Category Archives: Revolutionary Practice

Note on Revolutionary Practice (March, 1851)

[These notes appear to refer to Ms. 2857 in the Besançon archives, “De la Pratique des révolutions,” a draft for a work abandoned in favor of The General Idea of the Revolution in the 19th Century. This is, of course, just one of the places where Proudhon uses “Destruam et ædificabo” as a kind of motto, but it is interesting to find it here, close to the “watershed” between Proudhon’s “critical” and “constructive” projects.]

P.-J. Proudhon, Carnets, Vol. 4 (Carnet no. 9, 27-28; March 1851): 215.

Revolutionary practice. — Book I, chapter I. — If I start with cannibalism, it is not as a vain show of horrors. It is necessary to show that great truth that is everything in man, Progress. The state of nature is the bestial state, from which we have first drawn fetishist, polytheist religion; the path that we have made, we have made with reason and liberty.

Crude, savage reason at first, ferocious and jealous, which sanctified and purged itself every day. [28]

It is a new religion that we will establish, a social, human religion, which we must draw out more and more.

Rousseau gave its prelude in the Emile, attempting in turn to make it metaphysics, dogma and morals: a task beyond his powers.

We begin anew, with more powerful materials and a new insight.

We have achieved a methodical critique, destruam; we begin the edifice of the new faith: aedificabo.

Revolutionary practice should be nothing but that. — Do not forget it.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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On Repression (and cannibalism) (1851)

P.-J. Proudhon, Carnets, Vol. 4 (Carnet No. 8, 311): 154

Revolutionary Practice. — Repression, [can] perhaps [be] employed with success against the whimsies of the sects, contagious mental illnesses. — Against a revolution, it can only transmit them, i.e. by making the explosion more terrible.

— Anthropophagy was the first phase of progress, necessary to all the progress that followed. So it has been a relative good. It was necessary that man eat man before he could eat God. If anthropophagy had only existed in the case of famine, it would have ceased with famine. That was not the case. It has a place in our ideas, in our rights and duties, in our religion. — Without it, the conditions that followed are inexplicable. — Neither more or less odious, after all, than capitalism and Malthusian property. — First stage of the right of people, first attribute of the aristocracy. Who knows if the object of the first Charter granted to the people was not to guarantee that the king and the nobles would no longer eat their tenants!

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Of the Ideal, and of Supernaturalism in Nature (1851)

P.-J. Proudhon, Carnets, Vol. 4 (Carnet No. 8, 311-312): 154-155.

— The Marvelous [or the Supernatural] in Humanity, third cause of revolution. — Subordinate to the common sense, but distinct from it. — It is not a malady, a pathological state or transition, like teething or puberty in individuals: it is a faculty, a real function of the soul, [but one that is] little known, like the spleen or tonsils in animals. Everything provided by that faculty constantly vanishes before analysis, but it still exerts the greatest influence on the acts of the Species. Already we have seen that God is the great revolutionary agent, as privileged inheritor of the old abuses. — The old communist sects did not fail to make God sole proprietor. — Domini est terra, et plenitudo ejus.


P.-J. Proudhon, Carnets, Vol. 4 (Carnet No. 8, 317-318): 159-161.

REVOLUTIONARY PRACTICE. — Of the Ideal, and of Supernaturalism in Nature. —

1. A third revolutionary agent is indispensable:

2. It is the Ideal, the Infinite, in Thought.

It acts more energetically on us than all the rest: example. — A man wants a women, but beautiful, which is more than a woman…

A king, but handsome, glorious, victorious.

And so on.

We affirm that ideal objectively in God and Heaven;

We create it in ourselves, and with our own hands;

Art is the reproduction of that ideal.

The absurd is all that is settled on as the ideal, but the ideal is not absurd.

The ideal always has an object or an idea as basis. But it is obviously something other than that object or that idea.

The ideal disappears and oscillates in Humanity like the ideas and interests.

3. There is no more ideal in society: neither God, nor Cult, nor Kings, nor Government.

God has lost all ontological and aesthetic value.

Utopia offers nothing.

Atheism is the negation of God, the ontological and aesthetic ideal; — without ulterior affirmation.

[318] More than a means, it is to change the idea of being into that of becoming; and since God does not exist, it is necessary to invent him.

It is necessary to realize that great, extra-natural, extra-sensible existence, which the understanding conceives, but the Reason does not comprehend.

We must make the collective man, first give him being and then beauty. In short, [it is necessary] to create the Supreme Being.

We have the clay with which to mold it, and a model according to which to give it shape.

The Collective Man is truly the supernatural in nature: it is the New God, which results from the unlimited liberty of its members.

On this subject, show that the Communities, coalitions, hierarchies and corporate bodies are negations of the Collective Man, and of the sovereign People (chapter on Unity.)

After having denied all government, and proclaimed anarchy, affirm the People, the reality and personality of the collective man.

After having denied Political Economy, and the Economics of the State, affirm Social Economy.

After having denied God, affirm HUMANITY.

That Humanity is not perfect, but it becomes so; its ideal consists in that [becoming]: — of constantly modifying itself and varying.

The brigand and the assassin affirm the beautiful and the sublime.

It is the sanction of right and of duty.

Thus to substitute the indefinite for the infinite, the perfectible for the PERFECT, becoming for BEING, the faciebat for the facit [fecit?], time for ETERNITY, movement for SUBSTANCE, progress for stability.

Everything is revolutionary, in Heaven and on the Earth.

So we are atheists as the first Christians were. — The divine, […], does not die in Humanity. The Christian God becomes as ugly as he is unintelligible, and every divinity conceived according to the ancient principles and method is inadmissible.

— Every worn-out idea become rococo, a ridiculous joke: the comic is the antidote for every chauvinism!

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REVOLUTIONARY PRACTICE.—Propositions (1851)

Carnet 8, 322

REVOLUTIONARY PRACTICE.—Propositions:

  1. Every revolution is caused by the displacement of interests;
    the oscillation of ideas;
    the exhaustion of an ideal.
  2. These three causes do not form a triad: the first two are correlatives of one another; — the 3rd is an addition of the mind: (the first two are objective; the 3rd subjective).
  3. The Ideal is the infinite in thought.
  4. It demands a real and intelligible basis.
  5. It strays from it endlessly.
  6. There is a tendency of the mind to give the ideal an ontological value apart from its basis; to affirm as reality what had at first been conceived as ideal.
  7. God, freed from speculative theories, is the affirmation of a higher ideal and an existence superior to man and nature.
  8. That affirmation is without foundation.
  9. That affirmation is illogical and contradictory.
  10. However, Humanity has need of a supreme ideal, which serves it as rudder and motor, and which is at the same time a reality; — there is something in God. —
  11. That ideal cannot be found outside of it; — (God is worn out, ridiculous, absurd); it must be found within it.
  12. So it changes its nature: it is the infinite, or rather the indefinite, in the life of Humanity, in its size, its composition, etc.

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