Monthly Archives: June 2014

Catechism of Marriage

[from Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, New Edition, Vol. IV]
Question. — What is the conjugal couple?
Answer. — Every power of nature, every faculty of life, every affection of the soul, every category of the intelligence, needs an organ, in order to manifest itself and act. The sentiment of Justice can be no exception to that law. But Justice, which rules all the other faculties and surpasses liberty itself, not being able to have its organ in the individual, would remain for man a notion without efficacy, and society would be impossible, if nature had not provided the juridical organism by making each individual half of a higher being, whose androgynous duality becomes an organ of Justice.
Q. — Why is the individual incapable of serving as an organ of Justice?
A. — Because individuals possess only the sense of their own dignity, which is enough for free will, while Justice is necessarily dual, because it supposes at least two consciences in unison. The dignity of the individual subject would appear only as the first term of Justice, and become respectable even for the individual only insofar as it interests the dignity of others. It is through marriage that man learns, from nature itself, to sense himself as double. His social education and his elevation in Justice will just be the development of this dualism.
Q. — Why, in the juridical organism, are the two persons dissimilar.
A. — Because, if they were similar, they would not complete one another. They would both be independent, without reciprocal action, and they would be incapable, for that reason, of producing Justice.
Q. — How do men and women differ from one another?
A. — In principle, there is no difference between men and women but a simple diminution in the faculties. Man is stronger, and woman weaker. In fact, that decrease of energy creates for the woman, in the moral and physical realms, a qualitative distinction which allows us to give this definition to the two: Man represents the power of that of which woman represents the ideal, and reciprocally, woman represents the ideal of that of which man represents the power. Before the Absolute, man and woman are two equivalent persons, because the strength and the beauty of which they are the incarnations are equivalents.
Q. — What is love?
A. — Love is the attraction that Strength and Beauty inevitably feel for one another. Its nature is consequently not the same in men and women. Moreover, it is through love that both of their consciences work for Justice, and each becomes for the other at once a witness, a judge and a second self.
Q. — How do you define marriage?
A. — Marriage is the sacrament of Justice, the living mystery of universal harmony, and the form given by nature itself to the religion of the human race. In a less elevated sphere, marriage is the act by which men and women, elevating themselves above love and the senses, declare their will to unite according to right, and to pursue, as much as they are capable, the accomplishment of social destiny, by working for the progress of Justice. That definition is related to the definition of Modestin, Juris humani et divini communicatio, which M. Ernest Legouvé translated, with less pomp, as School of mutual perfection.
In this religion of the family we could say that the husband or the father is the priest, the woman is the idol, and the children are the people. There are several initiations: the wedding, the hearth or the table, birth, puberty, the advice, the will and the funeral. All are in the hands of the father. They are nourished by his labor, protected by his sword, subject to his government and his tribunal, inheritors and upholders of his thought. Here is justice, complete, organized and armed. In the father, wife and children, its has found its apparatus, which will only be extended by the increase of families and the development of the city. Authority is there as well, but only temporarily. When the children reach majority, the father preserves only an honorific title with regard to them. Finally, religion is also preserved. While the interpretation of symbols, the habits of science and the exercise of reasoning steadily weaken it everywhere else, it remains in the family, is distilled there, and fears no attack. The revelation of women, entirely ideal, cannot be analyzed, nor denied, nor extinguished.
Q. — How, redeemed by this religion in which it is easy to recognize the embryo of all those that have followed it, does woman remain nonetheless subordinate to man?
A. — It is precisely because women are objects of worship, and because there is no common measure between force and the ideal. In no way does the woman enter into balance with the man. As an industrialist, philosopher or public functionary, she cannot. As a goddess, she must not. She is always too high or too low. The man will die for her, as he died for his faith and his gods, but he will keep the command and responsibility.
A. — Why is marriage, on both sides, monogamous?
A. — Because conscience is shared between the two spouses, and it cannot, without dissolving itself, admit a third participant. Conscience for conscience, like love for love, life for life, soul for soul, liberty for liberty: such is the law of marriage. Introduce another person, and the ideal dies, the religion is lost, the unanimity expires and Justice fades away.
Q. — Why is marriage indissoluble?
A. — Because conscience is immutable. The woman, expression of the ideal, may well, with regard to love, have a double in another woman, and be replaced by that living being; the man, expression of power, may as well. But with regard to the justification of which men and women are agents for one another, they cannot, apart from the case of death, leave one another and mutually give one another an alternative, since that would be to admit their common indignity, to unjustify each other, if we can put it thus; in other words, to become sacrilegious. The man who changes his wife creates a new conscience; he does not improve, but rather corrupts himself.
Q. — Thus you reject divorce?
A. — Absolutely. The civil and religious laws have posited the cases of nullity and of the dissolution of marriage, such individual error, clandestinity, crime, castration and death: these exceptions suffice. As for those tormented by lassitude, the thirst for pleasure, incompatibility of temperament, lack of charity, let them make, as they say, a separation. The worthy spouse only has to heal the wounds to his conscience and heart; the other no longer has the right to aspire to marriage: what he requires is concubinage.
