Category Archives: Theory of Property

Ms. 2847 — Theory of Property

[…]

[36]

Give an exact, firm analysis of all my critiques,

  • Ist Memoir, 1840
  • 2nd Memoir, 1841
  • 3rd Memoir, 1842
  • Creation of Order, 1843
  • Economic Contradictions, 1845
  • Le Peuple, etc., etc., 1848-1852
  • Justice, liv. V., 1858
  • Taxation, 1860
  • Literary Property, 1862

Make this summary as interesting as possible par la hauteur de la question, the strength of the critique, the movement of my mind.

Recall the refutations of Mms. Thiers, Troplong, Sudre, etc.

Say and repeat that this critique is indestructible in itself, apart from a single hypothesis, (which I will make known soon) ;

That, in fact, Property is inadmissible from the point of view of communal, Slavic, Germanic, or Arabic right; and that in fact is has been condemned by it;

That it is equally inadmissible in the Christian or ecclesiastic theory, which condemns it;

That it is once again inadmissible in the feudal system, which subordinates all the possessions, and opposes fief to it;

That it has been condemned by the Latin authors as contrary to Roman liberty and nationality; latifundia perdidere Italiam ;

That, finally, it is inadmissible in the system of political centralization; that from this point of view as well it has only been tolerated by ROBESPIERRE, and that it is still rejected today, with reason, by the Jacobins.

There is only one point of view from which property can be accepted: it is the one that, recognizing that man possesses Justice, within himself, making him sovereign and upholder of justice, consequently awards him property, and knows no possible political order but federation.

Thus I will fortify all my earlier criticisms with considerations of history and politics;, and show in the end that if property is a truth, this can only be on one condition: that the principles of Immanent Justice, Individual Sovereignty and Federation are accepted.

Thus, three parts.

  1. critique of the idea in itself;
  2. Incompatibility with all the known systems;
  3. Federalist Harmony or Conciliation.

Property is as incompatible with the Empire or the Republic one and indivisible, as communal autonomy itself.

[…]

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Ms. 2847 — Théorie de la propriété

[…]

[36]

Donner une analyse exacte et ferme de toutes mes critiques,

  • Ier Mémoire, 1840
  • 2e Mémoire, 1841
  • 3e Mémoire, 1842
  • Création de l’ordre, 1843
  • Contradictions économiques, 1845
  • Le Peuple, etc., etc., 1848-1852
  • De la Justice, liv. V., 1858
  • De l’impôt, 1860
  • De la propriété littéraire, 1862

Rendre ce résumé aussi intéressant que possible par la hauteur de la question, la force de la critique, le mouvement de mon esprit.

Rappeler les réfutations de Mms. Thiers, Troplong, Sudre, etc.

Dire et répéter que cette critique est en elle-même indestructible hors une seule hypothèse, (que je ferai bientôt connaître.) ;

Qu’en effet, la Propriété est inadmissible au point de vue du droit communal, slave, germanique, arabe ; et qu’en effet elle a été condamnée ;

Qu’elle est également inadmissible dans la théorie chrétienne ou ecclésiastique, qui la condamne ;

Qu’elle l’est de nouveau dans le système féodal, qui subalternise toutes les possessions, et lui oppose le fief ;

Qu’elle a été condamnée par les auteurs latins comme contraire à la liberté et à la nationalité romaines ; latifundia perdidere Italiam ;

Qu’elle est inadmissible enfin dans le système de centralisation politique, et qu’à ce point de vue encore elle a été seulement tolérée par ROBESPIERRE, et elle est encore aujourd’hui repoussée, avec raison, par les Jacobins.

Il n’y a qu’un point de vue où la propriété se puisse admettre : c’est celui qui, reconnaissant que l’homme possède de son fonds la Justice, le faisant souverain et justicier, lui adjuge en conséquence la propriété, et ne connaît d’ordre politique possible que la fédération.

Ainsi je vais consolider toute ma critique antérieure par des considérations d’histoire et de politique ; et montrer à la fin que si la propriété est une vérité, ce ne peut être qu’à une condition, c’est que les principes de Justice immanente, de Souveraineté individuelle et de Fédération soient admis.

Donc, trois parties.

  1. critique de l’idée en soi ;
  2. Incompatibilité avec tous les systèmes connus ;
  3. Harmonie ou Conciliation fédéraliste.

La propriété est aussi incompatible avec l’Empire ou la République une et indivisible, que l’autonomie communale elle-même.

[…]

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The Theory of Property (2017 revision)

THEORY

OF

PROPERTY

BY

P.-J. PROUDHON

 


[i]

NOTICE THE READER

In the preface placed at the beginning of the book on Art, we have undertaken to tell the public the state of the manuscripts of each of Proudhon’s posthumous works.

The manuscript that we publish today contained two notes conceived in this way:

“Advise the reader to distinguish clearly between the form of possessing (possession), which everyone, learned and ignorant, and even some jurists, confuse with property, giving the name of the one to the other.”

I. “PROPERTY. Give an exact and firm analysis of all my critiques:

  • “1st Memoir (1840)
  • “2nd Memoir (1841)
  • “3rd Memoir (1842)
  • Creation of Order (1843);
  • Economic Contradictions (1846);
  • The People, etc. (1848-1852);
  • Of Justice (1858);
  • Of Taxation (1860);
  • Of Intellectual Property (1862).”

