Allen Ritter, The Political Thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, 1969

Proudhon as a Rebuilder of Society

The prescriptive side of Proudhon's theory is the part most crucial for its overall validity. Both his criticism of existing institutions and his contention that history has reached the point where institutions can be abolished rest on the claim that superior substitutes can be established. If this claim should prove unfounded, the critical and historical parts of his theory would be called into question.

To count as superior from Proudhon's point of view, replacements for existing institutions must pass two tests. They must do the job of conflict management now carried out by government and hierarchy. In addition, they must permit men who accept and try to follow the rules of respect to succeed in doing so. Proudhon's reformative endeavor is a determined search for substitutes having these qualifications. He tries to describe arrangements that neither jeopardize social order nor stand in the way of his ideals.

The Dangers of Anarchy: Hobbes and Proudhon

Since Proudhon regarded hierarchy and government as the wellsprings of degradation, he might have said that any environment in which they are lacking is both safe and respectful. Yet he did not. While insisting that these impediments to freedom and justice were incompatible with respect, he also saw that their absence was an insufficient condition for its attainment. The source of this insight is Proudhon's conviction that in a society without government and hierarchy a Hobbesian state of nature must arise, for under such conditions "our irascible appetite pushes us toward war."1 A world free of contemporary society's two great plagues would not be respectful, because then the order-maintaining function would be unfulfilled.

Although Proudhon accepts Hobbes' description of the state of nature, he criticizes Hobbes' explanation of it. This criticism enables him to reject Hobbes' remedy. Hobbes ascribes natural war to aggressive desires so powerful that they can be neither eradicated nor weakened. Since these desires are uncontrollable, the only way to prevent their translation into hostile acts is by legal deterrence. Men must be frightened into behaving peacefully by threats of punishment from an absolute government. The trouble with this argument, according to Proudhon, is that it rests on "the most unfavorable hypothesis" about the cause of conflict.2 The truth is that even in the state of nature conflict springs not primarily from aggressive desires, but from competition for scarce goods and for attainment of incompatible ideals. War is far more a clash of interests and principles than of domineering passions.3 It is true that the only way to prevent the conflict that is motivated by a desire to dominate is with legal deterrence, but since antagonism springs mostly from pursuit of interests and ideals, a more respectful remedy can be found, at least in principle.

Proudhon's attitude toward Hobbes complicates his reformative endeavor by making it hard to describe respectful institutions that are also safe. On the one hand, the description of respectful arrangements is complicated by misgivings about their safety. Proudhon fears that any institutions that could count as respectful would allow so much antagonism that Hobbes' nightmarish state of nature would become a reality. On the other hand, the description of safe institutions is plagued by doubts about respectfulness. If Proudhon is careful to describe safe arrangements, he may end with institutions that are even less respectful than existing ones. Fearing Hobbes' nightmare, he is in constant danger of accepting its describer's antidote.

The Illusions of Laissez-Faire

At the time Proudhon was writing, an inviting way out of this dilemma was being vigorously urged by the economic liberals. In their opinion, conflict could be respectfully managed, provided that it occurred within the framework of free markets. There the price system gives cues to each trader that prompt him to act so as to satisfy others as he satisfies himself. If a buyer sets a low price, in order to get the better of a seller, the seller finds another customer who respects the terms of trade set by the market. Conversely, if a seller tries to exploit a buyer by demanding a price above that fixed by the market, his customer turns to another supplier who adheres to the established price. Hence in the market, as described by its defenders, no man's conduct or choice is constrained by another, yet any action that occurs benefits all men.

Proudhon was strongly attracted by this doctrine, because it promised exactly the kind of regulation he was seeking. "The disciples of Malthus and Say, vigorously rejecting state intervention in commercial and industrial affairs, take every opportunity to glory in their liberal appearance and pretend that they are more revolutionary than the revolution."4 But Proudhon saw through the liberating promise of laissez-faire. He was sure that the price mechanism was just as oppressive as law and government. Because "more than one honest soul had been taken in" by the wiles of the economists, Proudhon painstakingly refuted them.5 It was important for him to do so, since their position was so similar to his that the two risked being confused.

To begin with, Proudhon points out that actual market prices vary widely and unpredictably, sometimes to the benefit of buyers, sometimes to that of sellers. Economic transactions cued by the price mechanism are a kind of lottery, over whose outcome traders have no control.6 At one time or another swings in price may grant each trader a windfall. What is certain is that they cause widespread interference with goal attainment, by depriving many persons of a secure income.

If all had an equal chance to benefit from the risk built into the price mechanism, it might still be admissible as a method for organizing society. But in fact the law of supply and demand is a "deceitful law . . . suitable only for assuring the victory of the strong over the weak, of those who own property over those who own nothing."7 It is not true that all traders are equally subject to the market. In many cases a few have sufficient control of resources to influence or even determine price. In those cases all the others must choose between submitting to the monopolist's terms or foregoing any purchase of the commodity he offers. When that commodity is employment, even this choice is lacking. Hence the market does not fulfill its promise of protection for each man's freedom to pursue his goals.

Economists could contest the preceding argument by pointing to its misconstruction of their viewpoint. They contend only that free markets protect freedom, not that monopolists do. To back up this thesis, the economists ascribe the same inevitability to the laws of the free market that is a feature of natural scientific laws. No one is coerced by another when he refrains from building below the high-water mark. Since economic laws are just as inevitable as those of nature, no one is coerced by another when he refrains from selling above the market price. To this argument Proudhon replies that whatever may be the proper attitude toward natural necessity, acceptance of market prices as inevitable, and hence coercionless, is in error. The market is manmade; hence any constraint it imposes is the coercion of man by man.8

Proudhon's final, simplest, and most devastating point is that free enterprise, being "unable to solve its celebrated problem of the harmony of interests, [is forced] to impose laws, if only provisional ones, and abdicates in its turn before this new authority that is incompatible with the practice of liberty."9 In the end, laissez-faire has to rely on political coercion, if only in the person of a night watchman, to assure the safety of its scheme. Thus the market, called into question by its own shortcomings, is definitively refuted by its resort to the very coercion it promises to avoid.

Although Proudhon repudiates most aspects of laissez-faire, he does find a use for one of its features: competition. The market and the price system are oppressive fakes, but competition is "the spice of exchange, the salt of work. To suppress competition is to suppress liberty itself; it is to begin the restoration of the old regime from below, by putting work back under the system of favoritism and abuse from which '89 has emancipated it."10 This text makes clear that Proudhon is no ordinary socialist critic of free enterprise, eager to drown competitive relations in a sea of cooperation. Nor is he as fearful as are writers like Hobbes of the conflict that such relations allow. Rather than wanting to do away with the rivalries celebrated by the economists, Proudhon seeks to preserve and perfect them, for he sees in them an enormous creative potential. Within the framework of the market, competition, "lacking a higher regulative principle, has been perverted."11 It becomes an instrument for imposing exploitative prices on helpless victims. But in a more appropriate environment, it could have salutary effects. Though "competition today" is "the cause of the weak's oppression," in tomorrow's respectful society it may become "his strength and his guarantee."12

The Virtues of Bargaining

The crux of Proudhon's respectful society is the bargaining process. His ideal world is one in which individuals and groups bargain directly with each other for all the things they want, without any intermediaries, until they arrive at mutually acceptable terms of agreement. The great virtue of this practice is its compatibility with man's freedom to do as he pleases. According to Proudhon, a bargainer, unlike a trader on a market, a holder of a rank, or a subject of a state, need not submit to restraints upon his action. He can arrange to do exactly as he pleases, by working out terms of agreement acceptable to others. The bargaining relationship "imposes no obligation on its parties but that which results from their personal promise; . . . it is subject to no external authority. . . . When I bargain for some good with one or more of my fellow citizens, it is clear that then it is my will alone that is my law."13 If this is true, then bargaining, unlike all other patterns of social relations, accords with the rule of respect enjoining freedom of action.

