Pierre Joseph Proudhon quotes

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Pierre Joseph Proudhon

Birthdate: 15. January 1809
Date of death: 19. January 1865

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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French politician and the founder of mutualist philosophy. He was the first person to declare himself an anarchist and is widely regarded as one of the ideology's most influential theorists. Proudhon is even considered by many to be the "father of anarchism". He became a member of the French Parliament after the revolution of 1848, whereafter he referred to himself as a federalist.

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

Proudhon favored workers' associations or co-operatives, as well as individual worker/peasant possession, over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces. He considered social revolution to be achievable in a peaceful manner. In The Confessions of a Revolutionary Proudhon asserted that, Anarchy is Order Without Power, the phrase which much later inspired, in the view of some, the anarchist circled-A symbol, today "one of the most common graffiti on the urban landscape." He unsuccessfully tried to create a national bank, to be funded by what became an abortive attempt at an income tax on capitalists and shareholders. Similar in some respects to a credit union, it would have given interest-free loans.

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Quotes Pierre Joseph Proudhon

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„Of what consequence to you, reader, is my obscure individuality? I live, like you, in a century in which reason submits only to fact and to evidence. My name, like yours, is truth-seeker.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: Of what consequence to you, reader, is my obscure individuality? I live, like you, in a century in which reason submits only to fact and to evidence. My name, like yours, is truth-seeker. My mission is written in these words of the law: Speak without hatred and without fear; tell that which thou knowest! The work of our race is to build the temple of science, and this science includes man and Nature. Now, truth reveals itself to all; to-day to Newton and Pascal, tomorrow to the herdsman in the valley and the journeyman in the shop. Each one contributes his stone to the edifice; and, his task accomplished, disappears. Eternity precedes us, eternity follows us: between two infinites, of what account is one poor mortal that the century should inquire about him? Disregard then, reader, my title and my character, and attend only to my arguments. Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"

„Is it my fault if hypocrisy and imbecility everywhere hide behind this holy formula?“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
The Philosophy of Misery (1846), Context: Before entering upon the subject-matter of these new memoirs, I must explain an hypothesis which will undoubtedly seem strange, but in the absence of which it is impossible for me to proceed intelligibly: I mean the hypothesis of a God. To suppose God, it will be said, is to deny him. Why do you not affirm him? Is it my fault if belief in Divinity has become a suspected opinion; if the bare suspicion of a Supreme Being is already noted as evidence of a weak mind; and if, of all philosophical Utopias, this is the only one which the world no longer tolerates? Is it my fault if hypocrisy and imbecility everywhere hide behind this holy formula?

„Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest feelings.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it be disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance, fortune; force of accumulated property, &c. In communism, inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence. This damaging equation is repellent to the conscience, and causes merit to complain; for, although it may be the duty of the strong to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out of generosity, — they never will endure a comparison. Give them equal opportunities of labor, and equal wages, but never allow their jealousy to be awakened by mutual suspicion of unfaithfulness in the performance of the common task. Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest feelings. Any plan which could be devised for reconciling it with the demands of the individual reason and will would end only in changing the thing while preserving the name. Now, if we are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words. Thus, communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience, and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property is impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism would soon become so through the desire to shirk. Ch. V: "Psychological Explanation of the Idea of Justice and Injustice, and the Determination of the Principle of Government and of Right," Part 2: Characteristics of Communism and of Property

„It is necessary to have lived in this insulator which is called the national assembly, in order to perceive how the men who are the most completely ignorant of the state of the country are almost always the ones who represent it.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
Confessions of a Revolutionary (1849), Context: It is necessary to have lived in this insulator which is called the national assembly, in order to perceive how the men who are the most completely ignorant of the state of the country are almost always the ones who represent it. I set myself to read everything that the distribution bureau sends the representatives: proposals, reports, brochures, even the Moniteur and the Bulletin of the laws. The greater part of my colleagues of the left and the extreme left were in the same perplexity of spirit, in the same ignorance of the daily facts. The national workshops were spoken of only with a kind of fright; for fear of the people is the defect of all those who belong to authority; the people, as concerns power, is the enemy.