Proudhon did not want to publish his Theory of Property—although, as he announced in his Majorats Littéraires, it was ready in 1862—before the program sketched in the two preceding notes, and especially in the second, was accomplished. The author not having had time to do this work himself, we believed that, in the interest of his memory, it was our responsibility to supply it. It was for him principally a question of showing that his ideas on property developed according to a rational series, in which the last term always had its point of departure in the preceding term, and that his present conclusion is not at all contradictory with his premises.

This summary forms the first sixty-two pages of the Introduction. We have used the form I, as if Proudhon himself had written: 1) because the idea of that analysis belongs to him; 2) because the work sketched in advance does not constitute an individual, original production on our part; 3) because it is composed in large part of textual citations from the author; 4) because we have inserted some of his unpublished notes; 5) finally, because, in the [iii] last pages of the chapter, Proudhon takes over, as if he had made the summary himself.

Having thus informed the reader, we do not hesitate to cite, in support of the author’s idea, a judicial act that has occurred since his death, and which has inspired Mr. Eugène Paignon to one of his best articles (see the Introduction, page 7).

In the rest of the work we have only done, as in the book on Art, some arrangement and ordering; choosing, among several expressions of the same idea, the most lucid and most complete; transporting the scattered supplementary and explanatory notes, whose place was naturally indicated by their content, to the chapters that they concern.

Let us add finally that the chapter divisions had not been made, but that the titles were all found in summary form on the first page of the manuscript.

J. A. Langlois.
F. G. Bergmann.
G. Duchêne.
F. Delhasse.


Chapter I

[…]

My critique is indestructible in itself, outside of a single hypothesis that I will make known later. It follows:

That property is inadmissible from the point of view of communal, Slavic, Germanic, or Arabic right; and that in fact is has been condemned by it. [64]

That it is equally inadmissible in the Christian or ecclesiastic theory, which condemns it;

That it is once again [inadmissible] in the feudal system, which subordinates all the possessions and opposes fief to it;

That it has been condemned by the Latin authors as contrary to Roman liberty and nationality, latifundia perdidere Italiam;

That, finally, it is inadmissible in the system of political centralization; that from this point of view as well it has only been tolerated by Robespierre, and that it is still rejected today, with reason, by the Jacobins.

There is only one point of view from which property can be accepted: it is the one that, recognizing that man possesses justice within himself, making him sovereign and upholder of justice, consequently awards him property, and knows no possible political order but federation.

Thus I will fortify all my earlier criticisms with considerations of history and politics, and show in the end that if property is a truth, this can only be on one condition: that the principles of Immanent Justice, Individual Sovereignty and Federation are accepted.

Sancta sanctis.

Everything becomes just for the just man; everything can be justified between the just. — Thus the sexual act [l’œuvre de chair] is permitted in marriage, and sanctified; but woe to the man who behaves with his wife as with a courtesan.

Beati pacifici, quoniam ipsi possidebunt terram. [65]

That maxim (sancta sanctis) contains the whole secret of the solution. The act appropriation in itself, considered objectively, is without right. It can be legitimated by nothing. It is not like wages, which is justified by labor, like possession, which is justified by necessity and the equality of shares; property remains absolutist and arbitrary, invasive and selfish. — It is only legitimated by the justice of the subject itself. But how do we make me just? That is the aim of education, of civilization, of manners, of the arts, etc.; it is also the goal of the political and economic institutions of which property is the principal.

In order for property to be legitimized, it is necessary that man legitimize himself; that he desires to be just; that he intends Justice as the goal, in everything and everywhere. He must say to himself, for example: Property in itself not being just, how would I make it just?

First, by recognizing in all the same right of appropriation, of usurpation; second, by regulating the usurpation, like the corsair dividing the loot among his companions; so that it tends spontaneously to level itself.

If I do not do that, property follows its nature: it is exaggerated for one, annihilated for the other; it is unmannered, immoral.

A few words on politics to end this preamble.

We work to avoid the economic question. [66]

It is from this point of view that I judge contemporary politics.

We imagine meeting the needs of the situation with free exchange, with pension funds, with company towns, agiotage, and pisciculture, with the jockey-club! — We are deceived…

We excite the hatred of the populations against the old dynasties; we hopes by this sacrifice to save the aristocracies. The Romanovs, the Habsburgs, the Hohenzollerns, the Bourbons, etc., that is what we offer up as fodder for the hydra.

But we work to save the old gentries, to reestablish the aristocracies.

Now, it is just the opposite that I demand.

The unity of Italy, the reconstitution of Poland and Hungary, annexations, war: backward-looking fantasies, henceforth devoid of sense.

The Pope reduced to spiritual power; a Catholic restoration; a second edition of the Concordat: a backward-looking fantasy.

We must destroy the Polish nobility and the Hungarian nobility, like the Russian nobility. We must make possessors of the peasant, the worker, the proletarian, in France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and everywhere.

We must put an end to the distinction of bourgeoisie and proles, of capitalist and employee, worker and master.

The individual right, which leads to equal exchange, which has decreed universal suffrage, perhaps a bit too soon, guides us there. [67]


Chapter II

[…]

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Ms. 2846 — Theory of Property

[This page is a work-in-progress.]


[1]

Dedication. Persons, Property.

We work to avoid the economic question.

It is from this point of view that I judge contemporary politics.

We imagine meeting the needs of the situation with free exchange, with pension funds, with company towns, agiotage, and pisciculture, with the jockey-club! —

We are mistaken…

We excite the hatred of the populations against the old dynasties; we hopes by this sacrifice to save the aristocracies. The Romanovs, the Habsburgs, the Hohenzollerns, the Bourbons, etc., that is what we offer up as fodder for the hydra.

