Proudhon as a Radical Critic of Established Institutions
A critic qualifies as radical by carrying his assault on the status quo beyond its surface defects to their L hidden sources. He grabs matters by the root, as Marx said, while others are content to prune their leaves and branches. Proudhon wants to grab by the root what he regards as the present world's most potent instruments of oppression: hierarchy and government.1
The Social Evils: Deference and Inequality
Proudhon's critique is usually examined from an economic angle. Most commentators have placed it in that long line of attacks on exploitation known as socialism. Yet this perspective obscures as much as it clarifies. For though Proudhon was indeed a vigorous opponent of exploitation, his strictures against it are an outgrowth of something more basic. He denounced exploitation because he saw in it the same disrespectful features that he condemned in other aspects of modern society. To fully understand the critical side of his theory it is therefore necessary to focus attention on its general premises, rather than on its application to economics.
Proudhon's opposition to existing social arrangements is inspired by Rousseau's similar onslaught in the Discourse on Inequality. Proudhon's only quarrel with Rousseau's critique is that it does not go far enough; his mistake "is not, cannot be in his negation of society: it consists ... in his not having carried his argument to the end."2 Proudhon proposes to resume Rousseau's battle and press on to a complete victory.3 He accepts his forebear's critical premises and draws out their extreme conclusions.
Both writers make the same practice the target of their attack: deference, die use of conventional standards of rank -- mainly wealth, power, and prestige -- to rate all members of society.4 In Rousseau's words, which could just as well have been Proudhon's, when "a value came to be attached to public esteem," so that men "set a value on the opinion of the rest of the world," the first step "toward vice" was taken and "combinations fatal to innocence and happiness" resulted.5 Where Proudhon differs -from Rousseau is in being more explicit about the reasons why deference is bad. Unlike his forebear, he has precise norms with which to appraise it. Though he never formally judged deference by the rules of respect, his thought can be completed by considering the remarks he makes about it in the light of their critical implications.
The first rule of respect enjoins acceptance of the choices of others. A man who practices deference has little concern for the decisions made by those he ranks as poor, weak, and lowly. Thinking them unworthy of consideration, he tends to disregard their decisions, or perhaps impute false ones to them. Moreover, he will be just as mistaken about the aims of those he ranks highly. Thinking of them as strong, rich, or honored, he will tend to believe that they seek power, money, or prestige.
In the "Cours" Proudhon compares this deferential social outlook with the way an army's echelons regard one another. The soldier accepts military rank as his evaluative standard and hence tends to ignore the aims of his subordinates and misunderstand those of his superiors: it is not worthwhile to find out what the privates want, the generals' objective is obviously to command.6 In society as a whole there is the same connection between judging others according to rank and misunderstanding their purposes. Choice can never be free where men view one another in a graded hierarchy.
Judged by the second rule of respect -- enjoining freedom of action -- deference appears as pernicious as when judged by the first. It is easily seen that one will be apt to hinder the execution of decisions which one misunderstands or denigrates. Hence, in a deferential society, the poor, unhonored, and weak will usually be kept from reaching their ends, while those highly ranked in these respects are allowed to attain theirs. Deference engenders "special perquisites, privileges, exemptions, favors, exceptions, all the violations of justice" -- in short, oppression, including economic exploitation of the unprivileged.7
If respect is impossible in a deferential society, how do its members treat one another? Those who enjoy high esteem can be said to respect others only "if by respect you mean the compliments, obeisances, and all die affectations of a puerile and Christian civility. Is it not the height of good breeding for a great lord to know how to say 'hello!' in as many different ways as there are rungs on the hierarchic ladder? M. Guizot calls this science of pretences respect. For us, men of die Revolution, it is insolence."8 As for those who give deference, they are just as disrespectful as those who receive it. The only difference is that the highly esteemed are arrogant, while the lowly ranked are servile. To those at the bottom, with their "instinctive obedience," die rich, honored, and powerful "always seem to be thirty centimeters taller than other men."0
Having shown more fully than Rousseau why deference leads to injustice and oppression, Proudhon goes on to draw die critical conclusions his predecessor had avoided. The most obvious is tliat the practice of deference, being supremely immoral, ought to be abolished. Rousseau was kept from saying this by his belief that deference is due to social inequality.10 By ascribing deference to this par- ticular cause, he made its cure depend on the creation of a strictly egalitarian society. But he doubted the possibility, and feared the consequences of such a society. Hence, though he deplored deference as much as Proudhon, he did not want to eliminate it. It was to be maintained and only its worst symptoms alleviated.11