Although Proudhon does not explicitly test bargaining with the rule of respect that prescribes identification with the purposes of others, it clearly accords with that norm. If I am to come to terms with another, I must identify with his purposes so as to make concessions that will be attractive to him. The bargaining process encourages precisely the sort of reciprocal acceptance of purposes that is required by Proudhon's highest value.

So much for bargaining's respectful promise. It can be likened to Hope, which remained in Pandora's box after she had let out all the malicious forces that plague mankind. For advocacy of bargaining as the only pattern of social relations raised serious difficulties, and its advantages remained a distant prospect. Proudhon had to find some way to push the difficulties back into Pandora's box, while coaxing the promise out into practicality.

Insecurity is the most obvious danger faced by a society where bargaining is the only interactional pattern. In such a society, bargaining relationships are likely to degenerate into struggles and, ultimately, into dictated settlements. When a party is in a position to impose terms on others, rather than to make concessions, there will be nothing to keep him from doing so. In short, members of a society of bargainers run a grave risk of being crushed by their rivals.14

Another problem faced by bargainers is disrespectful thought and action. This problem may be less dangerous, but to Proudhon it is just as serious. Bargaining aims at compromise, at agreement involving mutual concessions on a quid pro quo basis. Settlements of this sort have always offended rule-minded moralists, and Proudhon is no exception. The trouble with agreement by reciprocal concession is that considerations of moral principle are left out.15 A bargainer tries to reach the most satisfactory terms he can. These terms may turn out to be morally valid, but they are not arrived at by applying some ethical standard deemed relevant to the contested issue. The only relevant consideration is the relative power of the opposed parties. To Proudhon, this is inadmissible. The rules of respect must be obeyed even when they are unprofitable. Yet a bargainer in a favorable power position will disregard respect's imperatives if he can make a better deal by doing so. An intolerable gap thus separates Proudhon's principles from the practice that is supposed to reflect them.

Mutualist Society

In order to protect bargainers from being crushed by their rivals, Proudhon seeks to equalize their power. He thinks combat and dictation can be avoided by arranging society so that its "component groups remain equal," for then "none wins preponderance over the others."16

The reason some contenders are more powerful than others, according to Proudhon, is that "heterogeneous forces" are "permanently amalgamated and fused" within them."17 Hence an end to unequal bargaining power calls for distributing these heterogeneous forces more evenly among contenders, so that each of them is reciprocally but not essentially dependent on the others. It is hard to know exactly what Proudhon has in mind when he calls for an even distribution of heterogeneous forces, because he does not say what these forces represent. He may mean the capacity to control the supply of goods sought by others. A party who controls the supply of many goods sought by others has greater bargaining power than they. If this interpretation is acceptable, then what Proudhon intends by calling for an even distribution of heterogeneous forces is that every contender must control the supply of some goods that others seek and must not depend entirely on any other for satisfaction of his own wants.

Proudhon is vague about the structure of a society organized according to this principle. Perhaps the example of the Utopians had taught him that it is tactically unwise to draw blueprints, because they divert attention from immediate action to an uncertain future. At any rate, almost all that can be said about the structure of his ideal, "mutualist" society is that it consists of numerous bargaining units, some of which offer the same good, and none of which supply too many goods.18 Concerning one detail of social organization he is more explicit. He stresses the need to strengthen the workers' bargaining position. This recommendation is the main point of one of his more obscure doctrines: his theory of collective force.

Unless this doctrine is seen as part of Proudhon's theory of bargaining, it is rather puzzling. He first mentioned it in an account, in Propriete, of the erection of the Luxor obelisque. Collective force is described as "that immense force which results from workers' union and harmony, from the convergence and simultaneousness of their efforts. . . . Two hundred grenadiers placed the Luxor obelisque on its base in a few hours; do you really think a single man could have succeeded in two hundred days ?"19 Having made this claim for the workers, Proudhon could be expected to urge a higher remuneration for their labor; but he does not. The argument, both in Propriete and elsewhere, is left hanging; it contributes to Proudhon's critique of existing conditions and even helps explain it, but does not directly support any of his proposals for change.

Seen in the context of his theory of bargaining, however, the doctrine of collective force becomes more comprehensible; it appears as an argument for strengthening the workers' bargaining position in order to protect them from exploitation. By calling attention to their collective force, Proudhon hopes to increase their power and make them less dependent on their employers.20

If peaceful bargaining is to be assured, something more is needed than equalization of the contenders' power. Combat might break out between the units of the egalitarian society envisaged by Proudhon. For one thing, the balancing of power relations would encourage deadlock. This in turn might easily lead to aggression. Contenders who are reciprocally but not essentially dependent on one another will probably begin working for their ends by making concessions. The cost of dictating terms is too high, because parties can always turn to other suppliers or do without the good offered. For the same reason, the rejection of all proposed compromise settlements will be easy. If I can turn to other suppliers of the good one of them offers me, or dispense with it altogether, my incentive to agreement with him will be small. Where power relations among contenders are equal, few bargains will be struck. In the limiting case, no social interaction may occur at all. But if this outcome seemed imminent, the relative cost of combat would decline. The need for concerted action would come to outweigh the high cost of attempting to organize it by force.

Some such anticipation is at the root of Proudhon's fear that if "the same kind of power is distributed among different persons, . . . [they] are neutralized by competition and anarchy."21 At most, "a weak, more or less precarious society will emerge."22 A society whose units are too autonomous is just as unstable as one where they are hierarchically organized. The line between pluralism and fragmentation is extremely thin. "Imagine a society where all relations between individuals had just ceased, where each one provided for his living in absolute isolation. . . . Just like a piece of matter whose molecules had lost the rapport that makes them cohere, it would crumble into dust at die slightest shock."23

To ward off this fate, Proudhon relies on social diversity. Along with "the greatest independence of individuals and groups" must go "the greatest possible variety of combinations."24 Or, as he says in another place, it is not enough to create "independent centers"; numerous "specialties" are needed too.25 The units of a mutualist society are not only to be equal in power; they are also to differ in their occupations, personalities, ideas, inclinations, and any other characteristics that may affect the quality of the goods they offer. Equality of rank must be supplemented by diversity of kind.

Social diversity deters bargaining stalemate by increasing the incentive of equally powerful contenders to compromise. I will be more eager to reach agreement with a supplier who offers me an unusual good, ceteris paribus, than with one who can provide only an ordinary one. By making available a wide variety of goods, social diversity gives an impetus to joint action without going so far as to encourage dictated settlements.26

Even if social diversity deterred the threat of strife raised by stalemate, it could not ward off another danger to the integrity of bargaining. Contenders who had strong incentives to compromise their differences might have even stronger motives for imposing terms. They would try to force their opponents to submit, in spite of all inducements to bargain. This would be the case for any contender who sought ideological rather than material advantages. A person who is out to win converts to his point of view cannot make concessions to his adversaries, even for profit. As Proudhon puts it, matters of principle "are not things over which one bargains."27 To compromise here "would be like forgery by a public scribe, a crime for which conscience could find no excuse."28 In other words, Proudhon's social arrangements seem to invite resort to combat for the settlement of ideological disputes.