But we work to save the old gentries, to reestablish the aristocracies.

Now, it is just the opposite that I demand.

We must destroy the Polish nobility and the Hungarian nobility, like the Russian nobility.

We must make possessors of the peasant, the worker, the proletarian, in France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and everywhere.

We must put an end to the distinction of bourgeoisie and proles, of capitalist and employee, worker and master.

The individual right, which leads to equal exchange, which has decreed universal suffrage, perhaps a bit too soon, guides us there.

The unity of Italy, the reconstitution of Poland and Hungary, annexations, war: backward-looking fantasies, henceforth devoid of sense.

The Pope reduced to spiritual power; a Catholic restoration; a second edition of the Concordat: a backward-looking fantasy.


[2]

Theory of Property.

Epigraph: Sancta Santis.

That is to say, Everything becomes just for the just man:

Beati pacifici, quoniam,
ipsi possidebuni terram.

Everything can be justified between the just.
(Thus the sexual act is permitted in marriage, and sanctified; but woe to the man who behaves with his wife as with a courtesan.)

That maxim contains the whole secret of the solution.

The act of appropriation in itself, considered objectively, is without right. It can be legitimated by nothing. It is not like wages, which is justified by labor, like possession, which is justified by necessity and the equality of shares; property remains absolutist and arbitrary, invasive and selfish.

It is only legitimated by the justice of the subject itself.

But how do we make men just?

That is the aim of education, of civilization, of manners, of the arts, etc.; it is also the goal of the political and economic institutions of which property is the principal.

In order for property to be legitimized, it is necessary that man legitimize himself; that he desires to be just; that he proposes Justice as the goal, in everything and everywhere.

He must say to himself, for example: Property in itself not being just, how would I make it just?

First, by recognizing in all the same right of appropriation, of usurpation; second, by regulating the usurpation, like the corsair dividing the loot among his companions; so that it tends spontaneously to level itself.

If I do not do that, property follows its nature: it is exaggerated for one, annihilated for the other; it is unmannered, immoral.


[3]

Chapter VII.

Guarantism.—Theory of Property.

That the citizen, a free and concrete being, made in the image of the State, must have, along with the possession of their person, authority over things, or risk being deprived of all guarantees.—Prejudices unfavorable to absolutism.—Different manners of possessing the land: in community, in feudalism, in sovereignty or property. Examination of the first two modes: rejection.—Opinions of the jurists concerning the origin and principle of property: refutation of these opinions.—New Theory: that the reasons for property, and thus for its legitimacy, must not be sought in its principle or origins, but in its aims. Account of these aims: 1 Necessity, after having organized the State, of creating a counterweight to the State in the liberty of each citizen; federalist and republican character of property; observations on the poll tax and confiscation.—2 Abstention from any law regulating the possession, production, circulation, and consumption of things: analogies with love and art; mobilization of real property.—3 Competition, equalization and moralization of selfishness; character of the true proprietor; scale of the social problem: organic condition of property;—how and why it is said to be absolute.—Preservation of proprietary egoism through the collective reason: maxims of that reason; progressive leveling of conditions and forms; law of social approximations.—Historical look at property: causes of its uncertainties, its variations, its abuses and failures; it has never, anywhere, existed in truth and fullness, in accordance with the [4] wishes of society, and with a perfect understanding of itself.—Spirit of socialism: defense of the author and his critique.—A word to the Poles.

Let us look back over the road we have traveled. Having posed our two great principles, the immanence of justice and of ideas in humanity (Ch. I) and the realism of the State (Ch. II), we have indicated the rule of political geography (Ch. III); from geography we have passed to ethnography (Ch. IV); from ethnography to the organization of the Social Body, and consequently in the form of the Collective Reason (Ch. V); some considerations concerning the Collective Reason have raised us, finally, to the laws of the universal conscience, which are those of progress. Thus we have arrived, through that ultimate question of customs and social transformations, to the far reaches of the intellectual world. One step more, and we would run the risk of falling from the reality where we have remained thus far, into mysticism. It is time to end our ascent, and, as we have climbed from matter to mind, to descend once again from mind towards matter, which we will do, not by retracing our steps, but by completing our arc, by continuing on our path.

One of our maxims is that the citizen must be made in the image of the State, the man given by nature reproduced in the style of Society, true and living Word. It is only in this way that the individual will can acquire that liberty and autonomy of which only the shadow has been given to it by nature, become the personification of right and be able to separate itself from the magistracy and the government.

But it is not only through intelligence and justice, it is not only with theoretical and practical reason that the citizen must follow the example the State. [5] If this were the case, the civic quality would be reduced to a pure ideality. The humanitary republic would exist only in the imagination, in the dream of the conscience; the State alone, having its feet on the ground, king of the temporal realm, would possess things and could say: I am; the nation, deprived of a body, without authority over matter, would be up in the air, lost in its hazy other-worldliness. Here there is not, there cannot be, as in the Apocalypse, two Jerusalems, one on the earth and the other in the heavens: the two are only one, and it is a question of establishing their identity. So it is necessary that the citizen, declared free and inviolable, in full possession of himself though education, autocrat 0ver his labors, his opinions, his desires, his conceptions, his will, as well as over his person, called to resist, if necessary, the despotic tendencies of the State, and to react against the influences and incursions of his fellows, must furthermore be established, like the State, in sovereignty over things; that his self, relying on the external world, creates there a position, a domain, without which his liberty, like a force that had exploded in the void, would remain without efficacy and would fall back into nothingness.