Proudhon agrees completely witii Rousseau about the cause of deference and, consequently, about what is needed to abolish it. Deference, he says, arises from "the distinction of ranks. ... As long as [a] society includes a mean and extremes, the distance remains tiie same between the poor and the rich, between the serf and the baron; there is no public happiness."12 But he disagrees with Rousseau about the possibility and value of eliminating hierarchy. Hence, while he praises his predecessor for ascribing deference to inequality, he berates him for "relegating equality to the status of an ideal."18 Such equivocation is inadmissible. Since inequality causes deference, and since deference is profoundly objectionable, inequality must be abolished.14
Proudhon even goes a step further. The existence of inequality presupposes application of a rule that tells how much wealth, power, and prestige each member of society should receive. Such a rule, indicating how goods should be allocated among members of society, is an obvious example of a principle of distributive justice. Hence, if inequality is to be abolished so must its underlying distributive principle. All rules of distributive justice must be eliminated.15
By assailing the venerable distributive principle, Prou-dhon introduced a radical element into his critique. Condemnation of hierarchy was itself a radical move, since I hierarchy is a basic feature of all existing societies. But criticism of distributive justice went even further. For no thinker, however libertarian, had ever dared to question the view that some rules for allocating goods are indispensable for social life.
Proudhon's total opposition to distributive justice had j
curious results for his attitude toward those of his contemporaries who shared his hostility to inequality. Their view contrasted with his in that they did not oppose the principle of distributive justice, but simply wanted to apply it differently. Proudhon found himself objecting more strongly to these contemporaries than to the hierarchy that was their common enemy.
One kind of attack on inequality came from the liberals, who objected to the caste features of existing rank differences. What bothered them was that the prestige, power, or wealth a man enjoys is too often unrelated to the efforts he makes to obtain it. Instead, it devolves on him by virtue of some circumstance beyond his control, such as his birth. In this view inequality is perfectly legitimate, provided it arises for the right reasons. Liberals do not find fault with the principle of distribution per se, but only with die way it is actually applied.
Proudhon attacked the liberals repeatedly, on the ground that they would merely substitute one form of inequality for another. One of their arguments, used in Proudhon's day by the Saint-Simonians, criticizes the existing hierarchy as unfair to the claims of talent. But, as Proudhon points out, the application of die principle, to each according to his ability, rules out "both the fact of equality and the right to it." A hierarchy of talent is still a hierarchy. Hence "the evaluation of talents ... is an offense against personal dignity."16 Another liberal attack on inequality objects to its inadequate compensation of productive contribution. Proudhon opposes this position too. "Is it just that he who does more receives more ?" No indeed! "All workers are equal; ... the product of each is limited by the right of all."17
The other prevalent objection to the existing pattern of inequality came from the socialists, who criticized, not its neglect of personal achievement, but its frustration of basic human needs. They felt the unequal distribution of advantages kept too many people from enjoying a decent standard of living. This criticism of inequality could be no more acceptable to Proudhon than the other. It too finds nothing intrinsically wrong with ranking people and merely prescribes a different distributive rule. Hence Proudhon repeatedly attacks the two leading French spokesmen for this view, Louis Blanc and Etienne Cabet, who both defend the formula, to each according to his need. This maxim "accords less than equality: it preserves inequality."18 Since needs vary, reward proportioned to them produces unequal distribution of income. The criterion of need must also cause substantial inequality of power. "Who will be the judge of need ?" Each man cannot be his own judge, for unreconcilable disputes would arise. So decisions about needs "will be coercively enforced." But "that is slavery." Distribution according to need "leads to despotism."19
It is hard to see how Proudhon's attack on inequality could have been any more radical than this. His opposition is so fundamental that not one of its other critics is spared by his attack.20
The Political Evils: Government and Law
Anyone acquainted with Proudhon knows that he was an anarchist, a foe of all government; yet few are able to account coherently for his objections. The reason why this aspect of his thought remains obscure is that it is part of a whole anarchist realm of discourse which is itself ill understood. Some remarks on the unfamiliar context of Proudhon's anarchism may help in its analysis.