This accusation is unfounded, because it overlooks the unanimous agreement about respect's intrinsic goodness, presupposed by his whole reformative venture. In his envisioned society there may be "diversities of opinion," but "nothing that divides men . . . exists any longer among mutualist groups."29 Ideological disputes simply cannot arise under mutualism. No matter how devoted a contender may be to an ideal, he will sacrifice it if he must do so to preserve the integrity of his universally accepted highest value.

Though principled disagreement does not endanger Proudhonian bargaining, other contingencies do: fraud and conspiracy. Even if mutualist social arrangements made combat and dictation unprofitable, they would leave the door open to these covert strategies for undermining the bargaining process. A person could misrepresent the value of the good he offered. He could ally himself with a few others in order to increase their joint bargaining power over the rest. He could conspire with another in order to reach mutually beneficial settlements that were injurious to a third party. If any one of these abuses became at all widespread, the balanced power relationships needed for safe bargaining would be destroyed.

Proudhon has little confidence in the integrity of bargainers. "Most of the time diey are two swindlers who try to cheat each other reciprocally."30 The threat of fraud and conspiracy is serious for him. It is one of the considerations which ultimately force him to admit that no social arrangements, however ideal, can by themselves safeguard peace.

Another consideration reinforces this conclusion. The equality of power in a mutualist society may facilitate bargaining between parties who want complementary goods, but it also encourages bitter rivalry among seekers of the same good, especially if the good is scarce. Unequally powerful contenders will seldom struggle for an advantage in short supply, such as a good job; the prize will usually go to the strongest without a fight. But if contenders enjoy equal bargaining power, they are likely to fight hard for the good they seek. "Between individuals of equal power and similar pretensions, there is naturally antagonism."31 In spite of all precautions, it looks as if Hobbes' nightmare may still become a reality in a mutualist society. For Hobbes had long ago pointed out that "any two men" with equal power who "desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy . . . become enemies; and in the way to their end . . . endeavor to destroy or subdue one another."32

The conclusion is obvious, and Proudhon draws it. Mutualist society, like any other, "cannot depend on the calculations and propriety of egoism." To think otherwise is to be duped by the myth of spontaneous harmony.33 Must it also be admitted that mutualist society cannot dispense with the orthodox techniques for managing conflict -- law, government and hierarchy?

The Mutualist Norm: Commutative Justice

Proudhon of course denies this. He admits that mutualist society is an inadequate guarantee of a safe, respectful world. But he thinks consideration of its inadequacy shows how to improve it. The defect in mutualist organization is its one-sided way of managing conflict. It assumes that combat and bargaining are the sole forms of contention. If this were true, power alone would have to be controlled, since the outcome of combat and bargaining depends on the comparative strength of opposed parties. But, in fact, relative power is just one of the forces that affect the outcome of disputes. Equally influential are the views of contenders about the merits of their conflicting claims. Since disputes may be settled by discussion on merits as well as by bargaining on a quid pro quo basis, an adequate guarantee of a safe, respectful world must regulate both.

For this reason, Proudhon prescribes a standard of merit, "a rule for all bargains" to regulate contenders' claims of right, just as mutualist society regulates their assertions of power.34 The standard he turns to is the rule of commutative justice, which imposes on each contender the duty to give goods to all others that are just as valuable as those he receives from them. It obliges equivalent exchange.

A case can be made that the rule of commutative justice is so formal and empty that it cannot possibly control opposed claims, as Proudhon hopes. Even if I follow the injunction to give the equivalent of what I receive, in any particular exchange I can justify giving whatever amount of good I please, since the commutative rule says nothing about how the value of what I have received, or its equivalent, should be determined. If, for example, I think the eminence of its owner determines the value of a good, the commutative norm supports my giving a fabulous sum for a lock of Lord Byron's hair. If, on the other hand, the cost of production of a good is my evaluative standard, the same norm authoritizes me to give an infinitesimal payment for it. It follows that since the number of possible evaluative criteria is infinite, so are the duties that commutative justice may impose.

This argument goes too far.35 It is no doubt true that the obligation to exchange equivalently enjoins no particular actions. But it is not devoid of all specific meaning because it excludes certain sorts of conduct, such as the uncompensated acquisition of goods, i.e., theft. To oblige people to give the equivalent of what they receive is at least to prohibit them from taking goods without some kind of payment. This prohibition is important, because it bans the most oppressive type of dictated settlement: that which denies a contender any compensation at all for the good he supplies.

Another kind of action prohibited by the commutative rule is fraud. Commutative justice binds contenders to make sincere appraisals of the goods they offer, and to measure the comparative worth of goods offered to them with the same standard. People may not deliberately deceive one another.38

But commutative justice is most conducive to peaceful contention in giving parties a common standard for testing the merits of their respective claims. Having this standard in common makes them less likely to fight, because it gives them an opportunity to discuss the merits of their differences, when the possibilities of bargaining have been exhausted. Hence the prospects for mutualism would brighten considerably if all contenders followed the commutative rule. A climate of opinion would arise to give much needed support to the social process relied on by Proudhon to realize his ideals.

The Productivity Standard and the Failure of Mutualism

Nevertheless, commutative justice is an inadequate regulative principle for mutualist society. Because it sets no single criterion for measuring value, it allows each contender to use whatever standard he prefers, provided that he uses it fairly. This permissiveness is dangerous. Differences will not be resolved, even between parties who accept the commutative rule, whenever they choose different appraising standards. For then, though they both contend in good faith, the settlement that seems fair to one will necessarily seem unfair to the other. The commutative rule is for this reason a "fine maxim, but a vague one," which cannot assure the viability of mutualism.87

In his zeal to remove the vagueness from commutative justice, Proudhon makes the prescriptive part of his theory inconsistent, by building into mutualism something incompatible with the rules of respect. What he says is that contenders must use the same standard for measuring the value of goods, their cost of production. "Every product will be paid for with a product that costs the same sum of labor and expense."38 The trouble with this principle is that it implants in Proudhon's ideal society precisely the sort of distributive standard that he condemns in existing society. If "income must be equivalent to productivity," then contenders who offer goods that cost a lot to produce deserve higher rewards than those who offer cheaply created ones.39 As Proudhon himself admitted, "The superior worker, who understands and executes faster than another, and who turns out more products of better quality, will receive a larger reward, because he surpasses the common measure. With all the more reason, so will the worker who combines management skill and leadership talent with manual ability. He will be able to earn the equivalent of one and a half, two, three or even more standard daily wages."40

The same points that Proudhon makes against inequality of rank in general obviously apply to the kind of hierarchy he defends here. He has recommended a distributive principle -- to each according to his productive contribution -- that on his own reasoning must entail degrading distinctions. The rich, in a mutualist society as in any other, will more readily win acceptance for their aims than the poor, and will be favored in their attempts to reach them.