Now, to confer on the citizen power and jurisdiction over things, to assign him a possession, a territory, to make him in this way the head of a state within the state, that is what I call closing the political circle, and ending just where we began. It is not, in fact, through the soil that the political life begins for the individual, as we have previously seen the political State set out from its embryonic valley. It is, on the contrary, though the possession of the soil, through the eminent domain that is granted to him over a portion of territory that the citizen is completed and dignity begins. Thus the citizen becomes the fellow, what am I saying?—the equal, the rival of the State. He is himself the entire State, reduced to its simplest expression, to its most minimal extent. [6] In this way the union of matter and mind is accomplished in the social world, a phenomenon inexplicable in the world of nature, where the creative operation is performed, without our being able to discover its beginning; where the syntheses are given to us ready-made, without our being able to resolve them.

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Ms. 2846 — Théorie de la propriété

[This page is a work-in-progress.]


[1]

Dedicace. Personnes, Propriete.

On travaille à éluder la question économique.

C’est à ce point de vue que je juge la politique contemporaine.

On croit satisfaire aux nécessités de la situation avec du libre échange, des caisses de retraite, des cités ouvrières, de l’agiotage, de la pisciculture, du jockey-club ! —

On se trompe…

On excite la haine des populations contre les vieilles dynasties ; on espère par ce sacrifice, sauver les aristocraties. Les Romanow, les Habsbourg, les Hohenzollern, les Bourbon, etc., voila ce qu’on offre en pâture à l’hydre.

Mais on travaille à sauver les vieilles noblesses, à reconstituer les aristocraties.

Or, c’est le contraire que je demande.

Il faut anéantir la noblesse polonaise, la noblesse hongroise, comme la noblesse russe.

Il faut possessionner le paysan, l’ouvrier, le prolétaire, en France, en Italie, en Belgique, en Allemagne, en Autriche, et partout.

Il faut faire cesser la distinction de bourgeoisie et plèbe, de capitaliste et salarié, d’ouvrier et maître.

Le droit personnel, qui conduit à l’égal échange, qui a fait décréter le suffrage universel, un peu trop tôt peut-être, nous mène là.

L’unité de l’Italie, la reconstitution de la Pologne et de la Hongrie, les annexions, la guerre : fantaisies rétrospectives, désormais dénuées de sens.

Le pape réduit au spirituel ; une restauration catholique ; une seconde édition du concordat : fantaisie rétrospective.


[2]

Théorie de la Propriété.

Epigraphe : Sancta Santis.

C’est-à-dire, Tout devient juste pour l’homme juste:

Beati pacifici, quoniam,
ipsi possidebuni terram.

Tout peut se justifier entre les justes.
(Ainsi l’œuvre de chair est permise en mariage, et se sanctifie ; mais malheur à l’homme qui se comporte avec une épouse comme avec une courtisane.)

Cette maxime contient tout le secret de la solution.

L’acte d’appropriation en lui-même, considéré objectivement, est sans droit, il ne se peut légitimer par rien. Ce n’est pas comme le salaire, qui se justifie par le travail, comme la possession, qui se justifie par la nécessité et l’égalité des partages ; la propriété reste absolutiste et arbitraire, envahissante et égoïste.

Elle ne se légitime que par la justice du sujet même.

Mais comment rendre l’homme juste ?

C’est le but de l’éducation, de la civilisation, des mœurs, des arts, etc. ; c’est aussi le but des institutions politiques et économiques dont la propriété est la principale.

Pour que la propriété soit légitimée, il faut donc que l’homme se légitime lui-même ; qu’il veuille être juste ; qu’il se propose la Justice pour but, en tout et partout.

Il faut qu’il se dise, par exemple : La propriété en soi n’étant pas juste, comment la rendrai-je juste ?

D’abord, en reconnaissant à tous le même droit a l’appropriation, à l’usurpation ; 2º en réglementant l’usurpation, comme le corsaire partageant le butin entre ses compagnons ; de sorte qu’elle tende spontanément à se niveler.

Si je ne fais cela, la propriété suit sa nature : elle s’exagère pour l’un, s’annihile pour l’autre ; elle est sans mœurs, immorale.


[3]

Chapitre VII.

Garantisme.—Théorie de la propriété.

Que le citoyen, être libre et concret, fait a l’image de l’État, doit avoir, avec la possession de sa personne, autorité sur les choses, à peine d’être destitué de toutes garanties.—Préjuges défavorable à l’absolutisme.—Différentes manières de posséder la terre : en communauté, en féodalité, en souveraineté ou propriété. Examen des deux premières modes : rejet.—Opinions des juristes sur l’origine et le principe de la propriété : réfutation de ces opinions.—Théorie nouvelle : que les motifs, par suite la légitimité de la propriété doivent être cherché non dans son principe ou son origine, mais dans ses fins. Exposé de ce motifs : 1° Nécessité, après avoir organisé l’État, de crée à l’État un contrepoids dans la liberté de chaque citoyen; caractère fédéraliste et républicain de la propriété ; observations sur la cens électoral et la confiscation.—2° Abstention de toute loi réglementaire en ce qui concerne la possession, la production, la circulation, et la consommation des choses : analogies de l’amour et de l’art ; mobilisation de l’immeuble.—3° Concurrence, équilibre et moralisation des égoïsmes ; caractère de vrai propriétaire ; grandeur du problème social : condition organique de la propriété ;—comment et pourquoi elle est dite absolu.—Conservation de l’égoïsme propriétaire par la raison collective : maximes de cette raison ; nivellement progressif des conditions et des formes ; loi des approximations sociales.—Coup d’œil historique sur la propriété : causes de ses incertitudes, de ses variations, de ses abus et de ses déchéances ; elle n’a jamais, nul part, existé dans la vérité et la plénitude, conformément au [4 (166)] vœu social, et avec un parfait intelligence d’elle-même.—Esprit de socialisme : justification de l’auteur et de sa critique.—Un mot aux Polonais.