One of the premises of anarchism is simply that because government is coercive and violent, it must be evil. Such a view is rather common. Luther, for instance, described political rule as "the fastening of wild and savage beasts with chains and bands ... so that they must needs keep peace outwardly against dieir will" and found fault with it for doing so.21 Rousseau returns to Luther's picture of government as an enchainer and also criticizes it on this ground. But neither Rousseau, nor Luther, nor most of the other writers who use this argument, qualify as anarchists. This position requires additional ingredients.
One reason Rousseau does not move from criticizing government to recommending its destruction is that he has a high regard for one of its essential features, lawmaking. "It is to the law alone that men owe justice and liberty," he declares.22 Behind this statement lies the familiar argument that laws, being general and applicable only to external behavior, are self-limiting and hence praiseworthy. For Rousseau, these merits of legal control outweigh the disadvantages of political coercion. Government is indeed an enchainment, but if men are chained by laws, their bondage is salutary. For this reason Rousseau recommends not the destruction of government but its legal legitimization.
Rousseau's position suggests that another ingredient of full-blooded anarchism is antipathy toward law. Such antipathy takes many forms; tlie most prevalent involves reversing the usual argument in praise of law by criticizing its generality and externality. Luther makes both of these reversals. He finds fault with law's generality on the ground that this makes it too crude for dealing with the particular cases it is supposed to regulate. General rules cannot be adapted to the changing conditions they are meant to control. He concludes, "the body politic cannot be felicitously governed by rules."23 This argument is really an objection to all rule-making, not only to legislation. Luther also attacks law's externality. By doing so he raises an objection to specifically legal rules. His point is that since law can only regulate overt conduct, it can do nothing to correct die thoughts and feelings that are the source of evil-doing.
Though Luther is critical of both law and government, he does not qualify as a full-blooded anarchist any more than does Rousseau. His ideal is certainly the absence of all legal and political regulation. "By the Spirit and by faith all Christians are throughout inclined to do well.. . much more than any one can teach them with all the laws and need so far as they are concerned no commandments nor law."24 But he is unwilling to transform diis vision into a proposal to abolish law and government, because, though he thinks tfiat they are bad, he also regards them as indispensable. Most men are not Christians and so cannot be freed from their coercive, crude, and external chains. If they were, being vicious, they would destroy each other.
Luther's insistence on the need for government suggests that still a third ingredient is required if anarchistic thinking is to count as unequivocal anarchism: the belief that government is unnecessary. This suggestion first appears in a developed form in tiie thought of William Godwin. So convinced was Godwin of society's aptitude for self-regulation tJiat he thought law and government dispensable. His theory also contains anarchism's other two essentials: he condemns law as a procrustean bed, and government as unduly coercive.25 By committing himself to all three of these positions, Godwin was able to take the step foreclosed to others: he could make a logically valid case for abolishing government and law.
This analysis shows what in Proudhon's critique of political rule bears most directly on his anarchism. The relevant points are his evaluation of government and law and his assessment of the need for them.
The starting point of his evaluation is Rousseauist, because he regards Rousseau's test for good government as compatible with the rules of respect. This test, as reformulated by Proudhon, is that "no one should obey a law unless he has consented to it himself."26 For him as for Rousseau this belief leads immediately to a denunciation of every form of autocratic government. Since all autocracies force their subjects to obey regulations they have not consented to, all must be condemned.