Q. — Is it moral to prohibit the separated from remarrying, casting them into a union of concubinage?
A. — Cohabitation, or concubinage, is a natural combination, freely contracted by two individuals, without the intervention of society, with a view only to amorous enjoyment and subject to separation ad libitum. Apart from some exceptions, produced by the hazards of society and the difficulties of existence, cohabitation is the mark of a weak conscience, and it is with reason that the legislator refuses it the rights and prerogatives of marriage.
But society is not the work of one day; virtue is a difficult practice, without speaking of those to whom marriage is inaccessible. Now, the mission of the legislators, when they cannot obtain the best, is to avoid the worst. At the same time that we rule out divorce, the tendency of which will be to demean marriage by bringing it closer to concubinage, it is advisable, in the interest of women, illegitimate children and public mores, to impose certain obligations on concubinage which lifts it and pushes it towards legitimate union. All of antiquity accepted these principles. The emperor Augustus created a legal state in concubinage; Christianity tolerated it for a long time, and has still never been about to distinguish it from marriage. Consequently, everyone should be declared by law to be concubinaires who, apart from cases of adultery, incest, fornication and prostitution, maintain a commerce in love, whether or not they have a common domicile. Every child born in concubinage will bear by right the name of his father, following the maxim Pater est quem concubinatus demonstrat. The father in concubinage, just like the married father, will also be held to provide for the subsistence and education of his offspring. The neglected concubine would be entitled to compensation, unless she has first engaged in another concubinage.
Q. — What are the forms of marriage?
A. — The
are reduced to two: the announcement or publication, and the celebration. Society
is involved in these, is the first rank, in the person of the magistrate and
witnesses; the families of the couples form the second line, in the person of
the parents.
Q. — What do these formalities signify?
A. — We have said that marriage is instituted for the sanctification of love: it is a pact of chastity, charity and justice, by which the spouses declare themselves publicly to be freed, both of them by one another, from the tribulations of the flesh and the cares of gallantry. Consequently, it is sacred to all and inviolable. That is why, apart from some stipulations of interest also require publicity, the family and the city appear in the ceremony: the engagement of the couple, made in view of Justice, carries farther than their persons; their conjugal conscience becomes part of the social conscience, and, as the marriage insures their dignity, it is for the society that proclaims it a glory and a progress. Our flawed mores and our ignorance make us misunderstand things: while the concubine, who delivers herself without contract, without guarantee, on a word secretly given, for an allowance of food or a present in coins, like some rented jewelry, hides the secret of her loves and is no longer modest, the bride appears, calm and dignified, without blushing: if she blushed, she would lose her innocence.
Q. — This theory of marriage is very specious; but why ask metaphysics for an explanation that nature placed right at hand? Marriage has been instituted in the interest of children and inheritances: we don’t have to look further.
A. — Doubtless, children enter into things; but if the law of generation itself has only been established with an eye to Justice, if the multiplication of humans, their replacement and death is also only explained by juridical purposes, we must admit that the distinction between the sexes, that love and marriage, which enter into that economy, are related to the same ends. The same law which has made the conjugal couple an organ of generation had previously made it an apparatus of Justice: such is the truth.
Q. — Explain more.
A. — Every being is determined in its existence according to the place where it must live and the mission that it has to accomplish. It is thus, for example, that the figure of a sovereign been measured according to the dimensions of the land he exploits. Humanity, before operating at once on all points of the globe, cannot be reduced to a single, gigantic individual: it is necessary that it be multiple, proportioned consequently, in its body and in its faculties, with the extent of its domain and the labors that it has to make there.
Humanity thus being given as a collectivity, two consequences have followed. First, in order to make this multitude of free and intelligent subjects operate together, a law of Justice, written in souls and organized in persons, was necessary: that is the object of marriage. Second, the individuals of which the great humanitary body is composed are replaced successively, after having furnished a career proportional to their vital energy and to the power of their faculties: that is to what nature has provided by generation, and that of which it is now easy for us to penetrate the reasons.
The living being, whatever its liberty, by that same that it is limited, defined in its constitution and in its form, has and can only have one manner of feeling, of thinking and acting, one idea, one aim, one object, one plan, one end, one function, consequently one function, consequently one formula, one style, one tone, one note, expression of its absolute individuality, to which it strives to reduce all natural and social laws. Suppose that the human race was composed of immortal individuals: at some point, civilization would no longer advance; all these individualities, after having been driven by contradictions for some time, will end up balancing each other in a pact of absolutism, and the movement will cease. Death, by renewing the types, produces the same effect here as the war of ideas, organized by the Revolution as the necessary condition of public reason and faith (Study VII).
But it is not only to social progress that death is necessary: it is necessary to the felicity of the individual.