Jetons un regard sur la route que nous avons parcourue. Après avoir posé nos deux grands principes, de l’immanence de la justice et des idées dans l’humanité (ch. Ier), et du réalisme de l’État (ch. II), nous avons tracé le règle de la géographie politique (ch. III) ; de la géographie nous avons passé à l’ethnographie (ch. IV) ; de l’ethnographie a l’organisation du corps Social, et conséquemment au forme de la Raison collective (ch. V) ; des considérations sur la Raison collective nous nous sommes élevé enfin, jusqu’aux lois de la conscience universelle, qui sont celles du progrès. Nous sommes arrivé ainsi, par cette question suprême des mœurs et des transformations sociales, jusqu’aux confins du monde spirituel. Un pas de plus, et nous courrons le risque de tomber de la réalité où nous sommes resté jusqu’à présent, dans le mysticisme. Il est temps de terminer notre ascension, et, comme nous sommes monté de la matière à l’esprit, de redescendre de l’esprit vers la matière, ce que nous allons faire, non par revenant sur nos pas, mais en achevant notre courbé, c’est-à-dire en poursuivant notre chemin.

Une de nos maximes est que le citoyen doit être fait à l’image de l’État, l’homme donné par la nature répété sur le type de la Société, Verbe vivant and véritable. C’est par là que l’individu acquerra ce dont la nature ne lui a donné que l’ombre, la liberté, l’autonomie, et que devienne la personnification du droit, et pourra se séparer de magistrature et de gouvernement.

Mais ce n’est pas seulement par l’Intelligence et par la justice, ce n’est pas seulement par la Raison théorétique et pratique que le citoyen doit être a l’instar de l’État. [5] S’il en était ainsi la qualité civique se réduirait à une pure idéalité. La République humanitaire n’aurait d’existence que dans l’imagination, dans le rêve de la conscience ; l’État seul, ayant pied sur le sol, roi du temporel, possèderait les choses et pouvait dire : Je suis la nation, privée de corps, sans autorité sur la matière, serait en l’air, perdue dans le vague de sa spiritualité. Il n’y a pas, il ne peut pas y avoir ici, comme dans l’apocalypse, deux Jérusalems, l’une sur la terre, l’autre dans le ciel : les deux ne font qu’une, et il s’agit d’établir leur identité. Il faut donc que le citoyen, déclaré libre et inviolable, en pleine possession de lui-même par l’éducation, ayant l’autocratie de ses travaux, de les opinions, de les désirs, de ses conceptions, de ses volontés, comme de sa personne, appelé à résister au besoin, aux tendances despotiques de l’État, et à réagie contre l’entrainement et l’incursion de ses semblables, doit de plus constitué, comme l’État, en souveraineté sur les choses ; que son moi, s’appuyant sure le monde extérieur, s’y créé une position, un domaine, faute de quoi la liberté, somme une force qui aurait fait explosion dans le vide, resterait sans efficace et retomberait à néant.

Or, conférer au citoyen puissance et juridiction sur les choses, lui assigner une possession, un territoire le faire ainsi chef d’un état dans l’état, c’est ce que j’appelle fermer le cercle politique, et finir juste par où nous avons commencé. Ce n’est pas en effet par le sol que commence pour l’individu la vie politique, comme nous avons vu précédemment l’État politique sortir de sa vallée embryonnaire. C’est par la possession du sol, au contraire, par le domaine éminent qui lui est accordé sur une portion du territoire que s’achève le citoyen, et que se commence la dignité. Ainsi le citoyen devient le semblable, que dis-je ? l’égal, le rival de l’État. Il est lui-même l’État tout entier, réduit à son expression la plus simple, et à son étendue la plus minime. [6] Ainsi s’accomplit dans le monde social l’union de la matière et de l’esprit : phénomène inexplicable dans le monde de la nature, où l’opération créatrice s’effective, sans que nous puissions en surprendre le commencement ; où les synthèses nous sont données toutes faites, sans que nous puissions les résoudre.

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The Reunification of “Pologne”

I needed a break from some other ongoing projects, and decided to take some time to transcribe more of the “Pologne” (Poland) manuscripts. The work turned out to be interesting enough—and the break from other tasks pleasant enough—that I have actually finished transcribing the bulk of the manuscript that would have made up the (announced, but never published) posthumous volume Géographie politique et nationalité (Political Geography and Nationality.) I have one long and not terribly legible footnote to work through, and then lots of miscellaneous manuscript pages to examine, but majority of the text—just under 60,000 words—is ready for proofreading, correction and translation.

It’s a fascinating text, not least because—aside from one chapter published in French by Federico Ferretti and Edward Castleton—it has remained so little-known. I translated the table of contents almost three years ago, along with the transition that would have linked the six chapters of the work to the long seventh chapter (“Garantisme.—Théorie de la propriété.“), which became the basis for Théorie de la propriété (Theory of Property) as it was published in the Oeuvres Posthumes. You can get a taste of it from two sections—”The Polish Question” and “History conceived as a legal inquiry“—that I have translated from Chapter I. And more sections should be available soon.