„Now, if we are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it be disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance, fortune; force of accumulated property, &c. In communism, inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence. This damaging equation is repellent to the conscience, and causes merit to complain; for, although it may be the duty of the strong to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out of generosity, — they never will endure a comparison. Give them equal opportunities of labor, and equal wages, but never allow their jealousy to be awakened by mutual suspicion of unfaithfulness in the performance of the common task. Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest feelings. Any plan which could be devised for reconciling it with the demands of the individual reason and will would end only in changing the thing while preserving the name. Now, if we are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words. Thus, communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience, and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property is impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism would soon become so through the desire to shirk. Ch. V: "Psychological Explanation of the Idea of Justice and Injustice, and the Determination of the Principle of Government and of Right," Part 2: Characteristics of Communism and of Property

„Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it be disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance, fortune; force of accumulated property, &c. In communism, inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence. This damaging equation is repellent to the conscience, and causes merit to complain; for, although it may be the duty of the strong to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out of generosity, — they never will endure a comparison. Give them equal opportunities of labor, and equal wages, but never allow their jealousy to be awakened by mutual suspicion of unfaithfulness in the performance of the common task. Communism is oppression and slavery. Man is very willing to obey the law of duty, serve his country, and oblige his friends; but he wishes to labor when he pleases, where he pleases, and as much as he pleases. He wishes to dispose of his own time, to be governed only by necessity, to choose his friendships, his recreation, and his discipline; to act from judgment, not by command; to sacrifice himself through selfishness, not through servile obligation. Communism is essentially opposed to the free exercise of our faculties, to our noblest desires, to our deepest feelings. Any plan which could be devised for reconciling it with the demands of the individual reason and will would end only in changing the thing while preserving the name. Now, if we are honest truth-seekers, we shall avoid disputes about words. Thus, communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience, and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property is impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism would soon become so through the desire to shirk. Ch. V: "Psychological Explanation of the Idea of Justice and Injustice, and the Determination of the Principle of Government and of Right," Part 2: Characteristics of Communism and of Property

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„If I were asked to answer the following question: What is slavery? and I should answer in one word, It is murder, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: What is property! may I not likewise answer, It is robbery, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: If I were asked to answer the following question: What is slavery? and I should answer in one word, It is murder, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: What is property! may I not likewise answer, It is robbery, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first? I undertake to discuss the vital principle of our government and our institutions, property: I am in my right. I may be mistaken in the conclusion which shall result from my investigations: I am in my right. I think best to place the last thought of my book first: still am I in my right. Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"

„I must say that I recognized at once that we had never understood the meaning of these words, so common and yet so sacred: Justice, equity, liberty; that concerning each of these principles our ideas have been utterly obscure; and, in fact, that this ignorance was the sole cause, both of the poverty that devours us, and of all the calamities that have ever afflicted the human race.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: I have made every effort to obtain exact information, comparing doctrines, replying to objections, continually constructing equations and reductions from arguments, and weighing thousands of syllogisms in the scales of the most rigorous logic. In this laborious work, I have collected many interesting facts which I shall share with my friends and the public as soon as I have leisure. But I must say that I recognized at once that we had never understood the meaning of these words, so common and yet so sacred: Justice, equity, liberty; that concerning each of these principles our ideas have been utterly obscure; and, in fact, that this ignorance was the sole cause, both of the poverty that devours us, and of all the calamities that have ever afflicted the human race. Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"

„To name a thing is easy: the difficulty is to discern it before its appearance.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: To name a thing is easy: the difficulty is to discern it before its appearance. In giving expression to the last stage of an idea, — an idea which permeates all minds, which to-morrow will be proclaimed by another if I fail to announce it to-day, — I can claim no merit save that of priority of utterance. Do we eulogize the man who first perceives the dawn? Yes: all men believe and repeat that equality of conditions is identical with equality of rights; that property and robbery are synonymous terms; that every social advantage accorded, or rather usurped, in the name of superior talent or service, is iniquity and extortion. All men in their hearts, I say, bear witness to these truths; they need only to be made to understand it. Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"

„All men in their hearts, I say, bear witness to these truths; they need only to be made to understand it.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
What is Property? (1840), Context: To name a thing is easy: the difficulty is to discern it before its appearance. In giving expression to the last stage of an idea, — an idea which permeates all minds, which to-morrow will be proclaimed by another if I fail to announce it to-day, — I can claim no merit save that of priority of utterance. Do we eulogize the man who first perceives the dawn? Yes: all men believe and repeat that equality of conditions is identical with equality of rights; that property and robbery are synonymous terms; that every social advantage accorded, or rather usurped, in the name of superior talent or service, is iniquity and extortion. All men in their hearts, I say, bear witness to these truths; they need only to be made to understand it. Ch. I: "Method Pursued in this Work. The Idea of a Revolution"

„All my political ideas boil down to a similar formula: political federation or decentralization.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
Context: All my economic ideas as developed over twenty-five years can be summed up in the words: agricultural-industrial federation. All my political ideas boil down to a similar formula: political federation or decentralization. Du principe Fédératif [Principle of Federation] (1863)

„To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right, nor the knowledge, nor the virtue.“

—  Pierre Joseph Proudhon
Context: To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated at, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither the right, nor the knowledge, nor the virtue. … To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under the pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonoured. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality. Idée Générale de la Révolution au XIXe Siècle [The General Idea of the Revolution] (1851); quoted in The Anarchists (1964) by James Joll, Ch. 3, p. 78

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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