Proudhon’s work is a classic for many reasons. Not only did it put a name to a tendency within socialism (“I am an Anarchist”) and raise a battle-cry against inequality (“Property is Theft!”), it also sketched a new, free, society: anarchy.
or, The Philosophy of Poverty
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon made his name with his first Memoir on property, 1840’s “What is Property?” After two more Memoirs in 1841 and 1842, his next major work was 1846’s “System of Economic Contradictions” in which he first used “mutualism” to describe his libertarian socialism (inspired by the workers in Lyons where he stayed in 1843).
When society has turned from within to without, all relations are overturned. Yesterday we were walking with our heads downwards; today we hold them erect, without any interruption to our life. Without losing our personality, we change our existence. Such is the nineteenth century Revolution.
The fundamental, decisive idea of this Revolution is it not this: NO MORE AUTHORITY, neither in the Church, nor in the State, nor in land, nor in money?
Government [...] has for its dogmas:
1. The original perversity of human nature;
2. The inevitable inequality of fortunes;
3. The permanency of quarrels and wars;
Rousseau said truly: No one should obey a law to which he has not consented; and M. Rittinghausen too was right when he proved that in consequence the law should emanate directly from the sovereign, without the intermediary of representatives.
The preceding studies, as much upon contemporaneous society as upon the reforms which it suggests, have taught us several things which it is well to recount here summarily.
The fall of the July monarchy and the proclamation of the Republic were the signal for a social revolution.
This Revolution, at first not understood, little by little became defined, determined and settled, under the influence of the very same Reaction which was displayed against it, from the first days of the Provisional Government.
I begin with the principle of Association.
A revolution is an act of sovereign justice, in the order of moral facts, springing out of the necessity of things, and in consequence carrying with it its own justification; and which it is a crime for the statesman to oppose it. That is the proposition which we have established in our first study.