In particular, this text puts The Theory of Property in a rather different context and makes some of what has seemed hard to fathom about the work much clearer. Proudhon’s Poland intended to be a work of social science, examining the conditions of “the birth and death” (and, in some versions of the title page, the “resurrection” ) of nations, with the example of Poland—and the question of Polish reunification—present throughout as a means of illustrating the theory. Take a look at the chapters in Poland, Part I: Principles:

  1. — History and Nationality.
  2. — The State.
  3. — Political Geography.
  4. — Political Ethnography.
  5. — Political Organogeny.
  6. — Social Metamorphosis.
  7. — Guarantism. — Theory of Property.

The account begins with some general remarks on the project of history and the notion of nationality, then explores the those conditions of the birth, death and possible resurrection of nations through a variety of lenses, presenting a general account of the conditions of “social metamorphosis,” before turning to the final, more programmatic chapter on guarantism, with its “new theory” of property. This would then have been followed by a History of Poland (also announced, but not published in the Posthumous Works), within which the principles established in the first part would presumably be demonstrated.

If The Theory of Property is the conclusion of at least the theoretical development of Poland, then we get a clearer sense of why the larger work—with its international scale, its discussions of race theory, servitude and slavery, the purpose of historical inquiry, etc.—often figured, for Proudhon, simply as “my new work on Property.” He wrote, for example, to Grandclément:

Here is where my book on Poland is, that is to say my new work on Property. I do not have to tell you that property is a veritable ocean to me—an ocean to drink—that its history alone would demand the sacrifice of a lifetime, and that I do not feel sufficiently Benedictine to bury myself thus under one single question. I am in a hurry to know, to comprehend a certain quantity of certain ideas, and, when the erudition does not advance as quickly as I would like, I hardly trouble myself for appealing to a divinatory faculty. — That is what happened to me, for example, with The Federative Principle, of which I just abruptly sketched the theory, or, if you will permit me this ambitious word, the philosophy, in 100 or 200 pages, leaving to others the chore of elaborating the whole system in minute details. That federalism, which boiled for thirty years in my veins, has finally exploded at the combined attacks of the Belgian and French press; the public judges now. What I would permit myself to say to you about it, to you, my master in matters of property, is that I regard that sketch as a fragment detached from the theory of Property itself, a theory that would have already seen the day, if for six months I had not been halted by the tribulations caused me by the Franco-Belgian and Italian Jacobinism, and by the necessity of responding to it. But nothing is lost; I regard even that improvised publication, like the Majorats littéraires, of which I will publish a second and better edition, as a fortunate prelude to my work on Property…. (February 28, 1863)

So we have Poland, originally broken down into two part (Principles, History of Poland), then into three (Political Geography and Nationality, Theory of Property, History of Poland), but we also have a series of published works and unpublished fragments associated with or drawn from the same research. In another letter to Grandclément, Nov. 17, 1863, Proudhon wrote, “My Federative Theory is already a fragment lifted from my Polish work; the [Theory of] Property will be the second…” So we can add The Principle of Federation to the list of related works, along with The Literary Majorats, but also, based on their content,  at least “La Bohème et l’Empire,” France et RhinSi les traités de 1815 ont cessé d’exister? and the works on Italian unity. And once we start adding texts based on shared concerns, very little can be excluded. When we recall that federation and guarantism are connected to mutualism through a “simple synonymy,” we have our connections to works like The Political Capacity of the Working Classes.

And perhaps we should just think of Poland and its related texts as simply the final, sprawling volume of the Essays in Popular (or Practical) Philosophy (the revised edition of Justice, War and Peace and Theory of Taxation) that immediately preceded them.

My present thinking is that most of Proudhon’s work from roughly 1859 on should probably be considered as so closely connected that we should treat each bit of it very carefully until we’ve had a chance to really come to terms with the larger picture. The finished-but-unpublished Comment les affaires vont en France, et pourquoi nous aurons la guerre, si nous l’avons : à propos des nouveaux projets de traités entre les compagnies de chemin de fer et l’Etat (roughly How Business Goes in France, and Why We Will Have War, If We Have It: Regarding New Agreement Proposed between the Railway Companies and the State) is an interesting example of Proudhon beginning to try to talk about his various concerns all at once, with all of the awkwardness one might expect from such an early attempt. The title alone, I think, gives us a kind of snapshot of what we’re getting into with the mature work.

On the one hand, the project of coming to terms with Proudhon’s mature work, more or less en bloc, is a daunting one. On the other, the same research that suggests the necessity of that project already gives us some guidance. It is almost certainly the elements of that “simple synonymy,” mutualism—federalism—guarantism, that are at the heart of Proudhon’s project. And we do have at least two key texts available in English translation: Richard Vernon’s partial translation of The Principle of Federation and my working translation of The Theory of Property. In both cases, however, there has been a tendency to treat the texts as deviations from Proudhon’s anarchist thought and then—with a hand-wave at his reputation as a fundamentally contradictory character—to pick and choose what seems to suit us from his work, as if the contradictions were not ultimately such a great problem after all. But it’s hard for that sort of approach not to simply discredit itself in opportunism and its own contradictions. And, after all, if we know even the most basic things about Proudhon, we ought to know that contradiction was the subject of much of his work, so if we are to make judgments about its coherence we need to make sure that we have accounted for the contradictions that he was highlighting before we attribute any failures of consistency to him.