This inconsistency in Proudhon's theory is often overlooked. Leon Walras, for example, far from detecting hierarchic implications in Proudhon's views on the distribution of wealtli, described it as that of "all the egalitarians: men are absolutely and naturally equal. Hence social wealth should be distributed equally among them."41

One reason why Walras and others miss the inegalitarianism implicit in Proudhon's distributive criterion is that it is very well hidden. It is obscured by the thesis that the productivity standard calls for use of the same units, but not the same method of measuring value. Were this the case, it would be true that the productivity standard entailed no inequality, since use of common units of measurement, such as the dollar system, does not cause inequality.42 But the productivity standard does fix a method for determining value. It is analogous to the canons by which measurements of price are made, rather than to the units such as dollars in which they are expressed.

The hierarchic implications of the productivity standard are also hidden behind predictions of imminent equality. While admitting that his standard licenses inequality, Proudhon sometimes predicts that its use will put an end to disparities of wealth. "The theory of human justice, in which reciprocity of respect is converted into reciprocity of service, leads closer and closer to equality in all things." "In less than two generations, all vestiges of inequality will have disappeared."48 Yet nowhere is a case made for this assertion. It is nothing but a hope for the future used to cover up a moral incongruity.

That Proudhon fell back on a distributive principle is especially disappointing because his work sometimes hints at a promising alternative. Had he pursued it, he might have transformed commutative justice into an effective safeguard for mutualism. He sometimes suggests that a person contemplating a transaction be left free to choose his own standard of appraisal, provided that his choice is acceptable to the others. Put another way, criteria of evaluation should be as subject to compromise and discussion as other terms of exchange. Then appraisal would be made according to a wide variety of standards, "in some cases according to the quality of workmanship, in others according to intelligence, in still others according to payment given or promised, etc."44 Adherence to this procedure would prevent the stalemate and warfare that are the likely outcomes of contention regulated by the vague commutative norm. This procedure would therefore reach the same end as the productivity standard, but it would also surpass that standard by averting inequality of wealth. If evaluative criteria were objects of contention, no one standard for distributing reward would be used. Hence the same persons could not always get the highest compensations. Instead, each would receive different appraisals and payments for the goods he offered from different contenders, and different appraisals and payments from the same contender at different times. As a result of having the goods he offered subject to constantly changing evaluations, no person would have a fixed economic status. For society as a whole the result would be exactly that sought by mutualist structural principles: "equivalence amidst diversity."45 Hence, if Proudhon had developed his hints about making standards of evaluation objects of contention, he might have devised a mutualist principle that conformed to respect's imperatives.

The fact remains that he did not pursue this alternative very far and that the way he used for closing the loophole in commutative justice entails thought and behavior forbidden by his ultimate value. The most that can be said in defense of the productivity standard is that it is somewhat less disrespectful than likely alternatives. One of Proudhon's reasons for thinking this is shaky. According to him it is a fact that under mutualism "wealth becomes the general condition."46 If this were true, inequality would begin above such a high floor that it would not produce attitudes and conduct as disrespectful as those that occur where disparities of income reach down to the subsistence level. But the economic case made for this prediction of abundance is dubious, to say the least. Fortunately, Proudhon has a better argument for the relative acceptability of mutualist hierarchy. This one points out that productive contribution varies within narrow limits as compared to other criteria of distribution such as talent and prestige. A mutualist hierarchy is therefore a rather shallow one.47

The Consolations of Love

So firmly convinced was Proudhon of the need for the productivity standard to safeguard peace, that once he had made it a part of mutualism, he never again questioned it in principle. Nevertheless, he sensed its inconsistency with his highest value and tried to eliminate its most vicious consequences. These consequences affect anyone whose productive contribution is less than equivalent to his needs. Take the case of a father of a large family who is as efficient a producer as a bachelor. He will have far greater difficulty in executing his decisions and winning acceptance for them. Once "production and need are considered equivalent terms,"48 those who rank low in productive contribution, or have especially high needs, will inevitably suffer disrespectful treatment.

In order to avoid the hardships and indignities imposed by the productivity standard, Proudhon suggests that the recognition and satisfaction of purposes, which mutualist society can only partially achieve, be completed within the family, in love relationships. This suggestion is supported by an analysis of family relations designed to prove that they cannot possibly be organized according to mutualist social principles.

Only relations among parties who exchange commensurable goods can be arranged on mutualist lines. If the goods offered by contenders cannot be assessed by the same standard, agreement on terms of trade cannot be achieved. Proudhon claims that the goods exchanged among members of a family have no such common measure. To back up this thesis he cites the example of a good offered by husbands -- the ability to earn a living -- and insists that it cannot be evaluated in terms of goods offered by wives, such as tenderness and the capacity to keep house. If these goods, and others like them, are intrinsically incommensurable, it certainly makes no sense to organize family relations on mutualist lines.49

How then should they be arranged? For obscure reasons, Proudhon says that within the family the only respectful relations are self-sacrificial ones. It is by offering one another unlimited devotion that members of a family defend pursuit of the distinctive ends sought in love relations and show understanding of them. Among kin, respect enjoins "complete sacrifice of the person, total abnegation of the self."50

Whatever the reasons for Proudhon's support of this form of family life, its effect is to alleviate mutualism's disrespectful treatment of inefficient producers. Anyone who does not make the grade in mutualist society can still win respect within the family by benefiting from his relatives' devotion. In public, he must endure harsh adversities, but if his family applies the same values as contenders in the way appropriate to its relationship with him, it can offer some of the respect that they withhold. His wife, for instance, will give him reward not proportional to his production, but to her unlimited love and devotion for him. She will give him more than he deserves.51 By obliging her to do so, respect, as applied to family life, "softens the sharp edges of Justice [and] destroys its asperities."52

It is easy to see that the sort of family relationship envisaged by Proudhon could compensate to some extent for the disrespect imposed by mutualist society, but could not avert it. An inept producer or a prolific father could not reach more satisfactory agreements on the strength of his family's tenderness, though its devotion might make his failure more tolerable. To make matters worse, it is precisely those most in need of familial devotion, the disadvantaged, who are least likely to receive it. The poor have so much to worry about that they have little time for cultivating tenderness.

The conclusion is obvious. Since a hierarchy degrades the members of Proudhon's ideal society, his scheme is a failure on its own terms. Despite all his efforts to remove it, a moral gap remains between his description of mutualism and the rules of respect.

The Problem of Survival

Although Proudhon violates his basic values by building inequality into his ideal arrangements, this contradiction might be acceptable if it assured the survival of an otherwise respectful world. Unfortunately, mutualism is anything but stable.

One threat to the stability of mutualist society stems from its ineffectiveness in the world arena. Being stateless, it lacks the means to make and carry out a resolute foreign policy. It is therefore so handicapped in the conduct of diplomacy and war as to be a prime target for aggressive rivals.53

Sometimes Proudhon meets this threat by denying its existence. The taproot of international belligerence is domestic conflict; states wage war to quell internal strife.54 Hence, by ending domestic combat, mutualist social reorganization eliminates external aggression. Nations subscribing to mutualism simply do not indulge in warfare and so do not provoke retaliation from others.55

This solution to the external threat is inadequate if only because aggression is sometimes unprovoked. Even if mutualist societies were as outwardly pacific as Proudhon claims, they still might be attacked without provocation, by nations with a different form of internal organization. A mutualist society's national security thus requires that all nations be organized on mutualist lines. Proudhon sometimes sees this problem, but he evades it with professions of faith in the triumph of his ideal over "the entire surface ef the globe."56 In his early writings this confidence stems from faith in the exemplary power of mutualism. It is there portrayed as so advantageous that its establishment in any nation will convince all the others to adopt it.57 But by the time he wrote the Capacite, Proudhon had stopped relying on the self-evident merits of his plan. In that work he rests his case for the world triumph of mutualism on the claim that it is invincible in defensive war.58

Proudhon's attempts to ward off the foreign threat to survival are so manifestly ineffective that the only points worth making about them are explanatory. The truth is that Proudhon did not think very hard about the international requisites for his domestic arrangements -- at least while he was making them. His attention was drawn to the world arena only during tlie Italian War, in 1859, after he had completed Justice.59 Though he did make some shrewd points about international affairs in his last years, they did nothing to build confidence in the durability of mutualism -- quite the reverse. Hence it is hardly surprising that he coped so feebly with the foreign threat. At first he was scarcely aware of it; when its significance became apparent to him, he sensed that it was irresistible.