It is not only the case that, to the degree that he advances, man locks himself away in his individualism and becomes an impediment to others; he will end, in this intractable solitude, by becoming an obstacle to himself, to his vitality, to the exercise of his intelligence, to the conquests of his genius, and to the affections of his heart. Even without growing old, by the influence alone of the routine to which he will have been long condemned, he will fall into idiocy: his happiness and glory, as much as the progress of society, demand that he moves on. At that hour, his death is a gain; let him accept it with joy, and make his final hour his last sacrifice rendered to the homeland. Every last one of us, after devoting ourselves to science, Justice, friendship and labor, should end up like Leonidas, Cynaegirus, Curtius, Fabius, Arnold von Winkelried, and the Chevalier d’Assas. Would we complain that death comes to soon?
What pride! We will not even wait, if the occasion presents itself, for old age to give us the sign; we will go while we are young, like Barra and Viala.
Moreover, in leading man to death, to depersonalization, Justice does not destroy him entirely. Justice balances and renews individualities; it does not abolish them. It collects the ideas and works of man; it will preserve, by modifying them, even his character and physiognomy; and it is the interested [individual] himself that justice will charge with his own transmission. It is to him that it will entrust the care of his immortality, by establishing generation and the testament.
Thus man is reproduced in his body and his soul, in his thought, in his affections, in his action, by a dismemberment of his being; and as woman makes a shared conscience with him, she will also make a common generation. The family, extension of the conjugal couple, only develops the organ of jurisdiction; the city, formed by the growth of families, is reproduced in its turn with a higher power. Marriage, family, city, are a single organ; the social destiny is solidary with the matrimonial destiny, and each of us, through this universal communion, lives as much as the human race.
Q. — At base, the assumption of a conscience formed by two stems from the same metaphysics that has already made you suppose a collective reason and collective being. But that metaphysics has a serious fault; it shakes our faith in the whole order of existences, by rendering more and more problematic the simplicity of the soul, the indivisibility of thought, the identity and immutability of the self, and consequently denying their reality.
A. — Why don’t you say instead that this metaphysics, by it series and its antinomies, by the power of its analysis and the productivity of its synthesis, tends to establish the reality of things which hitherto remained pure fictions? It is the principle of composition which makes it possible for man to known; it is to this principle that we owe our certainty. All that we possess of positive science come from it, and nothing which has once been provided by it can be overturned. Why would the same principle not also make being possible? God himself, conceived as the higher, immanent thought of the worlds, and the expression of their harmony, would again become possible with that metaphysics: let us shudder at what its original sin would be…
Q. — Are all members of a society called to marriage?
A. — No; but all take part in it and receive its influence, by filiation, consanguinity, adoption, love, which, universal in essence, has no need, to act, of union or cohabitation.
Q. — According to this, you do not judge marriage indispensable to happiness?
A. — We must distinguish: from the psychic or spiritual point of view, marriage is a condition of felicity for all of us; the mystical wedding rites celebrated by the religious are an example. Every adult, of sound body and mind, that solitude or abstraction does not sequester from the rest of the living, loves, and, by virtue of that love, makes a marriage in their heart. Physically, that necessity is no longer true: Justice, which is the aim of marriage, and which can be obtained either by domestic initiation, civic communion, or, finally, by mystical love, is sufficient for happiness in all conditions of age and fortune.
Q. — What is the role of women in domestic and social economy?
A. — The care of the household, the education of childhood, the instruction of young girls under the supervision of the magistrates, the service of public charity; we would not dare to add, today, the national holidays and spectacles, that we could describe as the seed-time of love. Aristocratic immorality and the decadence of religious ideas have made the presence of women in these public solemnities an occasion for libertinage: that could change, and it is necessary that it does change.
Q. — No industry, no art, seems to you specially reserved for women?
A. — This is always, in veiled terms, to repeat the question of the political and social equality of the sexes, and to protest against the title of housewife, which, better than that of matron, expresses the vocation of women.
The wife can make herself useful in a wide variety of things, and she must; but, just as her literary production is always reduced to an intimate novel, whose full value is to serve, by love and sentiment, in the popularization of Justice; just so, in the last analysis, her industrial production amounts to secondary labors or housework: she never leaves that circle.
Man is a worker, and woman a housewife: what does she complain about? The more that developing Justice levels conditions and fortunes, the more they will be raised up, one by work, and the other by housework. When the man casts off all exploitation and all bosses, will the woman demand a servant? Where will she find one? Both sexes are born in equal numbers: is that clear?
The household is the full manifestation of the woman. The man, out of wedlock, can do without a home: at college, in the barracks, at the hotels, he finds himself and shows himself complete; lack of privacy does not affect him. For the woman, housework is a necessity of honor, let us say even of toilette. It is at home that the woman is judged; when she goes elsewhere, we do not see her. Daughter, mother, the household is her triumph or her condemnation. Who will tidy her nest, if not her? Does this odalisque require quartermasters, livery, chambermaids, bellhops, some midgets and apes?… We are no longer in a democracy, and we are no longeri n marriage;we fall back into feudalism and concubinage.
Q.What is freedom for women?
A.The truly free woman is the chaste woman. The chaste women feel no amorous emotion for anyone, not even for her husband. Why does the young virgin appear so lovely, so desirable, so worthy? She does not feel love; and not feeling love, she is the living image of liberty.
Q. — What part does love play in the marriage contract?