Still, with the knowledge that we have of Poland, its key concerns and its connections to more familiar works, perhaps even our opportunism is likely to lead us back towards the project of reconciling what appear to be tensions and contradictions in Proudhon’s mature thought. After all, it is the work that has generally been spared most of the anarchist criticism—The Political Capacity of the Working Classes, Proudhon’s death-bed labor, addressed to the workers of Paris and ultimately influential in the International—that presents us with the “simple synonymy” around which any consistent understanding of the texts is likely to be built. Perhaps a natural next step in approaching the theoretical sections of Poland is to complete the translation of the second part of The Political Capacity, where the synonymy is explored in the long discussion of mutualism. That, fortunately, is a work that is well under way, although, looking at my in-progress translations, it is clear that the work will gain in clarity from what I have learned about the other late works.

But the other obvious approach is to finally complete the work on The Theory of Property, which I have left in a rather unfinished state, precisely because there was so much about the text that obviously needed context to clarify. Three years ago, after the manuscripts became available through the Besançon site, I did the basic work of comparing the manuscript pages with the published text, and found that most of the fears about excessive editorial intervention were unfounded. At that time, I also started the job of identifying the manuscripts sources of each section of published text and noting any editorial changes. It was at that time that I transcribed and translated the transition that would have appeared in Part One of Pologne, and got my first glimpse at the connections between the works.

Now, obviously, with the first six chapters transcribed and translation begun, that work can and must move forward. But if we are working from the published version of The Theory of Property back toward Proudhon’s larger project, there are obviously going to be complications. Let’s survey once again the potential works we have to deal with:

  • The study of Poland, which obviously sprawled and resulted in a number of books, whether published, unpublished or merely proposed, as well as a large number of manuscript fragments not clearly intended for any of the individual works that emerged;
  • Pologne, the large two-part study, as we find it proposed in the manuscripts, with the chapter on property intact;
  • Pologne and Théorie de la Propriété, divided, as we find them in the manuscripts; and
  • Théorie de la Propriété, as it was eventually published, with the understanding that it would be supplemented by Géographie politique et nationalité and Histoire de Pologne.

Translating the published work has undoubtedly been the simplest step, but what it gives us is a work of collaboration, however careful and well-intentioned, between Proudhon, J.-A. Langlois and Georges Duchêne. This would not be so remarkable, since at least Duchêne contributed to a number of works generally attributed to Proudhon alone, except that in this case it was Proudhon’s collaborators who had the final say—and, of course, because, under these circumstances, the practice of attributing the collaboration to Proudhon alone and presenting it in the first person as his individual expression raised protests. (See the “Disagreement Regarding the Posthumous Publication of Unpublished Works by P.-J. Proudhon” for details on both the process and the protests.) So it will at least be of interest to identify those places where Proudhon’s manuscript writings were altered or rearranged. There may even be a few places where we too might protest the editorial choices, although, in general, the work of Langlois and Duchêne strikes me as remarkable in its careful conservation of the manuscript material. And when the comparison of the manuscript and the published work is complete, we will have, as a sort of bonus, a certain amount of unpublished manuscript material to examine, which might supplement a well-annotated edition of The Theory of Property.

But we already know that among the unincorporated manuscript material we can find the transition linking “Ch. VII. Guarantism. — Theory of Property” to the rest of Poland, Part One: Principles. And when we examine the manuscripts we have a continuous, consecutively-paged text that flows from the end of Chapter VI, through the transitional passage, right into what became Chapter II of the published Theory of Property and then all the way, passing by a few additions made by the editors, to the end of Chapter VIII. And when we consult the summary for Chapter VII of the Principles, we find that this text seems to follow the original plan, lacking only a final section, “Un mot aux Polonais,” which, so far, has not surfaced among the manuscripts. So a next logical step is to assemble this intermediate text, which we might call Principles of Nationality and Property,” in order to restore the final chapter to its place in the larger work. And, at the same time, we might restore some of the longer manuscript fragments, which were incorporated piecemeal into The Theory of Property, to their original state, reconstructing the flow of Proudhon’s thought.

These two steps are actually natural complements to one another, and I’ve already started to do the preliminary work necessary to accomplish both of them fairly thoroughly. My work with the Bakunin manuscripts has given me a lot more occasion to consider the characteristics of fragments and variants as sources of understanding, and I’m not sure that I will feel comfortable with The Theory of Property until I’ve had a chance to reconstruct it in at least a couple of forms, as a step towards reconstructions of larger samples of Proudhon’s mature work.

This is obviously an ambitious, long-term project. I already have a strong sense of how I might want to publish the material originally destined for The Theory of Property and Political Geography and Nationality, but I’m not in any hurry to set things in stone. More than anything, I think a thorough exploration of The Theory of Property is the simplest way to move from what I know—or think I know—about Proudhon’s final works toward a more complete and useful understanding.

Expect research updates, unpublished manuscript fragment, bits and pieces of translation, etc. whenever other work allows me to push forward with this project.

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A passage missing from “The Theory of Property”

proudhon-1848I think that most of the concerns that readers have had regarding The Theory of Property have involved the possibility that something alien to Proudhon’s thought might have been introduced by the editors. Having checked most of the published work against the manuscript, I feel fairly confident that that wasn’t the case. It has been a bit more complicated to determine if any important parts of Proudhon’s argument were excluded from the published text. At some point, I will have a copy of the manuscript with all of the material that was incorporated marked off, and I can see what is left. I’ve been waiting as patiently as I can. In the meantime, however, I have also been working with the larger Pologne manuscript, which includes six chapters (about 200 hand-written pages) of fairly complete and coherent material that was originally intended to precede the material on property. In the process of reading through the finished portions of those six chapters, I noticed that a few pages were written on the back of earlier drafts of “Chapter VII. Guarantism–Theory of Property,” and a few phrases stuck out as both unfamiliar and interesting. So I went back to the manuscript of The Theory of Property and took a close look at the short section (roughly 675 words) at the beginning of the text that was not incorporated into the published work.