The internal threat to the survival of mutualism receives more serious attention. The problem here is that even if social pressure worked successfully, so that all members of society accepted the rules of respect as their highest norms and tried to apply them correctly, they might still think and act in ways forbidden by mutualist principles and practices. In other words the safe operation of a mutualist society requires more of its members than strict adherence to the rules of respect. These rules say nothing about how I, as a contender, should react to an adversary's claims and demands, since my obligation to respect another does not depend on his behavior toward me, but on "his being human." I owe unconditional respect to any man, even if he offers me nothing, but I certainly do not owe all my goods and services to people who offer me no compensation.60 Mutualist society involves more complicated relations than this. The productivity standard, the norm of commutative justice, and the principles of social organization are all essential ingredients of mutualism that cannot be put into effect by respect's imperatives.

To close the gap between the rules of respect and the regulative needs of mutualism, Proudhon proposes to extend the influence of social pressure. Besides securing acceptance and application of his highest value, social pressure is also to win assent and compliance for mutualist principles and practices. This is to be achieved through a system of contracts.

The trouble with bargaining as actually practiced, so far as the survival of mutualism is concerned, is that it is conjectural and implicit. Terms are seldom expressly delineated by both sides and must usually be surmised by each.61 In ordinary circumstances this inexplicitness does not matter much. But under mutualism, where so much of social life depends on bargaining, it is a major threat. If bargaining were conjectural there, the force of public opinion could not readily bear on it. Contenders could escape social censorship by keeping the terms of their agreements secret or vague and then would be free to make onerous deals.

To prevent this, Proudhon stipulates that agreement among mutualist contenders must be public, formal, and explicit. It must take the form of a "commutative convention." "The act by which two or more individuals agree to partially and temporarily organize the industrial force we call exchange, and thereby bind themselves to reciprocally guarantee one another a certain sum of services, products, advantages, duties, etc., that they are in a position to procure and deliver."62 Contenders who use such commutative conventions are less likely to make onerous deals than those who do not. For these conventions make agreement public and explicit, thereby exposing it to the control of social pressure.

But it is one thing to expose bargaining to social pressure and quite another to assure that this pressure exerts a salutary influence. The formalities suggested by Proudhon do not protect the integrity of bargaining. At most, they furnish a lever that might protect it if suitably manipulated. Proudhon understands very well that the mere requirement of convention-making does not accomplish much. In the "Cours" he reveals the full depth of his skepticism. "Who can oblige me to sign this convention, if I do not want to, if I find it to my advantage to keep my freedom of action? And if, after signing it, I break it, who can make my action criminal? What am I saying? Who will prove to me that I am the first to break it? When I prove that its conditions are leonine for me, that it is costly to me. . . . And then, who will be judge between me and my co-contractors? Who will decide between us?"63 Though Proudhon's publications do not explicitly repeat these questions, they do try to answer them.

The fullest answer is found in Justice, where Proudhon puts his trust in family love. According to that work, family love can do more than soften the inequities of the productivity standard. If strong and constant, it can also furnish "the psychological conditions" for development of a mutualist frame of mind. For one thing, love produces a yearning for justice in the abstract: "The more I love, the more I will be afraid to displease, and, as a result, the more I will respect myself; now, the more vivid this self-respect becomes, the more strongly will I feel it sympathetically in others; and, consequently, the more just I will be."64

Such a disposition toward abstract justice is obviously inadequate for securing compliance with specific mutualist rules; at most it might win adherence to the norms of respect. But Proudhon claims something else for family love that gets around this difficulty. Love does more than stimulate a disposition toward justice in the abstract; it also "unceasingly directs" this disposition "from the abstract to the concrete."65 By doing so, it wins assent and compliance for the principles and practices of mutualism.

Proudhon's claims for love greatly simplify the problem of applying mutualist principles, for they reduce it to the task of strengthening bonds of affection. If men's families can only be made to love them enough, Proudhon says in effect, then, in their roles as contenders, they will follow all the mutualist rules and will want everyone else to do the same. Social expectations will then arise that exert pressure on all opposed parties to shape their thought and action into patterns compatible with mutualist requirements.

Proudhon offers scant evidence for these claims, and there is little reason to think them true. Hence the best verdict on his theory of family love is the one issued by Daniel Halevy, who once called the Proudhonian family "a mystical institution, the most astonishing of all."66 It is indeed astonishing that Proudhon puts such a heavy reformative burden on an institution whose capacity for social reform is so strictly limited.

Suppose, nonetheless, for the sake of argument, that family love can create a disposition to follow mutualist rules. In that case, social pressure would in fact support the mental and behavioral patterns needed to make mutualist society safe and stable. But even then, the problem of survival would not be solved. Social pressure is too weak and too unreliable to preserve peace, even in Proudhon's ideal environment, where temptation to disobey social rules is weak, and opportunity seldom arises. Public opinion, no matter how loyal to the mutualist cause, will not always urge the safest course, because it is inherently vague, indiscriminate, and prone to excess.67 Hence the threat of internal strife is never far away.

Nor should it be forgotten that control by public opinion is as much of an indignity as control by more readily identified coercive agents. Social pressures are better hidden than legal and political controls, but this does not make them less disrespectful. Though they may curb the individual's action less strictly, they can manipulate his will better than the more orthodox kinds of regulation. Through the process of internalization, they win better access to his inward thoughts and feelings. Hence Proudhon's reliance on public opinion to guarantee the survival of mutualism transforms it into a thoroughly disrespectful ideal, without securing its stability. Social pressure plays the same role in the reformative part of his theory as in his ethics. In both cases it violates first principles for the sake of their achievement, but without success. In other words, social pressure serves as a desperate realist's morally inadmissible last resort.

Two Types of Social Conformism: Marx and Proudhon

Social pressure fails to solve Proudhon's problems; nothing else could solve them either. Any attempt to describe social arrangements that guarantee both personal security and observance of respect is bound to fail, because these aims cannot be simultaneously attained. Nevertheless, it may be that within the limits imposed by the futility of his search, Proudhon reached a relatively favorable compromise between peace and respect. That he did is suggested by a comparison of his recommendations with those of Marx.

Marx's classless, stateless society has a purpose similar to Proudhon's mutualist society. It too aims at securing peace and freedom without resort to government and hierarchy. The method Marx uses to stabilize his ideal society is like Proudhon's; he too uses social pressure. But Marx's way of using social pressure leaves less room for freedom than Proudhon's, without making peace any more secure.