A. — The smallest possible part. When two people come together in marriage, love is supposed to have accomplished its work; the crisis is past, the tempest has dispersed, passion has flown, hyems transiit, imber abiit, as the Song of Songs says. That is why the marriage of pure inclination is so close to shame, and why the father who consents to it is blameworthy. The duty of the father is to establish his children in integrity and Justice; it is the reward of his labors and the joy of his old age to give his daughter, to choose a wife for his son with his own hand. Let young people marry without reluctance, at the right time; but let the fathers not let familial dignity be violated by anyone, and let them remember that physical reproduction is only half of paternity. When a son or a daughter, to satisfy their own inclination, tramples the wishes of their father under foot, disinheritance is for them the first of rights and the holiest of duties.
Q. — What is the earliest age at which it is appropriate to marry?
A. — When the man is made, the laborer formed; when ideas begin to come and Justice to subordinate the ideal: what we can express, following the example of the code, by an arithmetic minimum:
“Men before twenty-six years have passed, and women before twenty-one years, can contract marriage.”
Q. — What can the average period of intimacy be between the two partners?
A. — While the children are very young, the man owes the woman a tribute of caresses: nature wishes it this way, in the interest of the offspring. The child profits from all the love that the father shows to the mother: let us ask no more. When the eldest reach puberty, then, prudent partners, domestic modesty and the defense of your heart command you to abstain. Do not wait for the return of age, the apoplexy and the infirmities of old age to restrain you. You would reach that forced continence only to be pursued to the grave by obscene dreams and tribulations against nature.
Q. — Who, in general, is the man that a young woman should prefer for her husband?
A. — The most righteous.
Q. — Who, in general, is the woman that a man should prefer for his spouse?
A. — The most diligent. — In the man, the most important qualities for the woman are labor and affection: these qualities are guaranteed by la Justice. In the woman, the most important qualities for the man are chastity and devotion: they are guaranteed by diligence.
Q. — What consolation do you offer to those who love unhappily?
A. — To practice Justice with zeal, to that end to marry, after having paid to the lost love a just tribute of mourning. Justice is the heaven where their aching hearts will find one another, and, of all the ways of practicing Justice, the fullest and most perfect is marriage. Such is even, setting aside some other domestic considerations, the only legitimate motive for a second marriage. It is good that of two spouses, two fiancés, separated forever by a premature death, the survivor keeps faith with the deceased, and that faith is especially suited to the wife; but an excessive sadness in a young person betrays more illusion and selfishness than Justice; it would degenerate into a sin against love itself, if the afflicted lover refused the remedy.
Q. — What are, in order of gravity, the principal acts that you consider crimes and offenses against marriage?
A. — Adultery, incest, debauchery, seduction, rape, onanism, fornication and prostitution.
Q. — What is it, apart from general considerations of personal dignity, of respect for other, and of sworn faith, constitutes the culpability of these acts?
A. The common character that distinguishes them is to strike the family in its most sacred aspect, namely the domestic religion, consequently to annihilate, among the guilty and their accomplices, Justice in its source.
Thus adultery is, according the expression of the ancients, the violation of every divine and human law, a crime which contains in itself all the others, slander, treason, plunder, parricide, sacrilege. Ancient tragedy, like the epic, unfolds almost entirely on this ground, as demonstrated by the legends of Helen, Clytemnestra, Penelope, etc.
Incest, though less monstrous, is more base; mockery of familial decency and the maternal initiation; its counterpart is sodomy.
Debauchery, more common every day and treated with so much indifference, is the abuse of a minor, a destruction of Justice, if we may put it this way, in the bud, for which jurors should never allow extenuating circumstances.
By what unimaginable materialism has the legislator treated rape so severely, while he did not say a word against seduction?It seems that the first could often be placed in the category of blows and wounds which only affect the body, while the second kills the soul.
To these two kinds of crimes, we will assimilate the incitement to immorality by books, songs, carvings, statues, etc.
Onanism has bestiality for a corollary. A curious thing! Conjugal onanism has been proposed by the defenders of human exploitation to serve as an emunctory for the population; the same doctrine which makes the worker a beast of burden, should also make the lover a stallion.
Fornication is the temporary pleasure of two free people, not engaged in concubinage. It is incomparably more reprehensible than prostitution. Prostitution, remnant of the ancient state of war and feudalism, also has poverty as an excuse, and the prostitute, cut off like a rotten branch from the family, has betrayed no one. The fornicators cheat everyone and have no excuse; they should be blamed, if not punished. The hypocrisy of our customs have decided otherwise; secret fornication is applauded; the man caught in a brothel is deemed infamous.
If we consider adultery, seduction, rape, fornication, prostitution, divorce, polygamy concubinage as forming the pathology of love and marriage, incest, debauchery, pederasty, onanism and bestiality would be its teratology.
The flood of all the crimes and offences against marriage is the most active cause of the decadence of modern societies; it is to that cause that it is necessary to relate, in the last analysis, bourgeois cowardice, popular imbecility, republican ineptitude, depravity in literature, and despotism in government.
Every attack on marriage and the family is a profanation of Justice, a treason against the people and liberty, an insult to the Revolution.
Q. — How has the philosophy of right been so long without an understanding of marriage?
A. — Because the philosophers have always sought the right in religion, and every religion being essentially idealist and erotic, love in the religious soul is placed above Justice, and marriage reduced to concubinage.