His premise also leads to denunciation of representative government. Like Rousseau, but in greater detail, Proudhon criticizes this kind of regime on the ground that representatives cannot express the will of their constituents. In a passage recalling Rousseau's remark that Englishmen are free only during parliamentary elections, he writes, "All citizens of the Second Republic are eligible ... to vote.... This moment of public political participation is short: forty-eight hours at the most for each election. . . . The President and die Representatives, once elected, are the masters: everything else obeys. It is subject, governable and taxable, witliout abatement."27
One" reason why citizens are powerless between elections is that a deputy cannot work for all who vote for him, even if he knows what they want, because their objectives change and conflict.28 The deputy also has environmentally produced motives for ignoring the aims of his electors. Anticipating numerous critics of die French parliament as a closed arena, Proudhon remarks that no sooner is a candidate elected than he acquires a new perspective on politics, as a member of the legislature, that gradually isolates him from his constituents.29
In Proudhon's eyes, it is as doubtful diat representatives will respond to the desires of the public during elec- tions as well as during the intervals between elections. The tragic results of numerous French elections had convinced him that voters often choose a candidate who does not even profess to support their views.30 Since French voters have learned to choose more shrewdly since Prou-dhon's day, this argument no longer carries as much weight. But a final objection to representative government is as valid now as when Proudhon raised it. Electors cannot choose candidates responsive to their wishes because their political judgment is warped by membership in a hierarchic society. Being divided into inferio'rs and superiors, people vote "from motives of servility or hatred."31 The mental blinders imposed by inequality keep them from understanding either the aims of the candidates or their own true interests.
Rousseau had not tested constitutional governments with his standard. Proudhon tries to fill the gap. It is true, he admits, that constitutional regimes are less oppressive than autocratic ones.32 But their superiority is only marginal, because they are unstable. They are usually swept away by civil war if they do not degenerate into naked dictatorships.33 Those that avoid these outcomes have an equally dismal end. They become secret instruments of bourgeois domination. The bourgeoisie thinks constitutionalism is better than autocracy for maintaining the confidence so helpful in the quest for profit.34 Hence, when it can do so, the bourgeoisie respects constitutional government's "legal forms, its juridical spirit, its reserved character, its parliamentary rituals."35 Behind these trappings there lurks "a vast system of exploitation and intrigue, where politics is the counterpart of speculation, where taxation is but the payroll of a caste, and monopolized power the assistant to monopoly."36
Much of this critique sounds Marxian; but its theoretical basis is Proudhon's own. He calls constitutional government oppressive because it merely alleviates the symptoms of political illness while leaving their causes undisturbed. It accepts inequality as an unalterable fact, to be controlled, not removed. Then, in order to control inequality, government oppresses the upper strata to some degree, but the lower even more. By doing so government behaves disrespectfully, for in both cases it imposes regulations to which its subjects have not given their consent,37
Rousseau had criticized the representative, but not the democratic, aspect of representative democracy. Indeed, he had approved of the latter. Proudhon thinks he was mistaken in doing so. If an autocracy is unacceptable because it forces men to follow decisions that conflict with their own, then direct democracy is also unacceptable since it too must sometimes prevent its subjects from executing their own decisions. In a direct democracy it is usually only the minority who are repressed, while in an autocracy the choices of everyone except the ruling elite are often blocked. But this difference in the amount of disrespect in the two regimes does not warrant a more favorable judgment of democracy; there is no reason to prefer the oppression of a majority to that of an autocrat.38
In at least one way, Proudhon finds democracy worse than dictatorship. The repression that an autocrat can impose is limited by the illegitimacy of his status. His subjects obey him from fear of disobedience, not because they accept his title to rule. The legitimacy of democratic regimes, on the other hand, is widely accepted, at least in modern times. Hence democratic governments can repress their subjects more outrageously tiian can autocracies.39
This argument no doubt goes too far. Though the range of alternatives open to democratic rulers may be wider than that available to autocrats, this does not mean democratic rulers can do anything they please. There are repressive policies they cannot follow, like massacring the innocent, which autocrats sometimes carry out with impunity. But whatever the weakness of Proudhon's argument, it does point to democracy's unprecedented capacity to mobilize and reshape society, a capacity that has had fateful consequences in our own time.