It is clear even from Marx's rough sketch of the classless society that social pressure plays a greater role in his ideal arrangements than in Proudhon's. Under communism occurs "the genuine resolution of the conflict . . . between man and man." "That which I make of myself, I make of myself for society."68 Social pressure, as conceived by Marx, molds decisions so thoroughly that disagreement about the aims of conduct does not arise. Under mutualism too, social pressure instills a good deal of agreement on objectives, but less than under communism. Although Proudhon is careful to stress that consensus on his system's fundamental principles must prevail, he gives equal emphasis to the large margin for disagreement on circumstantials that remains. The monolithic agreement envisaged by Marx strikes him as fitting only in a primitive community, where blind custom is the sole form of social control. Among the civilized and, a fortiori, under mutualism, disagreement is permissible on all questions except those covered by fundamental norms.

The abolition of conflicting aspirations under communism ends behavioral conflict too. In the classless society men all act the same way or, at most, in compatible ways. In Aristotle's metaphor, they all either sound the same note, or else different notes in the same key.69 It is true that action is also harmonious under mutualism. "Corporative forces balance, and through their just equilibrium, produce general happiness. The opposition of forces thus has their harmony as its end."70 But mutualist harmony is less confining than that produced by communism. Although behavior is concordant, it is not a "concert of instruments in tune like the pipes of an organ," much less a playing in unison.71 People need not refrain from pursuing incompatible objectives, but may discuss and bargain until they reach mutually satisfactory terms of agreement. For Proudhon, therefore, social pressure does not abolish conflict in order to bring about harmony, as it does for Marx. Instead, it limits conflict so that people can arrive at agreements, but, within these limits, leaves them free to seek incompatible ends.

Proudhon even goes a step further to insist that appropriately limited conflict is desirable. "Diversities are the very basis . . . of mutualism."72 He was no advocate of agreement for its own sake because he thought that anything more than a minimal consensus was unduly repressive. One of the things most needed by his ideal man is "that bellicose disposition which puts him above all authority."73

This qualified defense of conflict is entirely in keeping with Proudhon's belief that the good society is based on bargaining and discussion. Both of these are by nature at once cooperative and antagonistic activities.74 They begin in conflict and end in consensus. Hence, in a society like Proudhon's, where bargaining and discussion prevail, rivalry and agreement are equally necessary. "Whoever speaks of harmony and agreement" in such a society "necessarily assumes conflicting terms," for then "there has to be a struggle before there can be a settlement."75

The presence of bargaining and discussion in Proudhon's ideal society, and their absence from Marx's, is thus the point that explains the main differences between them. Marx relied exclusively on the pressure of public opinion to protect the stability endangered by the absence of law and government. By doing so, he was obliged to inject a strong dose of social pressure into his system. Proudhon, on the other hand, relied on bargaining and discussion as well as social pressure. His use of the former allowed him to lean less heavily on the latter in his effort to secure peace. For him, social pressure had to enforce only a fundamental agreement beyond which conflicts of interest and ideals, though not of basic values, were given free reign. Within the framework of mutualist principles people were allowed to choose as well as act as they saw fit. It is easily seen that Proudhon's reliance on bargaining does more than account for the differences between his ideal and Marx's. It also explains why it is more respectful. By giving people more leeway to act and resolve as they please, mutualism comes closer than communism to adherence to respect's imperatives.

From Mutualism to Federalism

Whatever its advantages over Marx's ideal, the fact remains that mutualism was, and had to be, a failure on its own terms, because the problems that face it are insoluble. The only way Proudhon could hope to frame successful proposals was to admit that he had been asking the wrong questions. At the very end of his life he did just that. As late as 1860 he was still berating "the principle of authority as incompatible with man's dignity."76 He still wanted to achieve respect absolutely. But just three years later he admitted that his arch-enemy was invincible and that perfect adherence to the rules of respect could not be achieved. "Liberty . . . assumes an Authority that bargains with it, restrains it, tolerates it. . . . It follows that in any society, . . . even the most liberal, a place is reserved for Authority."77 Once Proudhon had admitted this, a new way of putting the problem of social reconstruction came into sight. He no longer asked, How can perfect order and respect be achieved? but How can society be arranged so as to achieve as much of each as possible? The ideals that he had once sought to realize were now "condemned permanently to the status of desiderata."78 The problem was to "balance Authority with Liberty and vice versa," not to destroy the first and perfectly achieve the other.79

What this meant in more concrete terms was that in the end Proudhon accepted the need for government. He did more than accept it; he went on to show how its disrespectful effects could be minimized. This demonstration involved elaboration of one of his best-known doctrines: his theory of federalism.

As Franz Neumann has noted, Proudhon's "theory of federalism has nothing in common with that of the federal state; it is rather the very negation of it."80 The sharp distinction between Proudhon's federalism and the more orthodox varieties results from a difference of underlying purpose. Most advocates of federation have supported their case with strictly political arguments. Either they see federalism as a way to divide power without impairing its effectiveness too much; or they point to its encouragement of grass-roots political participation; or else they emphasize its usefulness for bringing a diverse population under a common government. In short, they back federalism as a way toward constitutionalism, democracy, or unity. Proudhon's defense is quite different. He supports federalism not for the sake of its political effects, but as a political arrangement that can protect mutualist social practices with minimal resort to governmental authority. Unless it is understood that Proudhon's federalism has this unorthodox objective, many of its most curious features remain obscure.81

No more than the briefest description of these features is needed here. While recognizing that excessive dismantling of central government is dangerous, Proudhon is anxious to go far in this direction.82 The fact that mutualism enables society to perform many functions without governmental assistance allows him to go a considerable distance. His federalism is a contractual arrangement in which the largest units are assigned the fewest powers and the smallest ones tlie most. The result is the subordination of the higher levels to the lower. The local units are even given the right to secede. For Proudhon a federal state is one "whose parties, recognized as sovereign, have the choice of leaving the group and breaking the pact ad libitum."83

From this description it looks as if Proudhon goes further toward dismantling government than even the most enthusiastic economic liberals, for though they favored a non-interventionist state, they wanted it to be strong within its limited sphere. This inference is not strictly correct. Though Proudhon does not assign all of the powers to central government that the liberals do, he nevertheless gives it others that they withhold. True, the Proudhonian central government is an imperfect night watchman, since it is not given much power to police the bargaining process. But it also plays another, more positive, role. It is a creative initiator as well as a neutral arbiter and enforcer. "The State is the generator and supreme director of movement. . . . [It] is always in action, because it continually has new needs to satisfy, new questions to resolve."84 The only thing the central government emphatically is not is a routine administrator. "After introducing an innovation, . . . the State withdraws, leaving execution of the new service to local authorities and citizens."85 Proudhonian federalism is thus far from opposed to intervention from the center, though it is incompatible with centralized administration.

It is not hard to show that federalism is a closer approximation of Proudhon's social ideal than mutualism. Admittedly, neither arrangement is more respectful than the other. Both include principles which, being hierarchic, are incompatible with Proudhon's supreme values. Both try to secure obedience to these principles by equally disrespectful means. Social pressure manipulates decisions, instead of identifying with them. Law and government coerce action, instead of leaving it unrestrained.

