Proudhon, Letter to the editor of the Dictionnaire Larousse (1864)

Letter to the editor of the Dictionnaire Larousse

Passy, August 20, 1864

Sir, I have received from our common friend, M. D…. the seven issues of your gigantic dictionary; I already possessed the first. I cannot wish too much for the success of your publication, and I admire the courage, the devotion to science, of Mr. Larousse, who has not shrunk from such an enterprise. During my convalescence, I have thumbed through some of your articles, and I am more and more astonished at the mass of material that you have gathered in your column. I would learn with true joy that you have found a placement for its installments; this proves to me once more that our nation is not dead; a people that reads, that shows itself hungry for science, who seeks it in all its forms, has not given his resignation.

I have read the articles that you have recommended, Abstention and Anarchy, and I thank you for the manner in which you have spoken of me on this occasion. I only regret not having been in a position to explain myself at the moment when you wrote them. On abstention, I would have told you something more positive and more decisive than what I have found in the dictionary. As for anarchy, its composition appears better and more exact. I wanted to mark, by that word, the extreme term of political progress. Anarchy is, if can express myself in this way, a form of government, or constitution, in which the public and private conscience, formed by the development of science and of right, is sufficient by itself to maintain order and to guarantee all freedoms, where, consequently, the principle of authority, the police institutions, the means of detention or repression, the system of civil service, taxation, etc., find themselves reduced to their simplest expression; even more so, where the monarchic forms, large-scale centralization, will disappear, replaced by federal institutions and local customs. When political life and domestic existence will be as one; when, by the solution of economic problems, social and individual interests will be in balance and connected, it is obvious that, every constraint having disappeared, we will enjoy full liberty or anarchy. The social law will be fulfilled by itself, without supervision or commands, through universal spontaneity.

When you come to the articles God and Property, I would be grateful if you would let me know. You will see by a few words of explanation that there is something other than paradoxes in these propositions: God is evil, and Property is theft, propositions whose literal sense I maintain, without thinking of making a crime of faith in God, nor of abolishing Property.

I greet you, sire, very sincerely.

P.-J. Proudhon.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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