The most obvious objection to Proudhon's entire critique of existing government challenges its excessively formal view of the political process. It can be argued that just as too formal an analysis of British government was responsible for the mistaken thesis that Parliament is all-powerful, so Proudhon's failure to consider extra-legal influence in assessing the power of rulers leads him to underestimate their responsiveness to the wishes of the ruled.
The substance of this objection is undoubtedly correct. Proudhon takes no account of die informal pressures that even the most abject subjects exert on an autocrat. Nor does he consider the far more obvious influence of an electorate on its representatives. If he had done so, he could never have said that once in office deputies are exempt from all popular control.
But though the substance of the objection is correct -- and it does reveal a shortcoming in Proudhon as a political analyst -- it does not diminish his stature as a critic. His standard for judging governments would have required their condemnation even if he had been fully aware of the informal popular influence at work in them, because this influence only mitigates, and does not eliminate, disrespectful political coercion. Not even the most responsive government can dispense entirely with authority, "the right to command," no matter how elaborately it conceals this fact.40 It is authority in this sense that Proudhon cannot abide. Thus the basis of his dislike for government is not a faulty analysis of the political process, but an exceedingly rigorous standard for judging it. As he said in 1848, explaining his vote against one of France's most democratic constitutions, "I voted against the Constitution, because it is a Constitution."41 Any government, ipso facto, must be condemned.
In the final stage of his political critique, Proudhon turns the tables on Rousseau, by applying their common test of good government to his predecessor's scheme for an ideal one. Rousseau had sought a plan for political rule that would allow each citizen to execute his own decision whenever he obeyed the law. Had he found such a plan, Proudhon would surely have praised it, since it would have assured freedom of action. But he saw that Rousseau's attempt to design a respectful government was a failure and that his only accomplishment was to hide repression behind a libertarian mask. Hence he repeatedly criticizes Rousseau's ideal as "a theory destructive to liberty."42
The heart of Proudhon's objection to Rousseau is a denial of his claim that no coercion is inflicted by a properly constituted government when it forces a man to obey the law. Rousseau could say this because he used unusual conceptions of will and freedom. He thought of the will as having two parts, a particular or self-regarding part, and a part that is general or community-regarding. Freedom he conceived as the capacity for self-legislation, the ability to make and obey self-imposed laws. By distinguishing between self- and community-regarding will, and by conceiving of freedom as self-legislation, Rousseau laid a foundation for the view that liberty entails repression of will. If a man follows his self-regarding will when it conflicts with his community-regarding one, his action is not free. For when a self- and community-regarding will conflict, the action dictated by the self-regarding one cannot be made into a universally practicable action, i.e., a law. Consequently, if a man in such a situation is prevented by his government from following his self-regarding will, he is not constrained; rather, his opportunity to act freely is protected, for he retains the chance to follow his general will. Thus Rousseau's concept of the will as divided, and of liberty as self-legislation, serves as the theoretical basis for justifying coercion in the name of freedom.
Proudhon saw through this impressive bit of sophistry. The whole argument was nothing but an "enormous swindle,"43 because a person kept from executing a selfish choice is in fact no less coerced than a person kept from executing a universalizable one. In neither case does government respect its subject's freedom of action, for in both it keeps him from doing what he wants to do.44 Hence Rousseau's scheme of government does not succeed in eliminating disrespectful coercion. Rulers in his ideal state, as in any other, thwart achievement of their subjects' aims.
Why does Rousseau employ such peculiar and dangerous conceptions of will and freedom? Part of the explanation is his esteem for law. Since he regards legislation as highly desirable, he must deny it is coercive, for if obedience to law involves coercion, it cannot be desirable. His conceptions of freedom and will enable him to do this. If obedience to universally applicable decisions does not curtail my freedom of action, then neither does legal compulsion to obey them. Similarly, if my liberty to do as I please is not reduced when I am kept from executing selfish decisions, then a legal ban on executing them does not curb it either. Rousseau's definitions serve to protect his defense of law's value from the charge that legislation can be oppressive.