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The Extremes

Ms. 18255—Économie. [Gallica]

The Extremes.

Avoid the extremes, and seek the happy medium, says the Wisdom of the Nations.

That aphorism, of course, is very true: but it must be well understood.

It is up to philosophy to look into it and demonstrate it.

I say that every extreme, in itself, is false and implies a contradiction; but by extreme I mean the element constitutive of every synthesis, an element to which it does not [ ], which constitutes it [i.e. synthesis] that much better as it is found employed more energetically.

Thus, the proprietor is a constitutive element of the social order, necessary, indispensable.

To deny it implies a contradiction.

In the common language we say: Property must be curbed, not pushed to the extreme.

I will correct that language, which lacks scientific exactitude, and say: property, in itself, strong or weak, powerful or controlled, as you like, is exclusive, fraudulent, sinful, selfish, and wrong; it contains within it, theft.

However, that same property, such as it is, is indispensable to human order; and it is even because of this that it is necessary. Remove that individualist character, and [   ] you render it powerless….

It is not the extreme, [ ] property, that is to be avoided: that extreme always exists, since it is the very principle….

Here, all the happy mediums in the world are lies, pure arbitrariness.

It is necessary to balance property with a contrary principle, which is, as you prefer, collectivity or community.

(There is no moderate community: community in itself is as bad as property…. It calls, not for a corrective, shears, a gardener to fight it, a [   ] to geld it: it needs a balance.

The two principles must be joined, married, mutually penetrating, in a manner to form a [   ]…. Thus:

Theory: Everything that can be appropriated must be appropriated; everything that can be grouped, even among the things appropriated, must be grouped.

(Similarly with Competition, Credit, Government, etc.; division of labor, collectivity.)

Other antinomies are subject to a different law, for example, that of Dead weightlive weight. It is certain that we tend, and will constantly tend, to reduce one and increase the other: that is the law of Progress. Cf. [   ] Dead weight, live weight, pages 11-12.

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Moral Education


[Undated fragment from Ms. 2971, Ville de Besançon]


I always see the fathers of families, sufficiently enlightened regarding the value of religious fables, worry nonetheless about the Education to give their children, and ask on what the moral principles that they will be taught will rest.

Morals and superstition have been so thoroughly mixed together that the majority of men do not manage to separate them, and, for them, to destroy the latter it is always a matter of compromising the former.

I am an honest man, says a father, and I know where I stand on the question of the cults. I do not need religion to lead me as a man of honor. But my children must be educated, and I know what that costs. It disgusts me to preach superstition to them. We must speak to them of morals, but on what basis?…

Voltaire was of that opinion: he dismissed his servants and closed the door when his friends debated religion.

That difficulty, however childish it is when we examine it up close, is serious, and I know a lot of people whom it torments and troubles.—I have been myself, like everyone, brought up short by it. We absolutely desire an external sanction for the law, a mark of dignity, something that astonishes, that conquers wills and prostrates consciences.

However, it is not in this way that things occur. The capital error here, which comes from a lack of observation, is that we have not studied the march of human conscience in its ascent towards moral law.

We have not seen that the moral law only penetrates the soul slowly, that it requires that long education and a sustained practice in order for it to be saturated and impregnated with it.

There are the final reasons for the long childhood of man.

There also is found the motive of the law regarding minority and majority; the age of discernment and irresponsibility.

The jurists, without looking at it in any other way, without giving reasons, will fix the age of reason at 13, 14, 16, or 18 years of age; etc. What can all those say? Nothing.

The basis of moral education is industrial education.

The one who does not learn to work, who does not work, will never be moral: noble or thief, rich or poor, in society, their manners are without basis, their faith without guarantee.

Now, the moral law is a second nature in man, which is introduced by the attraction of the justice that all men demand, and of the idea according to which each aspire.

I say to my little girl: That thing is ugly, and she abstains from it. The same sentiment of self-esteem, which makes her hate worn, dirty clothing, makes odious to her certain words that we have told her were ugly, or not very pretty, and that she understands can in fact hardly be so.

Her mistakes, her little grimaces, everything that is objectionable in her, and that one would suppress right away, rise first to her mind, then gradually make the good, just and honest descend into her heart…

There is no other education to follow, no other sanction than that embrace of Conscience.

To form a man, a woman, from the moral point of view, is a long work, for every day, which demands diligent care and an energetic will.

What resistance can a young girl make who suspects the stories of the catechism of lies, her confessor of a lack of virtue, hell of being a fable, who doubts that all the women are like her, inclined to voluptuousness, who tells herself that things as they are are unjust, that virtue is trickery, etc.?…

But if little by little, instead of crumbling principles, we inculcate her with the true truth, namely, that dignity is a beautiful and precious thing, that to give oneself to a lover, without guarantee, is to enslave herself, to soil herself;–that love is a holy thing, that it is necessary to guard her heart, rather than spread her love on an unworthy object; that the liberty of life depends on it; etc., etc. Oh! Then the resistance will be vigorous.

Everything is in this word prostitution!… for the woman.

For the man, everything is in this word: coward. There is not a crime, nor misdemeanor, nor theft, nor selfish act, that does not come among men through cowardice! Stupidity is itself only a form of it.

Yes, it is on self-esteem, on the exalted sentiment of individual beauty and dignity, not on utility, that morals must be founded; as for religious ideas, the facts prove their powerlessness more than abundantly.

Also the priests have axioms of despair: main are called, but few are chosen. Of 100 men, Mr. P…. tells me, I have hardly found 5 who are honest. We accuse human perversity, selfishness, etc., etc.

I believe it well. The naïve, misled man, placed in a setting of hypocrisy, rebels: it is the last act of his virtue. From this point of view, it is a mass of crimes, remanded to the Cours d’Assises, that are the acts of courage and virtue.

