Courtesy of Bibliotheque nationale

The Political Thought
of Pierre-Joseph








Acknowledgments v
Abbreviations vii

  1. Proudhon and His Interpreters 3
  2. The Realistic Basis of Proudhon's Political Theory 26
    Human Nature and the Limits of Oppression 27
    Society's Invisible Restraints 34
    A New View of History: From Savagery to Despair 37
    History and the Prospects for Liberation 48
    The Validity of Proudhonian History 54

  3. Dilemmas of Ethics 63
    The Theoretical Roots of Proudhon's Ethical Ambivalence 65
    The Tasks of Moral Theory: Propagation and Application 70
    False Solutions and Furdier Problems 74
    Social Pressure 78
    Vigilante Justice 85
    Kantian Formalism and Proudhonian Practicality 90

  4. Proudhon as a Radical Critic of Established Institutions 94
    The Social Evils: Deference and Inequality 94
    The Political Evils: Government and Law 101

  5. Proudhon as a Rebuilder of Society 118
    The Dangers of Anarchy: Hobbes and Proudhon 118
    The Illusions of Laissez-Faire 120
    The Virtues of Bargaining 124
    Mutualist Society 126
    The Mutualist Norm: Commutative Justice 134
    The Productivity Standard and the Failure of Mutualism 136
    The Consolations of Love 142
    The Problem of Survival 144
    Two Types of Social Conformism: Marx and Proudhon 151
    From Mutualism to Federalism 155
    Bargaining and the Problem of Liberation 160

  6. Tactical Problems: The Disparity Between Means and Ends 163
    The Varieties of Perfectionist Impotence 164
    Misdirected Expediency: Proudhon as a Collaborator 182
    Radicalism, Perfection, and Tactical Effectiveness 189

  7. Explanation and Criticism 195
    French Authority and Proudhonian Implausibility 195
    Respect or Autonomy? 200
    A Test for Autonomous Choice 203
    Some Implications of Autonomy for Society and Government 209
    Is Autonomy Desirable? 214

    Index 219


    Several institutions and individuals have helped me write this book. A Fulbright Fellowship in 1963-1964 enabled me to do research in Paris for the doctoral dissertation that was my first interpretation of Proudhon. Rethinking and rewriting were facilitated by grants from the American Philosophical Society and the Faculty Research Committee of the University of Virginia. The latter, along with the same University's Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, helped subsidize publication. Suzanne Berger read the first draft of the dissertation; Nicholas Wahl, Alexander Sedgwick and Dante Germino a late draft of the final manuscript. All four made helpful suggestions for improvements. I am also indebted to Pierre Haubtmann for valuable discussions on Proudhon and for access to unpublished material. My greatest thanks go to Stanley Hoffmann, whose advice and encouragement at all stages of my work were indispensable for its completion. None of these people can, of course, be held responsible for its content.


    Listed below are the abbreviations employed in the footnotes for writings by Proudhon cited in the text. The dates within parentheses are the publication dates of the editions used. Where-ever possible this is the new Riviere edition, eds. Celestin Bougie and Henri Moysset (Paris, 1923 ff). Lacroix of Paris published those editions used which appeared prior to 1923. Where the original date of publication differs from that of the edition used here, the original date is given in square brackets. The English titles supplied below are my own, as are all translations from Proudhon's French sources, unless otherwise stated.

    Dim.De la celebration du dimanche (1926) [1839]. On the Observance of the Sabbath.
    Prop. Qu'est-ce que la propriete? (1926) [1840]. What is Property?
    D.M.Qu'est-ce que la propriete? Deuxieme memoire (1938 ) [1841]. What is Property? Second Essay.
    Avert.Avertissement aux proprietaires (1938) [1842]. Notice to Property Owners.
    OrdreDe la creation de l'ordre dans l'humanite (192J) [1843]. On the Creation of Order Among Men.
    Carnets Les carnets, 11 vols., written, 1843-1864. Volumes 1-5 and most of Volume 6 have been published, 2 vols. (1960). The others are scheduled for publication. The manuscript is in the Bibliotheque nationale. References are to the manuscript pages of both published and unpublished Carnets. The manuscript page numbers are given in the published text. Notebooks.
    Cont.Systeme des contradictions economiques, ou philosophic de la misere, 2 vols. (1923) [1846]. System of Economic Contradictions, or Philosophy of Poverty.
    Mel.Melanges, 3 vols. (1868-1870), consists mainly of newspaper articles [1847-1850]. Miscellaneous Works.
    Sol.Solution du probleme sociale (1868) [1848]. Solution to the Social Problem.
    Conf.Les confessions d'un revolutionnaire (1929) [1849]. Confessions of a Revolutionary.
    Cours"Cours d'economie politique," written, 1849-1855. References are to the page numbers established by Pierre Haubtmann and explained in his thesis, "La philosophic sociale de Pierre-Joseph Proudhon" (Faculte des lettres et des sciences humaines de Paris, 1961). "Treatise on Political Economy."
    I.G.Idee generale de la revolution au dix-neuvieme siecle (1923) [1851]. General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century.
    R.S.La revolution sociale demontree par le coup d'etat du deux decembre (1936) [1852]. The Social Revolution Vindicated by the Coup d'Etat of December Second.
    Prog.Philosophic du progres, programme (1946) [1853]. Philosophy of Progress.
    JusticeDe la Justice dans la Revolution et dans l'Eglise, 4 vols. (1930-1935) [1858]. On Justice in the Revolution and in the Church.
    G.P.La guerre et la paix (1927) [1861]. War and Peace.
    P.F.Du principe federatif (1959) [1863]. On the Principle of Federation.
    Cap. De la capacite politique des classes ouvrieres (1924) [1865]. On the Political Capacity of the Working Classes.
    Corr.Correspondance, 14 vols. (Paris, 1874-1875). Correspondence.

    The Political Thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

    Nous sommes bien pluj appliques a noter les contradictions, souvent imaginaires, et les autres fautes d'un auteur, qu'a profiter de ses vues, vraies ou fausses.—Vauvenargues, Maxime No. 622