But though federalism is no more respectful than mutualism, it is better able to maintain order. In principle, certainly, law and government are more reliable methods of social control than public opinion. Hence there is a strong presumption that federalism is a more stable system than mutualism. It might be objected, however, that this presumption does not hold for Proudhon's federalism, because there central government is so thoroughly dismembered that it cannot effectively manage conflict. To this objection two answers are possible. The first is a reminder that Proudhon's federal government is designed to regulate no ordinary society, but a mutualist one. He is perfectly willing to admit that a federation of the kind he advocates could not maintain order in any actual societies. But a mutualist society is organized according to principles which dispose its members to resolve their disputes peacefully. Under these conditions, Proudhon argues, a government assigned no more than the jobs he gives it is an adequate instrument for maintaining peace.86

Should the objector remain unconvinced, Proudhon could retreat to a second, less explicit, line of defense. He is not so much interested in prescribing a fixed and ideal pattern for the territorial distribution of power, as in calling attention to some general principles for its allocation. The book in which he outlines his scheme is about the federative principle, and is intended to put us "on the road to truth," not lay down the final word.87 Hence, though Proudhon's specific recipe for allocating power may dismantle central government too much, there is nothing in his general theory of federalism to prevent more centralization, should it be needed to maintain peace.

Is federalism, judged by Proudhon's own standards, superior not only to mutualism, but to all existing, more unitary governmental arrangements? If suitably adjusted, federalism can perhaps protect personal security as well, though certainly no better than more centralized plans. Hence it may be as good a maintainer of order as they, at least potentially. But since it is at best only on a par with them as a manager of conflict, it must excel as an achiever of respect, if it is to qualify as superior in Proudhon's eyes. Certainly, Proudhon's federation restrains action less severely than more centralized governments. But it more frequently manipulates the will. Judged by the norms of respect, then, Proudhon's final plan for social reconstruction is no improvement on existing arrangements. Federalism may allow more freedom of action, but this advantage is offset by its more frequent disregard for personal choice.

Bargaining and the Problem of Liberation

Although federalism falls at least as short of Proudhon's ideals as do unitary governments, it comes closer to them than mutualism. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to dismiss the latter as utterly worthless. The truth is that federalism is indebted to the insights of mutualism for its superiority. Had Proudhon not first tried to describe a society of pure bargainers, totally liberated from government and hierarchy, he could scarcely have found the safe way to limited freedom from their control that he ultimately proposed. His theory of bargaining, though developed as part of mutualism, is thus crucial for federalism. It is the ingredient that excuses the failure of the former and explains the latter's relative success. Bargaining is the factor responsible for whatever reduction in political coercion federalism showed how to achieve.

Proudhon's insights into the nature of bargaining stem from his ambivalent view of it. He is both critical and enthusiastic. His enthusiasm for bargaining is aroused by its liberating potential, as we have seen. This practice is a promising alternative to the market, hierarchy, and law for anyone who despises "presumptive authority" and wants "to handle matters directly, individually, by himself."88 Such a person sees all existing societies as hopelessly contaminated by higher authorities who overrule opposed parties instead of letting them resolve their disputes by diemselves.

Though Proudhon was one of the first to denounce established institutions on this ground, he was certainly not the last. A long line of pluralists have sung the praise of bargaining for similar reasons. But seldom have they done so with much recognition of that practice's dangers. This was not the case with Proudhon. His fear of a Hobbesian nightmare led him to discover some, but by no means all, of the social and psychological conditions needed to make bargaining operate successfully. His theory of bargaining may therefore serve as a suggestive starting point for anyone who wants to complete the unfinished search for these conditions.

Just as Proudhon's realistic doubts led to an analysis of the prerequisites to bargaining, so his moral qualms inspired an investigation of its ethical validity. Here too a critical attitude distinguishes his view of bargaining from that of most advocates, who often assume, without much argument, that it is morally justified. One recent opponent has put the ethical case against it well: "To approach decision in the bargaining spirit is to confuse 'solving' with 'getting.' This confusion is part of the pathology of the governing process . . . [which] . . . is a cooperative not a competitive activity and, in spirit, utterly alien to the bargaining temper of the marketplace."89 With much of this critique, Proudhon agrees completely. Bargainers left free to follow an unchecked course are all too likely to choose a disrespectful one. But unlike the critics who make this point Proudhon does not prescribe a legalistic remedy by empowering neutral third parties to judge disputes. Bargaining has a liberating promise as well as a disrespectful one. The proper course is therefore not to scrap it but to perfect it by appropriate techniques of moral regulation. If contenders all accept the same standards of justice, there will be no need for higher authorities to impose settlements. Disputes will then be resolved safely and equitably by the interested parties themselves.

Proudhon certainly comes no nearer to moralizing bargaining than to stabilizing it. The value of his position lies more in its intention than its accomplishment. But in the process of imperfectly developing his position, he dropped hints of its unrealized possibilities, thus inviting its revival and further elaboration in times to come. In spite of the present popularity of bargaining, no one has yet devised a satisfactory theory, fully elucidating its requirements, advantages, and limitations.90 Proudhon's approach to these questions may be of use, as both a model and a warning, to those who continue the enterprise he helped begin.


1 G.P., p. 121.

2 Ibid., p. 118.

3 Ibid., pp. 55, 93.

4 J.G., p. 284.

5 Ibid.

6 Justice, II, 147.

7 Cap., p. 141.

8 Justice, II, 92-93, 147-48.

9 Ibid., I, 305.

10 I.G., p. 132; cf. Cont., 1, 212. At least one eminent critic has been so impressed with Proudhon's attack on free enterprise that he overlooked his defense of competition. According to Isaiah Berlin, "Competition . . . was to Proudhon the greatest of evils," Karl Marx (2d ed., London, 1948), p. 113.

11 I.G., p. 132.

12 Mel., II, 2.

13 I.G., pp. 188, 267.

14 This analysis of bargaining was suggested by Martin Meyerson and Edward Banfield, Politics, Planning and the Public Interest (Glencoe, 1955), pp. 306-307. Other helpful discussions of bargaining are Neil Chamberlain, A General Theory of Economic Process (New York, 1955), pp. 74-160; Carl J. Friedrich, Man and His Government (New York, 1963), pp. 484-501; Robert A. Dahl and Charles E. Lindblom, Politics, Economics and Welfare (New York, 1953), pp. 324-33, 472-93; Brian Barry, Political Argument (London, 1965), pp. 84-91.

15 Meyerson and Banfield, p. 309.

16 Justice, 11, 262.

17 G.P., p. 133.

18 Proudhon did not favor a society composed of small groups, as Martin Buber contends. Buber regards Proudhon as an advocate of face-to-face contacts for their own sake and claims him as a partisan of "the local community or commune, living on the strength of its own interior relationships," Paths in Utopia (Boston, 1958), p. 28. It is true that occasional notes of this sort creep into some of Proudhon's last writings, but they are absent from his most systematic works. In these, the point of social reconstruction is not to vitalize the primary community but to organize a large society in a respectful way. For this purpose, a reduction in group size may sometimes be useful: when it helps equalize bargaining power. Other circumstances may call for an increase in dimension. In fact, Proudhon is quite willing to favor large organizations, if they will increase the control of weak contenders over the goods they supply. Large groups can help support the bargaining process provided they do not become so large as to unilaterally control the supply of important goods. I.G., p. 270; Cap., pp. 190-91; Carnets, III, 114. It is also noteworthy that Proudhon, besides defending large groups, also denounced the petty surveillance prevalent in the small communities which Buber thinks he favors. "If authority is painful, the jealousy of confreres is no easier to put up with," Carnets, vi, 88.

