Property is impossible; equality does not exist. We hate the former, and yet wish to possess it; the latter rules all our thoughts, yet we know not how to reach it. Who will explain this profound antagonism between our conscience and our will? Who will point out the causes of this pernicious error, which has become the most sacred principle of justice and society?
I am bold enough to undertake the task, and I hope to succeed.
The last resort of proprietors, — the overwhelming argument whose invincible potency reassures them, — is that, in their opinion, equality of conditions is impossible. “Equality of conditions is a chimera,” they cry with a knowing air; “distribute wealth equally to-day — to-morrow this equality will have vanished.”
Nearly all the modern writers on jurisprudence, taking their cue from the economists, have abandoned the theory of first occupancy as a too dangerous one, and have adopted that which regards property as born of labour. In this they are deluded; they reason in a circle. To labour it is necessary to occupy, says M. Cousin.
Occupation and civil law as efficient bases of property.
Certain terms, people and events continually appear in Proudhon’s work. Rather than footnote each occurrence, information on them is summarised here. As with many French writers he refers to revolutionary events by date (i.e., ’89 for the start of the Great French Revolution and so on). He also refers to Year I, Year II, and so on, which are from the French Revolutionary calendar that began on September 22nd, 1792, the date of the official abolition of the monarchy and the nobility.
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