incompatible with capitalist forms. Thus, the term may be used to refer to diverse economic and political concepts, such as those proposed by anarchist libertarian socialists like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Benjamin Tucker or alternatively anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard and David D. Friedman.

Individualist anarchism in Europe

Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and his or her will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems. European individualist anarchism proceeded from the roots laid by William Godwin, Individualist anarchism expanded and diversified through Europe, incorporating influences from American individualist anarchism.

Early European individualist anarchism was influenced by many philosophers, including Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Max Stirner, and Henry David Thoreau. Proudhon was an early pioneer of anarchism as well as of the important individualist anarchist current of mutualism. Stirner became a central figure of individualist anarchism through the publication of his seminal work The Ego and Its Own which is considered to be "a founding text in the tradition of individualist anarchism." The philosophy of Max Stirner supports the individual doing exactly what he pleases – taking no notice of God, state, or moral rules. To Stirner, rights were spooks in the mind, and he held that society does not exist but "the individuals are its reality"– he supported property by force of might rather than moral right. Stirner advocated self-assertion and foresaw "Union of egoists" drawn together by respect for each other's self-ownership. Thoreau emphasized the promotion of simple living, environmental stewardship, and civil disobedience were influential in European individualist anarchists.An important tendency within European individualist anarchism in general is the emphasis on individual subjective exploration and defiance of social conventions. Individualist anarchist philosophy attracted "amongst artists, intellectuals and the well-read, urban middle classes in general." As such Murray Bookchin describes a lot of individualist anarchism as people who "expressed their opposition in uniquely personal forms, especially in fiery tracts, outrageous behavior, and aberrant lifestyles in the cultural ghettos of fin de siecle New York, Paris, and London. As a credo, individualist anarchism remained largely a bohemian lifestyle, most conspicuous in its demands for sexual freedom ('free love') and enamored of innovations in art, behavior, and clothing.". In this way free love currents and other radical lifestyles such as naturism had popularity among individualist anarchists. Other important currents common within European individual anarchism include free love, illegalism, and freethought.Influential European individualist anarchists include Albert Libertad, Bellegarrigue, Oscar Wilde, Émile Armand, Lev Chernyi, John Henry Mackay, Han Ryner, Adolf Brand, Miguel Gimenez Igualada, Renzo Novatore, and Michel Onfray.

Individualist anarchism in France

Individualist anarchism refers to several traditions of thought within the anarchist movement that emphasize the individual and his or her will over external determinants such as groups, society, traditions, and ideological systems.Individualist anarchism in France has developed a line of thought that starts from the pioneering activism and writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Anselme Bellegarrigue in the mid 19th century. In the early 20th century it produced publications such as L'EnDehors, L'Anarchie and around its principles it found writers and activists such as Emile Armand, Han Ryner, Henri Zisly, Albert Libertad and Zo d'Axa. In the post-war years there appeared the publication L'Unique and activist writers such as Charles-Auguste Bontemps. In contemporary times it has found a new expression in the writings of the prolific philosopher Michel Onfray.

French individualist anarchism was characterized by an eclectic set of currents of thought and practices which included freethought, naturism, free love, anti-militarism and illegalism.

Individualist anarchism in the United States

Individualist anarchism in the United States was strongly influenced by Josiah Warren, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lysander Spooner, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Max Stirner, Herbert Spencer and Henry David Thoreau. Other important individualist anarchists in the United States were Stephen Pearl Andrews, William Batchelder Greene, Ezra Heywood, M. E. Lazarus, John Beverley Robinson, James L. Walker, Joseph Labadie, Steven Byington and Laurance Labadie. The first American anarchist publication was The Peaceful Revolutionist, edited by Josiah Warren, whose earliest experiments and writings predate Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Joseph Déjacque

Joseph Déjacque (French: [deʒak]; December 27, 1821, Paris – 1864, Paris) was a French early anarcho-communist poet and writer. Déjacque was the first recorded person to employ the term "libertarian" (French: libertaire) for himself in a political sense in a letter written in 1857, criticizing Pierre-Joseph Proudhon for his sexist views on women, his support of individual ownership of the product of labor and of a market economy, saying that "it is not the product of his or her labor that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature".


Mutualism may refer to:

Mutualism (biology), positive interactions between species

Mutualism (economic theory), associated with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Mutualism (movement), social movement promoting mutual organizations

Mutualism (economic theory)

Mutualism is an economic theory and anarchist school of thought that advocates a society with free markets and occupation and use (or usufruct) property norms. One implementation of this scheme involves the establishment of a mutual-credit bank that would lend to producers at a minimal interest rate, just high enough to cover administration. Mutualism is based on a version of the labor theory of value holding that when labor or its product is sold, in exchange it ought to receive goods or services embodying "the amount of labor necessary to produce an article of exactly similar and equal utility".Mutualism originated from the writings of philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Mutualists disagree with the idea of individuals receiving an income through loans, investments, and rent as they believe these individuals are not laboring. Though Proudhon opposed this type of income, he expressed that he had never intended "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". Insofar as they ensure the worker's right to the full product of their labor, mutualists support markets and property in the product of labor. However, they argue for conditional titles to land, whose ownership is legitimate only so long as it remains in use or occupation (which Proudhon called "possession"), thus advocating personal property, but not private property.

