pierre-joseph proudhon

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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

(15 January 1809 – 19 January 1865)

was a French politician and the founder of mutualist philosophy. He was the ..

first person to declare himself an anarchist 

and is widely regarded as one of the ideology’s most influential theorists. Proudhon is even considered by many to be the “father of anarchism”. He became a member of the French Parliament after the revolution of 1848, whereafter he referred to himself as a federalist.

Proudhon, who was born in Besançon, was a printer who taught himself Latin in order to better print books in the language. His best-known assertion is that Property is Theft!, contained in his first major work, What is Property? Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government, published in 1840. The book’s publication attracted the attention of the French authorities. It also attracted the scrutiny of Karl Marx, who started a correspondence with its author. The two influenced each other: they met in Paris while Marx was exiled there.Their friendship finally ended when Marx responded to Proudhon’s The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty with the provocatively titled The Poverty of Philosophy. The dispute became one of the sources of the split between the anarchist and Marxist wings of the International Working Men’s Association. Some, such as Edmund Wilson, have contended that Marx’s attack on Proudhon had its origin in the latter’s defense of Karl Grün, whom Marx bitterly disliked, but who had been preparing translations of Proudhon’s work.

Proudhon favored workers’ associations or co-operatives, as well as individual worker/peasant possession, over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces.

He considered social revolution to be achievable in a peaceful manner.

In The Confessions of a Revolutionary Proudhon asserted that, Anarchy is Order Without Power, the phrase which much later inspired, in the view of some, the anarchist circled-A symbol, today “one of the most common graffiti on the urban landscape.” He unsuccessfully tried to create a national bank, to be funded by what became an abortive attempt at an income tax on capitalists and shareholders. Similar in some respects to a credit union, it would have given interest-free loans.


anarch\ism ness

proudhon ruled law


from kevin‘s communal property (2011): https://c4ss.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Communal-Property.pdf


2\ destruction of peasant commune by the state

It was only with the rise of the modern state, toward the end of the Middle Ages, that governments began to take an interest in regulating the lives of individuals. The modern centralized state was confronted with the problem of opacity, and became preoccupied with, in James Scott’s language, an “attempt to make society legible, to arrange the population in ways that simplified the classic state functions of taxation, conscription, and prevention of rebellion.

Legibility is a condition of manipulation. Any substantial state intervention in society—to vaccinate a population, produce goods, mobilize labor, tax people and their property, conduct literacy campaigns, conscript soldiers, enforce sanitation standards, catch criminals, start universal schooling—requires the

p 11

invention of units that are visible…. Whatever the units being manipulated, they must be organized in a manner that permits them to be identified, observed, recorded, counted, aggregated, and monitored.

the demise of us.. the demise of land..

The degree of knowledge required would have to be roughly commensurate with the depth of the intervention. In other words, one might say that the greater the manipulation envisaged, the greater the legibility required to effect it.

It was precisely this phenomenon, which had reached full tide by the middle of the nineteenth century, that Proudhon had in mind when he declared, “To be ruled is to be kept an eye on, inspected, spied on, regulated, indoctrinated, sermonized, listed and checked off, estimated, appraised, censured, ordered about…. To be ruled is at every operation, transaction, movement, to be noted, registered, counted, priced, admonished, prevented, reformed, redressed, corrected.

From another perspective, what Proudhon was deploring was in fact the great achievement of modern statecraft. How hard-won and tenuous this achievement was is worth emphasizing. Most states, to speak broadly, are “younger” than the societies that they purport to administer. States therefore confront patterns of settlement, social relations, and production, not to mention a natural environment, that have evolved largely independent of state plans. The result is typically a diversity, complexity, and unrepeatability of social forms that are relatively opaque to the state, often purposefully so…. If the state’s goals are minimal, it may not need to know much about the society…. If, however, the state is ambitious—if it wants to extract as much grain and manpower as it can, short of provoking a famine or a rebellion, if it wants to create a literate, skilled, and healthy population, if it wants everyone to speak the same language or worship the same god—then it will have to become both far more knowledgeable and far more intrusive.2


from Robert Neuwirth (@RobertNeuwirth)’s shadow cities:


my friend the squatters – who have had to live the nuances almost their entire lives – would find solace in the theory of pierre joseph proudhon.. 1840 – manifesto called what is property.. his answer – property is robbery.. probably sounds more scandalous today that it did when he wrote it . but proudhon’s argument is more refined that the three word sound bit..  he suggests there’s a diff between property and possession. property turns land into a commodity: people own land not to use it or because they need it for survival, but simply as an investment. possession guarantees personal use and control rather than profit. for proudhon, property, not money, is the root of all evil


hardt & negri property law.. wilde property law


proudhon: ‘individual possession is the condition of social life. 5 000 years of property demos this. property is the suicide of society. possession is w/in right; property is against right. suppress property while maintaining possess and by this simple modification of the principle, you will revolutionize the law, govt, econ and institutions; you will drive evil from the face of the earth


section/insight on proudhon in peter marshall’s demanding the impossible.. starting p 188