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The Proudhon manuscripts at Besançon

The digitization of the Proudhon manuscripts at Besançon is a game-changer is so many ways. For example, I was looking through Ms 2912 – “Documents ayant trait aux éditions des œuvres de Proudhon,” and encountered a typed text, which turned out to be Alfred Costes’ 1858 essay, “Les vicissitudes de l’édition Lacroix des œuvres complètes de P.J. Proudhon,” a really fascinating account of the publication of Proudhon’s Œuvres Anciennes Complètes and Œuvres Posthumes. Among the details that was the revelation that the six friends of Proudhon specially tasked with preparing the printed works felt comfortable placing Proudhon’s name on works that had been “arranged” by them because it had been done before, during Proudhon’s own lifetime, when Georges Duchêne had contributed to Manuel du spéculateur à la Bourse, Des Réformes à opérer dans l’exploitation des chemins de fer, and Théorie de l’impôt. Now, the first two works had initially been published anonymously, but the third was indeed published as by Proudhon alone. So I was curious if I could find any evidence that it had been a collaboration with Duchêne. Ms. 2814 and Ms. 2815 in the Besançon collection do indeed suggest that this was the case.

So I encourage those interested in Proudhon to take a look at the digitized material, and in order to simplify access I’ve made myself a single list of the manuscripts, which I am happy to share:

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Dividing “Pologne”

pologne-contentsIt appears that even when writing about Poland, Proudhon ultimately tended toward division. While much of the work of the last few years of his life seems to have been connected to the work on Poland, of which The Theory of Property was an important element, when we look at the notes he left to his literary executors, we see that the manuscript of Pologne, as it has been passed down to us, was ultimately destined to be split into two works: The History of Poland and Political Geography and Nationality. Based on a table of contents included in the manuscript, it appears that the latter title probably corresponds to six chapters from Pologne, and that it is by following these six chapters that The Theory of Property would have been labeled Chapter VII, had that work not been pulled out for separate publication.

Because Political Geography and Nationality was never assembled for the Collected Works, we don’t have the expertise of Proudhon’s friends to guide us, but it appears that the six chapters are either relatively finished or at least fairly clearly outlined. There is other material in some of the other manuscripts that relates to the questions of political geography and nationality, but it will take some time to determine their relation to the material from the Pologne manuscript. Of more immediate interest for me, of course, is the relation of the six chapters to The Theory of Property, so my plan is to set aside much of the miscellaneous Proudhon translation that I have been working on and attempt to transcribe and then translate Political Geography and Nationality as a companion volume to The Theory of Property. Examination of the manuscripts suggests that the Plan for a Perpetual Exhibition was not specifically connected to that work in Proudhon’s mind, and so I’ll be moving that to the back burner for the time being, while I concentrate on the manuscript writings and continue to putter away at The Political Capacity of the Working Classes, which is directly concerned with the mutualist-guarantist-federalist project.

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“Notice to the Reader,” from Proudhon’s “The Principle of Art”

Two days before his death, in the presence of his wife, Proudhon dictated to his eldest daughter a document by which, after having designated a certain number of friends to watch, as much over the interests as his family as the publication of his works, he charged us specially and collectively of this last care.
The first time that we have been able to gather the six, we have recognized, for those of us whose position keeps us far from Paris, the impossibility of working actively at the ordering of the manuscripts left by Proudhon. Thus their assistance will most often be limited to a simple statement of authenticity.
Accountable tothe greatmemory of our friend, we will never fail, in making one of his posthumous works appear, to tell which parts have been finished y the author, and what others have been only prepared by him.
The book that we publish today is divided into twenty-five chapters, fifteen of which have been completely written by Proudhon; these are those which carry the numbers I, II, III, IV, V, VI, —VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, — XVII. The other, chapters VII, — XVI, — XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI, XXII, XXIII, XXIV et XXV put together by us, and ordered according to the guidelines left by Proudhon.
In acquainting ourselves with the numerous manuscripts of this great worker, we have found the following note, written in his own hand, at a time when he had still not delivered to the editor the manuscript on the Political Capacity of the Working Classes.
1. The Working Classes.
2. Of Art (about Courbet).
3. Theory of Property.
4. Political Geography and Nationality.
5. France and the Rhine (refutation of Amédée Thierry).
6. Theory of the Constitutional Movement in Europe, or, What, finally, is the Republic?
7. History of Jehovah.
8. Conclusionson the Gospelsand the Life of Jesus.
9. History of Poland.
10. Parallels between Napoleon I and Wellington (refutation of Thiers).
11. Of the Pornocracy, or the Women.
12. The Normaliens.
13. Condensed History of Napoleon, according to Thiers.
14. Literary Critique (Review) : V. Hugo, Renan, Lamartine, etc.
15. Course of Political Economy.
16. Continuation of The Stock-Exchange Speculator, New Manual.
17. Miscellanies, articles on various subjects.
The study (no. 16) indicated under the title: Continuation of the Stock-Exchange Speculator, should be made, like the Manual itself, in collaboration with G. Duchêne, to whom Proudhon turned over, page by page, all the data for this work. The materials consist of: 1) a plan the division by chapters has been made, and the summaries written by Proudhon; 2° a booklet of 214 pages, entirely by him, remained completely unpublished, although it had been pulled in proofs (Bruxelles, 1859); 3) some letters and explanatory notes addressed by the author to G. Duchêne, from 1858 to 1864; 4) all the notescollectedon this subject for seven years.
The work is composed of five studies, gathered under the general title indicated by Proudhon: Industrial Feudalism. The sub-titles, sufficiently indicative of the subject and its divisions, are:
1st étude: Founders andShareholders.
2nd — The Large Companies and the Public.
3rd — Finance and the Salariat.
4th — The Haute Banque and the State.
5th — Theory of Collective Force: Conclusions from the fourprevious studies.
The work, completed by Duchêne, without Proudhon being able to review it, will appear, because of that circumstance, with this note: Composed, from the plan and notes of P. J. PROUDHON, by Georges DUCHÊNE.
The materials prepared for the History of Jehovah and the Life of Jesus being almost entirely marginal notes on a Latin Bible, printed by Proudhon himself, we have thought that the biblical text in French (and, if needed, the Latin text), compared with the notes, would be sufficient to give an understanding to all readers. Instead of a History of Jehovah and a Life of Jesus, we will publish, as soon as we can, in several parts or volumes, la Bible Annotated by Proudhon.
We will show all possible diligence in the publication of the manuscripts left by Proudhon. You can be sure that we will not fail in the task imposed on us by the memory of the great writer, the great and honest man, who have invested his confidence in us after having honored us with his friendship.
J. A. Langlois. A. A. Rolland.
G. Duchêne. F. G. Bergmann.
G. Chaudey. F. Delhasse.

