Pierre-Joseph Proudhon


French Libertarian, Socialist, Mutualist Philosopher and Economist

Author Quotes

You triumphed, and no one dared to contradict you, when, after having tormented in his body and in his soul the righteous Job, a type of our humanity, you insulted his candid piety, his prudent and respectful ignorance. We were as naught before your invisible majesty, to whom we gave the sky for a canopy and the earth for a footstool. And now here you are dethroned and broken. Your name, so long the last word of the savant, the sanction of the judge, the force of the prince, the hope of the poor, the refuge of the repentant sinner, ? this incommunicable name, I say, henceforth an object of contempt and curses, shall be a hissing among men. For God is stupidity and cowardice; God is hypocrisy and falsehood; God is tyranny and misery; God is evil. As long as humanity shall bend before an altar, humanity, the slave of kings and priests, will be condemned; as long as one man, in the name of God, shall receive the oath of another man, society will be founded on perjury; peace and love will be banished from among mortals. God, take yourself away! for, from this day forth, cured of your fear and become wise, I swear, with hand extended to heaven, that you are only the tormentor of my reason, the spectre of my conscience.

Association is a bond which is naturally opposed to liberty, and which nobody consents to submit, unless it furnishes sufficient indemnification... Let us make a distinction between the principle of association, and the infinitely variable methods, of which a society makes us... association applicable only under special conditions... Association formed without any outside economic consideration, or any leading interest, association for its own sake is... without real value, a myth... mutualism intends men to associate only insofar as this is required by the demands of production, the cheapness of goods, the needs of consumption and security of the producers themselves, i.e., in those cases where it is not possible for the public to rely upon private industry.

Either Property will overrule the Republic, or the Republic will overrule Property.

In order to organise the future, a general rule confirmed by experience, the reformers always start out with their gaze fixed upon the past. Hence the contradiction forever discovered in their actions: hence also the immeasurable danger of revolutions.

Property is impossible.

The government can do nothing for you. But you can do everything for yourselves.

We deny government and the State, because we affirm that which the founders of States have never believed in, the personality and autonomy of the masses.

Writers have mistakenly introduced a political assumption as false as it is dangerous, in failing to distinguish practice from theory, the real, from the ideal... every real government is necessarily mixed.

AXIOM. ? Property is the Right of Increase claimed by the Proprietor over anything which he has stamped as his own.

Few people defend the present state of affairs, but the distaste for utopias is no less widespread.

Indeed, Citizen of Geneva, you talk well. But before holding forth about the sovereign and the prince, about the policeman and the judge tell me first what is my share of the bargain? What? You expect me to sign an agreement in virtue of which I may be prosecuted for a thousand transgressions, by municipal, rural, river and forest police, handed over to tribunals, judged, condemned for damage, cheating, swindling, theft, bankruptcy, robbery, disobedience to the laws of the State, offence to public morals, vagabondage,--and in this agreement I find not a word of either my rights or my obligations, I find only penalties!

Property is robbery! That is the war-cry of '93! That is the signal of revolutions!

The law does not generate justice. The law is nothing but a declaration and application of what is just.

We desire a peaceful revolution... you should make use of the very institutions which we charge you to abolish... in such a way that the new society may appear as the spontaneous, natural and necessary development of the old and that the revolution, while abrogating the old order, should nevertheless be derived from it.

Besides universal suffrage and as a consequence of universal suffrage, we want implementation of the binding mandate. Politicians balk at it! Which means that in their eyes, the people, in electing representatives, do not appoint mandatories but rather abjure their sovereignty! That is assuredly not socialism: it is not even democracy.

From above? signifies power; from below signifies the people. On the one hand we have the actions of government; on the other, the initiative of the masses.

Industrial democracy must follow industrial feudalism.

Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak.

The newspapers are the cemeteries of ideas.

We should not put forward revolutionary action as a means of social reform because that pretended means would simply be an appeal to force, or arbitrariness, in brief a contradiction. I myself put the problem this way; to bring about the return to society by an economic combination, of the wealth drawn from society.

But every penalty no doubt presupposes a duty, and every duty corresponds to a right. Where then in your agreement are my rights and duties? What have I promised to my fellow citizens? What have they promised to me? Show it to me, for without that, your penalties are but excesses of power, your law-controlled State a flagrant usurpation, your police, your judgment and your executions so many abuses. You who have so well denied property, who have impeached so eloquently the inequality of conditions among men, what dignity, what heritage, have you for me in your republic, that you should claim the right to judge me, to imprison me, to take my life and honor? Perfidious declaimer, have you inveighed so loudly against exploiters and tyrants, only to deliver me to them without defense?

I am an Anarchist.

It is a very different thing with the government of humanity. Here order does not appear at the same time as matter; it was not created, as in the system of the world, once and for eternity. It is gradually developed according to an inevitable series of principles and consequences which the human being himself, the being to be ordered, must disengage spontaneously, by his own energy and at the solicitation of experience. No revelation regarding this is given him. Man is submitted at his origin to a pre-established necessity, to an absolute and irresistible order. That this order may be realized, man must discover it; that it may exist, he must have divined it. This labor of invention might be abridged; no one, either in heaven or on earth, will come to man?s aid; no one will instruct him. Humanity, for hundreds of centuries, will devour its generations; it will exhaust itself in blood and mire, without the God whom it worships coming once to illuminate its reason and abridge its time of trial. Where is divine action here? Where is Providence?

Since property is the grand cause of privilege and despotism, the form of the republican oath should be changed. Instead of, ?I swear hatred to royalty,? henceforth the new member of a secret society should say, ?I swear hatred to property.?

The people have never done anything but pray and pay: we believe that the time has come to make them philosophize.

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French Libertarian, Socialist, Mutualist Philosopher and Economist