As an anarchist, Proudhon finds fault not only with die coercion justified by Rousseau's political ideal, but also with the basis of that justification: Rousseau's esteem for law. It is true that Proudhon frequently opposed law as a mere symptom of more basic malaise, rather than as something inherently inadmissible.45 Implicit in this way of arguing is the thesis that if society and government were not defective in the ways already analyzed, law would not be objectionable either.
But Proudhon also has some basic criticisms of legislation. Law puts "external authority ... in the place of citizens' immanent, inalienable, untransferable authority."46 There are two things wrong with law's externality. First, its metliod of enforcement, coercion by identifiable external agents, violates the second rule of respect by preventing the execution of decisions. The need for coercive enforcement makes law just as authoritarian, in Prou-dhon's eyes, as more arbitrary means of political control. The object to which law applies contributes further to its immorality. Law applies to overt behavior, not inward thought. It ignores, or at most gives minor attention to choices and aims, being content for the most part to consider action's form and results. The first rule of respect, on the other hand, calls for accepting the internal preliminaries to action, the decisions and purposes that direct it. From the standpoint of respect, law is thus blind to the kind of motivation worthy of the highest consideration.
Proudhon objects to more than the immediately disrespectful features of law's externality. He also denounces the externally oriented frame of mind encouraged by legal institutions. A society where the rule of law is dominant nurtures the sort of personality which "is convinced that the more or less improper acts that it performs every day, from morning to night, are necessary and hence legitimate, and that there is consequently no such thing as swindling or theft, except in the cases defined by law."47 What is described here is the legalistic point of view personified by Shylock, which equates virtue with a legal claim and the just man with the lawful one. It sanctions judging otJiers by how law-abiding they are, rather than by the degree to which they follow inwardly affirmed moral principles. Such an attitude is totally at odds with Proudhonian morality, since the rules of respect are precisely the sorts of moral principles it repudiates.
Though Proudhon fiercely attacks law's externality, he does not criticize its other trait: its generality. This is not surprising, since his whole ethical theory assumes that morality is a matter of accepting and following general rules. So strongly does Proudhon favor a rule-keeping morality that he thinks "the true judge for every man is his own conscience, a fact that implies replacement of the system of courts and laws widi a system of personal obligations and contracts, in other words, suppression of legal institutions."48 On the surface, this statement may seem totally hostile to law. But it is also partial to a legalistic conception of morality that pictures conscience as a judge who decides which of several rules governing conduct and choice applies to a particular case. Having approved of general principles in the moral realm, Proudhon could hardly object to law on die ground that it used them. He quarreled with law only because it was external, not because it was general. General moral rules, being applicable to choice, are praiseworthy.
But though Proudhon does not condemn the generality of legal regulation, he does consider it. His point is that law cannot be general enough to avoid being arbitrary. "Laws in small number! . . . Why, that is impossible. Mustn't the government regulate all interests and judge all claims ? Well, owing to the nature of society, interests are innumerable, their relations are variable and infinitely changeable: how can it possibly make few laws ? How can they be simple?"49 A complicated code of detailed laws, the only kind that can be effective, "sows disorder in men's minds, obscures the notion of justice . .. and makes necessary a whole caste of interpreters to explain the system."50 Laws must be so numerous, complicated, specific, changeable, so subject to twisted interpretation, so incomprehensible, that they must oppress. Only a rule tliat is "unchanging," "supremely intelligible," "the inviolable standard of all human actions," in short, as general as possible, is sanctioned by the ethics of respect.51 Since law cannot have these attributes, it must be fundamentally condemned.