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Proudhon’s “Pologne” and the federative project of the 1860s

“Ma Théorie fédérative est déjà un fragment enlevé à mon travail polonais; la Propriété sera le second…”
“My Federative Theory is already a fragment lifted from my Polish work; the [Theory of] Property will be the second…” (Letter to Grandclément, Nov. 17, 1863)

One of the nearly miraculous effects of the recent manuscript digitization projects at the International Institute of Social History and the Ville de Besançon has been a sudden and dramatic change in the kinds of questions we can wrestle with, with real hope of success, without international travel or expensive duplication of materials. For me, it has really altered my research program and shifted my translation priorities. Honestly, what it has done is throw my routine into a very pleasant chaos. I might not make that million word mark after all, if only because working with manuscript material is much slower going, but several projects have already become much more interesting as a result of taking the time to wade into these newly accessible archives.

The most dramatic shift has probably taken place in my longstanding love-hate relationship with Proudhon’s The Theory of Property. Wrestling with that work has probably been the single most important factor in my development as a Proudhon scholar, and as a scholar with something arguably a bit different, and potentially important, to say about both Proudhon and anarchism. But the marginal nature of the work in the informal anarchist canon—where it has largely been shunted off into the sections reserved for forgeries or betrayals of the cause—had naturally meant that everything built from an engagement with it has been at least a bit suspect. The individual antidote for that is always to know you are right, but that’s hard, when the manuscripts are unavailable and the correspondence is still hard to search through. I’ve had to slowly build up a sense that published text was coherent, and then gradually dig out the contexts, without much help from the literature of the tradition, of course, or much encouragement from the movement, for which the very existence of the work mostly serves as just another strike against poor old Proudhon.

It turns out that many of the materials necessary to substantially adjust the reputation of The Theory of Property were available even before these recent digitization projects, but perhaps the context in which it was easiest to put them together wasn’t. The heart of the matter seems to be the relationship of The Theory of Property to a lengthy, unfinished work by Proudhon, Pologne. The work on Poland apparently occupied Proudhon off and on through much of the last years of his life. The manuscript consists of 1448 pages, not including, as far as I have been able to tell, any of the 291 pages identified as “Chapitre VII. Garantisme.—Théorie de la propriété.” If we take Proudhon’s comments about the place of The Federative Principle seriously, then we have even more to add to the project. In the same letters, it appears that The Literary Majorats may also be a “long footnote” to the work as well.

We’ve had a hard time dealing with Proudhon’s work in the 1860s, at last in the English-speaking world. Part of the problem, of course, is that we haven’t done much justice to his work in the 1850s, but I think we have at least had a vague sense that Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, all six volumes of it, was lurking out there, waiting to be accounted for, and a few scholars have placed Justice in the more-or-less central place that it seems to deserve. (Jesse Cohn stands out for me in this regard.) For me, despite a lot of wrestling with Justice, The Philosophy of Progress has been the gateway into the “constructive” work of the 1850s, and it has gradually become the pivot around which I’ve built a couple of interpretive narratives. In the first, it marks the shift between primarily critical and primarily constructive periods (as I’ve discussed in “Self-Government and the Citizen-State.) In the second, which I’m still working through, it is the occasion of Proudhon finally beginning answer the question about “the criterion of certainty” that he claims led him to his more familiar work. We might read the work on Justice, which begins with the identification of that criterion with the idea of justice itself, as a kind of resolution of Proudhon’s early, philosophical and theological concerns. Despite its occasionally glaring inconsistencies, as in the study on “Love and Marriage,” the work manages to be a pretty triumphant answer to the question that he was chiding himself for still pursuing in 1841.