Although mutualism is similar to the economic doctrines of the 19th-century American individualist anarchists, unlike them mutualism is in favor of large industries. Therefore, mutualism has been retrospectively characterized sometimes as being a form of individualist anarchism and as ideologically situated between individualist and collectivist forms of anarchism as well. Proudhon himself described the "liberty" he pursued as "the synthesis of communism and property". Some consider Proudhon to be an individualist anarchist while others regard him to be a social anarchist.Mutualists have distinguished mutualism from state socialism and do not advocate state control over the means of production. Benjamin Tucker said of Proudhon that "though opposed to socializing the ownership of capital, [Proudhon] aimed nevertheless to socialize its effects by making its use beneficial to all instead of a means of impoverishing the many to enrich the few [...] by subjecting capital to the natural law of competition, thus bringing the price of its own use down to cost".

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Woodcock biography)

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is a biography of the French anarchist written by George Woodcock and first published in 1956 by Macmillan.


Pornocracy (from Greek πόρνη "female prostitute" + -κρατία "-cracy" a suffix indicating government or rule) is a government ruled by prostitutes or by corrupt officials (who metaphorically "prostitute" themselves for power).

It may also refer to:

Saeculum obscurum, a period in the Catholic church often referred to as Pornocracy

Pornocrates, a Flemish painting referred to as Pornocracy

Anatomy of Hell, a 2004 movie based on a 2001 book called Pornocracy

La Pornocratie, ou les Femmes dans les temps modernes, a book called Pornocracy by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Property is theft!

Property is theft! (French: La propriété, c'est le vol!) is a slogan coined by French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 book What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government.

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 remove a man's mind, will, and personality, is the power of life and death, and that it makes a man a slave. It is murder. 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?

Proudhon and His Children

Proudhon and His Children is an 1865 group portrait by Gustave Courbet, now held in the Petit Palais in Paris. The main figure is a posthumously-produced image of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.

Reflections on Violence

Reflections on Violence (French: Réflexions sur la violence), published in 1908, is a book by the French revolutionary syndicalist Georges Sorel on class struggle and revolution. Sorel is known for his theory that political revolution depends on the proletariat organizing violent uprisings and strikes to institute syndicalism, an economic system in which syndicats (self-organizing groups of only proletarians) truly represent the needs of the working class.One of Sorel's most controversial claims was that violence could save the world from "barbarism". He equated violence with life, creativity, and virtue.In this book, he contends that myths are important as "expressions of will to act". He also supports the creation of an economic system run by and for the interests of producers rather than consumers. His ideas were influenced by various other philosophical writers, including Giambattista Vico, Blaise Pascal, Ernest Renan, Friedrich Nietzsche, Eduard von Hartmann, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, John Henry Newman, Karl Marx, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

Scientific socialism

Scientific socialism is a term coined in 1840 by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his What is Property? to mean a society ruled by a scientific government, i.e. one whose sovereignity rests upon reason, rather than sheer will: Thus, in a given society, the authority of man over man is inversely proportional to the stage of intellectual development which that society has reached; and the probable duration of that authority can be calculated from the more or less general desire for a true government, — that is, for a scientific government. And just as the right of force and the right of artifice retreat before the steady advance of justice, and must finally be extinguished in equality, so the sovereignty of the will yields to the sovereignty of the reason, and must at last be lost in scientific socialism.

Later in 1880, Friedrich Engels used the term to describe Karl Marx's social-political-economic theory. The purported reason why this form of socialism is "scientific socialism" (as opposed to "utopian socialism") is that it is said to be based on the scientific method, in that its theories are held to an empirical standard, observations are essential to its development and these can result in changes and/or falsification of elements of the theory.

Although the term socialism has come to mean specifically a combination of political and economic science, it is also applicable to a broader area of science encompassing what is now considered sociology and the humanities. The distinction between utopian and scientific socialism originated with Marx, who criticized the utopian characteristics of French socialism and English and Scottish political economy. Engels later argued that utopian socialists failed to recognize why it was that socialism arose in the historical context that it did, that it arose as a response to new social contradictions of a new mode of production, i.e. capitalism. In recognizing the nature of socialism as the resolution of this contradiction and applying a thorough scientific understanding of capitalism, Engels asserted that socialism had broken free from a primitive state and become a science. This shift in socialism was seen as complementary to shifts in contemporary biology sparked by Charles Darwin and the understanding of evolution by natural selection—Marx and Engels saw this new understanding of biology as essential to the new understanding of socialism and vice versa.

Similar methods for analyzing social and economic trends and involving socialism as a product of socioeconomic evolution have also been used by non-Marxist theoreticians, such as Joseph Schumpeter and Thorstein Veblen.

The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century

The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (French: Idée générale de la révolution au XIXe siècle) is an influential manifesto written in 1851 by the anarchist philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. The book portrays a vision of an ideal society where frontiers are taken down, nation states abolished, and where there is no central authority or law of government, except for power residing in communes, and local associations, governed by contractual law. The ideas of the book later became the basis of libertarian and anarchist theory, and the work is now considered a classic of anarchist philosophy.

It was published in July 1851, its first edition of 3,000 copies soon selling out, with a second edition following in August. At the time, Proudhon was still serving the last year of a prison sentence begun in 1851, for criticizing Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte as a reactionary.

The central theme of the book is the historical necessity of revolution, and the impossibility of preventing it. Even the forces of reaction produce revolution by making the revolution more conscious of itself, as the reactionaries resort to ever more brutal methods to suppress the inevitable. Proudhon stresses that it is the exploitative nature of capitalism that creates the need for government, and that revolutionaries must change society by changing its economic basis. Then the authoritarian form of government will become superfluous.

He proposes that the Bank of France be turned into a 'Bank of Exchange', an autonomous democratic institution rather than a state-controlled monopoly. Railways and large industry should be given to the workers themselves. His vision of a future is a society made up of self-governing, democratic organizations, with no central authority controlling them.

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