It’s pretty striking stuff.

It begins with a summary of the work, which can be read alongside my translation of the Table of Contents. Among the most interesting bits is the “maxim” that “the citizen must be made in the image of the state.” This is another of those claims that clashes sufficiently with our ideas about what anarchists will propose, and the language that they will use, that it will probably take some time to really come to terms with it. For now, let me just present the passage, and we can tease out its implications in future posts:

—————————————

Let us cast a glance at the road we have traveled. Having posited our two great principles, the immanence of justice and of ideas in humanity (Ch. I) and the realism of the State (Ch. II), we have traced the rule of political geography (Ch. III); from geography we have passed to ethnography (Ch. IV); from ethnography to the organization of the Social Body, and consequently to the form of the Collective Reason (Ch. V); some considerations on the Collective Reason have raised us, finally, to the laws of the universal conscience, which are those of progress. Thus we have arrived, by that ultimate question of customs and social transformations, to the fringes of the spiritual world. One step more, and we would run to the risk of falling from the reality where we have remained up to the present, into mysticism. It is time to end our ascent, and, as we have climbed from matter to mind, to descend once again from mind towards matter, which we will do, not by retracing our steps, but by completing our curve, by pursuing our path.

One of our maxims is that the citizen must be made in the image of the state, that the man given by nature must be repeated on the model of Society, the true and living Word. It is only in this way that the individual will acquire that of which nature has only given him a shadow, liberty and autonomy, become the personification of right, and be able to separate themselves from the magistracy and the government.

But it is not only by intelligence and justice, not only by theoretical and practical reason that the citizen must follow the example the State. If it were thus, the civic quality would be reduced to a pure ideality. The humanitary republic would exist only in the imagination, in the dream of the conscience; the State alone, having its feet on the soil, king of the temporal, would possess things and could say: I am. The nation, deprived of a body, without authority over matter, would be in the air, lost of the wave of its spirituality. There is not, there cannot be here, as in the Apocalypse, two Jerusalems, one on the earth, the other in the heavens: the two are only one, and it is a question of establishing their identity. So it is necessary that the citizen, declared free and inviolable, in full possession of himself by education, having autocracy over his labors, his opinions, his desires, his conceptions, his will, as well as over his person, called to resist, if necessary, the despotic tendencies of the State, and to react against the driving and incursions of his fellows, must furthermore be established, like the State, in sovereignty over things; that his self, relying on the external world, creates there a position, a domain, without which his liberty, like a force that had exploded in the void, would remain without efficacy and would fall back into nothingness.

Now, to confer to the citizen power and jurisdiction over things, to assign him a possession, a territory, to make him in this way the head of a state within the state, that is what I call closing the political circle, and finishing just where we began. It is not, in fact, by the soil that the political life begins for the individual, as we have previously seen the political State set out from its embryonic valley. It is by the possession of the soil, on the contrary, by the eminent domain that is granted to him over a portion of territory that the citizen is completed, and dignity begins. Thus the citizen becomes the fellow, what am I saying?—the equal, the rival of the State. He is himself the entire State, reduced to its simplest expression, to its most minimal extent. Thus is accomplished in the social world the union of matter and mind, a phenomenon inexplicable in the world of nature, where the creative operation is performed, without our being able to discover its beginning; where the syntheses are given to us ready-made, without our being able to resolve them.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.]

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Moving forward with “The Theory of Property”

screen-shot-2014-05-10-at-11-17-05-amI’ve been spending some quality time with the manuscript of Proudhon’s The Theory of Property, now that it is available through the Ville de Besançon site, and it’s been a fascinating experience. Having spent a lot of time with the published version over the last few years, there were a lot of moments when I could look at a page and, once I had deciphered the handwriting, could immediately place the manuscript material in the published work. On my first pass through, the page where Proudhon proclaims that “Humanity proceeds by approximation” jumped out at me. Given the importance of that particular passage in the development of my work on Proudhon and mutualism, encountering it in the manuscript was a real treat. I was also amused to find that Proudhon apparently anticipated me by almost a century and a half on another important point, scribbling what what can only be the “two guns” of mutualism in the margins of the manuscript.

I’ve started the work of matching manuscript pages to published pages, and it’s been pretty straightforward work so far. The bulk of the work is there, in roughly its published form. The major summaries from the concluding chapter and the outline for the survey of the previous works also seem to be present. There is a lot of painstaking word-by-word comparison to be done, but I am leaning more and more towards the belief that Langlois and Co. were pretty faithful in their treatment of the manuscript.

The most interesting surprise has been that there are apparently at least a few pages, and potentially more than a few pages, of Proudhon’s writing on property that did not find a place in the published work. It isn’t clear whether there will be much worth transcribing and translating in his historical notes, but there are a few pages on intellectual property that refer back to Les Majorats littéraires, which should probably be included as an appendix.

For those unfamiliar with the controversies surrounding The Theory of Property, or my previous writing on the subject, here are some highlights:

My very rough draft translation of the work is available in the Libertarian Labyrinth archive.

I have a few more of the manuscript writings on property to consult, and then I can begin to really clean up that translation. Then, perhaps, it will be time to talk about publishing the whole series.

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