The 1860s look, at the very least, less triumphant, and we don’t seem to have any very coherent account of what Proudhon was up to in the last five years of his life. It is actually common, though I think incorrect, to treat the best-known of the late works, The Federative Principle, as marking a shift away from anarchism. And the rest of the works from that period have been hard to come to grips with:

  • War and Peace (1861) — Despite Alex Prichard’s work, this two-volume work is still little known, and it simply remains very demanding. There is a lot of complicated treatment of the topic of war to be waded through in order to extract Proudhon’s fundamentally peaceful message. The work has been treated as proto-fascist and, to complicate matters, we can find some selective influences in those currents.
  • The Theory of Taxation (1861) — Marx treated the work as the final sign that Proudhon was just a “bourgeois,” and anarchists have naturally been slow to warm to a work on taxation. The fact that it contains Proudhon’s clearest explanation of what I’ve called the “citizen-state” is, alas, a circumstance with limited attraction for those who see any discussion of any kind of “state” as a step backward. Like War and Peace, it is a work that looks a lot better if you know and understant the work of the 1850s.
  • Literary Majorats (1862) — Some sections of this work opposing intellectual property have actually be translated, but it remains largely unknown. The truth is that most of our positions on these questions are pretty well solidified.
  • The Political Capacity of the Working Classes (1865) — This is the work that anarchists have shown the most interest in, largely because it was addressed to the workers who would make up the core of the Parisian group in the First International, and because it was the work that Proudhon labored away at on his deathbed. It is a fascinating work, and one with a clear influence in the international working-class movement. Unfortunately, the tale we’ve told about the International paints the workers most closely associated with it as losers, when they aren’t dismissed as traitors.
  • The Theory of Property (1865) — Finally, Proudhon’s final work on property has been the subject of hot debate from before its publication right up to the present. For those who want to paint his outside of the mainstream of anarchist thought, or who want to draw strong distinctions between the “property is theft” of 1840 and a “pro-property” position in his last years, the reputation of this work has been useful, however little that reputation corresponded to its contents. Despite years of translation and analysis, I still have people telling me the same unsubstantiated stories about the work: that it was a pieced-together work, abandoned by Proudhon and cobbled together by his followers; that it represented more evidence of Proudhon’s abandonment of anarchism; or, alternately, that it really doesn’t contain anything that challenges the position of 1840. I feel like my work to date has pretty well dealt with most of the usual responses to the work, demonstrating the continuity of Proudhon’s work on property, his consistent pursuit of anarchism, etc. But I would be lying if I said that I was very comfortable with the work. After all, my own work on the “gift economy of property” has really been an attempt to push beyond what I’ve understood as an instructive, but not always appealing set of arguments in The Theory of Property.

What the work I’ve been doing lately has suggested to me is that, while establishing the connections between The Theory of Property and Proudhon’s earlier works is obviously important and useful, Proudhon himself really saw the work as part of a larger, ongoing work, which occupied him in the 1860s. The unpublished work, Pologne, is obviously something we have to engage with in order to understand Proudhon’s final large-scale project, but we can start by changing our strategy with regard to the late works that we know. Instead of picking and choosing which of the late works we engage, sometimes pitting one work against another, it seems likely that the only way to do justice to those works is to consider them as Proudhon seems to have understood them—as pieces of a larger whole.

Perhaps we need to consider splitting the “constructive” period of Proudhon’s career at least one more time. We might characterized his progression something like this:

  1. In an initial, largely critical period, Proudhon began by seeking the criterion of certainty and found himself waging a multi-front war against absolutism. The familiar critiques of property and governmentalism were among the results.
  2. In a first phase of constructive labors, Proudhon found his solution to the question of the criterion of certainty in the idea of an imminent justice, and elaborated how the play of justice operates in contexts ranging from metaphysics to international politics. The elimination of the absolute and the opposition to external constitution of relations are central concerns. There is a lot of history and political economy in this period, but we might say that philosophical concerns are really driving the analysis. Even a work like The General Idea of the Revolution, with all its practical proposals, is still really largely about an idea.
  3. In a second phase of constructive labors, Proudhon shifted his attention to the practical playing-out of the principle of justice. We have probably been right to see that the emphasis on the federative principle marked a transition, but incorrect in identifying it. Having eliminated external constitution (governmentalism, archy) as a model for social organization, there remains the question of how internal constitution (self-government, anarchy) will work. But Proudhon points us to the principle that will unify his labors:

“…transported into the political sphere, what we have previously called mutualism or guarantism takes the name of federalism. In a simple synonymy the revolution, political and economic, is given to us whole…”

The principle has multiple names—the familiar mutualism and federalism, and the less familiar guarantism. The last term is, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, a borrowing from Fourier, intended to designate the messy, very approximate stage prior to Harmony. Proudhon, of course, is too consistently progressive a thinker, to certain that “humanity proceeds by approximation,” to have much hope for a period of realized Harmony. The quote with which I began the post, as well as some others I have recently noted, ought to inspire some corrections in our thinking about Proudhon’s late works. First, the traditional elevation of The Federative Principle over The Theory of Property probably can’t hold up. Proudhon’s letters suggest that, with regard to their status as finished works, we’ve had things turned completely around. At the same time, the title from the manuscript suggests an equation between “Guarantism” and “The Theory of Property” that shouldn’t surprise us at all, and which quite appropriately subordinates whatever Proudhon has to say about property in that work to a principle we know to think of as a synonym of mutualism or federation.

That opens a new set of messy questions, including how property can be understood as an instance of federations, but perhaps we’ve tackled enough for now.

[Originally posted at Contr’un, April 22, 2014]

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