19 Prop., p. 215.

20 G.P., p. 132.

21 Ibid., pp. 133-34.

22 Justice, iv, 263.

23 Ibid., II, 259.

24 Ibid., III, 429.

25 Cap., p. 189; cf. Avert., p. 197.

26 It is of course true that Proudhon's aims of equalizing the power of contenders and increasing their diversity are far from compatible. Under conditions of perfect social diversity each contender would be the unique supplier of some good and hence would have monopoly control. If the good were a vital one, his monopoly would give him a great power advantage over other parties. The problem of reconciling the two objectives is therefore great, but this does not necessarily vitiate their merit. The thesis that diversity can neutralize the disadvantages of equal power still deserves serious attention.

27 G.P., p. 201.

28 Justice, III, 275.

29 Cap., p. 218.

30 Ibid., p. 137.

31 Justice, iv, 263.

32 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. A. D. Lindsay (New York, 1950), p. 102.

33 Justice, I, 316; cf. III, 519. Proudhon sometimes took an easy and inadequate way around the problems faced by his scheme for structural reform, by resorting to the dictum that men would learn to bargain peacefully simply by living in a mutualist society. The member of a mutualist society, Proudhon sometimes contends, "is not the same. . . . His conscience is different, his self is changed," Justice, 1, 420; cf. ibid., II, 261; iv, 366.

34 I.G., p. 206; cf. Justice, 1, 304.

36 My defense of commutative justice owes much to Judith Shklar's remarks in Legalism (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), pp. 113-23.

36 I.G., pp. 287-89.

37 Prog., p. 82.

38 Cap., p. 146.

39 Prog., p. 82.

40 Cap., p. 150; cf. Justice, III, 128.

41 Leon Walras, L'economie politique et la justice (Paris, 1860), p. 44. But Walras did have doubts about the consistency of Proudhon's egalitarianism, cf. pp. 48, 50, 52.

42 Cap., p. 202.

43 Justice, II, 75; III, 96; cf. Cont., II, 289.

44 G.P., p. 129.

45 Cont., II, 189. In his remarks on "Super-Subordination without Degradation," Georg Simmel develops Proudhon's hints in a way similar to mine, but Simmel relies hardly at all on Proudhon's writings for his interpretation. See The Sociology of Georg Simmel, ed. Kurt H. Wolff (Glencoe, 1950), p. 285.

46 Justice, 11, 6. Some writers claim that Proudhon's prediction of abundance is not only unfounded, but also contradicted by other parts of his theory, e.g., Henri Bachelin, P.-J. Proudhon, socialiste nationale (Paris, 1941), p. 151. To them, Proudhon is an ascetic who both disliked abundance and thought it unattainable. The first of these claims arises from confusing Proudhon's opposition to great inequality of wealth with antipathy to prosperity as such. Actually, Proudhon was not hostile to affluence. In fact, he favored it, provided it was fairly shared. His main economic objective was to "have as much as possible produced and consumed, by the greatest possible number of men," Cont., n, 308.

Did Proudhon perhaps think that though abundance was good it was unattainable? Those who say this rely mainly on passages from La guerre et la paix like the following: "When you have done everything that energetic production and exact distribution allow to make yourselves rich, you will be astonished to see that you have actually done no more than earn your living, and that you haven't the resources to take a two week vacation." p. 336.

If an economy counts as abundant when it produces many more goods and services than are needed to support physical life, then Proudhon certainly thought abundance possible, despite passages like the foregoing. Misunderstanding has arisen because he uses the term "abundance" in an odd way, to denote a situation where more goods and services are produced than are consumed, G.P., p. 242. It is this excess of production over consumption, and not a surplus of production over subsistence, that he thinks unattainable, ibid., p. 343.

He may be as mistaken to say that every good and service produced must be consumed, as he would have been if he had said it is impossible to produce more goods and services than are needed to support physical life. But since he did not make the second statement, his prediction of abundance cannot be criticized as inconsistent with it.

So far as I know, Gaetan Pirou is the only writer who remarks on Proudhon's odd definition of abundance. See Proudhonisme et syndicalisme revolutionnaire (Paris, 1910), p. 45.

47 Justice, III, 129.

48 I.G., p. 174.

49 Justice, iv, 267, 271.

50 Justice, iv, 278.

51 Ibid., iv, 274.

52 Ibid., iv, 270.

53 I.G., p. 331.

54 G.P., p. 398.

55 Cap., p. 219.

56 Ibid., p. 220.

57 I.G., pp. 333-35.

58 Cap., pp. 219-20.

59 Nicolas Bourgeois, Les theories de droit international chez Proudhon (Paris, 1927), p. 21; Madeleine Amoudruz, Proudhon et l'Europe (Paris, 1945), p. 51.

60 Justice, I, 426.

61 Chamberlain, pp. 265-69.

62 I.G., p. 188.

63 Cours, I-14A (13), ellipsis in original.

64 Justice, iv, 264.

65 Justice, iv, 274.

66 Journal des debats (January 3, 1913). Halevy's description echoes Proudhon's in Com., II, 198. Yet no less a writer than Georges Sorel singled out Proudhon's theory of love for special praise. Reflections on Violence, Collier Book edition (New York, 1961), p. 235.

67 S. I. Benn and R. S. Peters, Social Principles and the Democratic State (London, 1959), pp. 230-33; George Orwell, "Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver's Travels," reprinted in The Orwell Reader, ed. Richard Rovere (New York, 1956), pp. 292-93.

68 Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, trans., Martin Milligan (Moscow, 1961), pp. 102, 104.

69 Aristotle, Politics, ed. Ernest Barker (New York, 1958), p.

70 G.P., p. 134.

71 Justice, III, 405.

72 Cap., p. 218. Marx explicitly denounced Proudhon's celebration of conflict. See the interesting confrontation by Robert C. Tucker, "Marx and Distributive Justice" in Justice, eds. Carl J. Friedrich and John W. Chapman (New York, 1963), pp. 324-25.

73 G.P., p. 464. To preclude misunderstanding, it should be noted that Proudhon was no advocate of conflict for its own sake. "Antagonism has no value except by virtue of the creation of which it is the agent," G.P., p. 477.

74 Chamberlain, General Theory of Economic Process, pp. 77-78, 85.

75 Justice, III, 256; G.P., p. 54.

76 Justice, 11, 311. But cf. iv, 456, written just a few months after the foregoing, where signs of reconciliation with authority are already apparent.

77 P.F., pp. 271-72.

78 Ibid., p. 279; cf. Corr., xn, 220-21, letter of Dec. 2, 1862.

79 Ibid., p. 272.

80 Franz Neumann, The Democratic and the Authoritarian State (Glencoe, 1957), p. 218.

81Stanley Hoffmann calls attention to just this feature of Proudhon's federalism. See "The Areal Division of Powers in the Writings of French Political Thinkers" in Area and Power, ed. Arthur Maass (Glencoe, 1959), p. 129.

82 P.F., p. 355.

83 Cap., p. 207.

84 P.F., pp. 327, 329.

85 Ibid., p. 327.

86 Ibid., p. 330; cf. Cap., p. 211.

87 P.F., p. 326.

88 I.G., p. 211.

89 Joseph Tussman, Obligation and the Body Politic (New York, i960), p. 117. This is one of the book's most insistent but least adequately defended points; cf. pp. 30, 71-2, 81, 99, 115-16.

90 Dahl and Lindblom lament that "bargaining lacks a widely accepted theoretical rationale." Politics, Economics and Welfare, p. 472.