Proudhon's critique of law helps to explain his opposition to Rousseau's ideal state. He not only objected to the coercion justified by Rousseau's ideal; he did not think the benefit gained by justifying it was worth the price. Rousseau may perhaps have realized that the man who is kept from following his self-regarding will is, in a sense, just as constrained as the one kept from following his general will. But since self-regarding wills cannot be universalized, the cost of repressing them could not strike him as high, while the benefit of doing so seemed enormous. If some people were now and then kept from following their worthless particular wills, all would benefit immensely. For then everyone would follow tlie law. To Proudhon, on the other hand, who fundamentally disapproved of law, the cost of such repression seemed enormous, and its benefits negligible.
The first two ingredients in Proudhon's anarchism -- his objections to government and law -- ally to support a sweeping denunciation of rulership. His hostility toward political coercion prompts him to apply Rousseau's test of good government just as rigorously as its inventor had done. His opposition to law leads him to extend its application to areas from which Rousseau had excluded it and to detect coercion where Rousseau, with his admiration for law, had professed to see freedom. But all this criticism of government and legislation, however vigorous, would not support their abolition, unless Proudhon's theory contained anarchism's third essential: the belief tiiat political rule is unnecessary.
Proudhon does indeed hold this belief, but in a rather sophisticated form, easier to defend than the dogmatic assertions that government is needless, made by anarchists like Tolstoy. The statements of Tolstoy, and writers like him, give whatever backing there is to anarchism's reputation as a naive belief in government's easy dispensability.52 Proudhon, of course, is more circumspect. His theory of political development kept him from thinking government easily dispensable, because it asserted that until his own time government had performed vital functions by building character, extirpating laziness, and so on. Even in his own day, its abolition could not seem easy to Proudhon; his reflections on human nature and society had convinced him that government continued to perform the valuable service of maintaining order and that, if it were abolished, some substitute would have to be found.
The question of the need for political rule thus depended on whether government was indispensable for the maintenance of order. Proudhon denied that it was. To begin with, government was certainly not a logical requisite for order, though as the expression "law and order" shows, the two are often equated in common usage. "Order is a genus, government, a species. In other words, there are several ways to conceive of order: what proof is there that order in society is of the sort its masters wish to assign to it?"53 Nor could government be considered a causal requisite for order. Causal necessity does not exist, at least in human affairs, where innovation can occur.64 As for the causal connection between government and order, it was proved tenuous by the not infrequent failure of political rule to control conflict.55 Thus the need for government in civilized societies was extremely dubious, though ironclad proof of its dispensability depended on discovery of a suitable replacement. When this conclusion was added to Proudhon's denunciation of government, unmitigated anarchism resulted. Government was in most respects profoundly evil. Its one good effect could be achieved by some other means; hence it ought to be eliminated.
To many realists arrival at such a judgment would be a signal for re-examining first principles. Something must be wrong widi values and analysis which imply that indispensable institutions like government and law, not to mention hierarchy, must be abolished. To other realists, thes.e conclusions would suggest not revision, but withdrawal. Denunciation of the actual would not be diluted, but attempts to improve it would be abandoned. To Prou-dhon, however, as a true radical, these findings occasion no such second tlioughts. Instead, tiiey give impetus to further theorizing. Having proved to his satisfaction that hierarchy and political authority should be abolished, he presses on to discover new arrangements that will vindicate his case by making superior substitutes available. The obverse of his radical critique is a proposal for fundamental change.
Notes1 Proudhon, of course, believed that religion was a third instrument of oppression. This should not be forgotten but bears only indirectly on his social and political ideas.
2 Cont., i, 351.
3 "Rousseau has always struck me as misunderstanding the cause he wanted to defend and as getting entangled in baseless a priority, when he should have reasoned according to the nature of things." Dim., p. 55.
4 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, trans., G.D.H. Cole (New York, 1950), p. 265. Cf. Justice, m, 174: "Generally, the consideration attached to a man ... is proportional to his reputation, his fortune and his power. We are so made that we always suppose that noumena are proportional to phenomena, that appearance is proportional to reality." The contrast between reality and appearance (etre and parahre) was also much emphasized by Rousseau, e.g., p. 247.
5 Rousseau, pp. 240-41, 270.
6 "Cours," I-3 (30).
7 Justice, in, 174.
8 Ibid., 11, 383.
9 Cap., p. 88.
10 Rousseau, p. 271.
11 Judith Shklar, "Rousseau's Images of Authority," American Political Science Review, lviii, No. 4 (December 1964), p. 920.
12 Avert., pp. 205-206.
13 Quoted in Pierre Haubtmann, "Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: sa vie et sa pensee" (unpublished thesis for the Doctorat d'Etat, Faculte des lettres et des sciences humaines de Paris, 1961), p. 282, annex 20.
14 Proudhon also condemns hierarchy for causing political oppression. This aspect of his social criticism is discussed in the next section of this chapter, where his critique of government is examined.
15 Prop., p. 313; I.G., p. 187; Justice, 1, 453. Yves Simon is the only critic, so far as I know, who remarks on Proudhon's total 1 hostility to distributive justice. See his "Note sur le federalisme proudhonien," Esprit, No. 55 (April 1937), p. 55.
16 Justice, ii, 72.
17 Prop., pp. 221-22. Proudhon later reneged this criticism, as will become clear in due course.
18 "Resistance a la Revolution," reprinted in I.G., p. 378.
19 I.G., pp. 173-74; Justice, n, 72.
20 The typology of anti-hierarchic arguments used here is suggested by Sanford Lakoffs Equality in Political Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass., 1964). Lakoff tries to fit Proudhon into his scheme somewhere on the borderline between the liberals and the socialists but senses that he does not fit well into the slot assigned him. The reason is that Proudhon does not belong anywhere on the map Lakoff has charted. He is off by himself on some exotic island where the principle of distributive justice is not accepted.
21 Martin Luther, Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, ed., John Dillenberger (New York, 1961), p. 370.
22 Rousseau, p. 294, cf. Shklar, "Images," p. 922.
23 Luther, p. 331. This argument is ancient, going back to Plato, who, of course, used it for the perfection rather than the condemnation of government.
24 Ibid., p. 269.
25 D. H. Munro, Godwin's Moral Philosophy (Oxford, 1953), pp. 129, 151. 26I.G., p. 267.
27 I.G., p. 226, cf. C.P., p. 283.
28 Ibid., p. 210.
29 "A propos de Louis Blanc," reprinted in I.G., p. 438; cf. Carnets, x, 52. Representative government is "a perpetual abuse of power for the profit of the reigning caste and the interests of representatives, against the interests of the represented."
30 Sol., p. 48.
31 Con]., p. 229.
32 Con]., p. 221; but cf. C.P., p. 377, where a constitution is called "a system at once wise, just and free." This enthusiasm is anomalous as Theodore Ruyssen shows in his introduction to C.P., p. 123, but it also turns up in Justice, in, 277.
33 Con]., pp. 223, 230.
34 Justice, m, 145. 35 P.F., p. 304.
36 Ibid., cf. Con]., p. 227.
37 P.F., pp. 245-47; Con]., 217-18; Carnets, xi, p. 479: "Constitutional power is always arbitrary power, if not unstable power, lacking all character and morality. . . . To produce balance it is unnecessary to create a device that imposes it: it suffices to put [social] forces into the kind of agreement that induces them to hold one another in equilibrium."
38 I.G., pp. 208-16; Cont., 1, 340.
39 Sol., p. 48.
40 Justice, ii, 312; cf. Corr., iv, 149: "Organization of any kind is equivalent to the suppression of liberty, so far as free persons are concerned."
41 Conf., p. 215.
42 I.G., p. 193.
43 Justice, in, 270.
44 Ibid., 11, 362; P.F., 345.
45 I.G., p. 204.
46 "Resistance a la Revolution," reprinted in I.G., pp. 374, 378.
47 Cap., p. 227; cf. Cont., 11, 219-20.
48 Cob/., p. 236.
49 I.G., p. 205.
50 Cont., 1, 337.
51 Justice, i, 426.
52 Isaiah Berlin, "Tolstoy and Enlightenment," Encounter, xvi, No. 2 (February 1961), p. 38.
53 I.G., p. 202.
54 Justice, in, 173.
55 I.G., p. 302.