Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, 1860
Signature Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.PNG

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon [ ˈpjɛʀ ʒoˈzɛf pʀuˈdɔ̃ ] (born January 15, 1809 in Besançon , † January 19, 1865 in Passy , Paris ) was a French economist and sociologist . He is considered to be one of the first representatives of solidarity anarchism . He campaigned for the abolition of exploitation and the rule of man over man, as well as for mutualism and federalism .

The sentence “ Property is theft ” from his work Qu'est ce que la propriété? Ou recherches sur le principe du droit et du gouvernement .

Some of those who developed his theory are also referred to as Proudhonists .


Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was born in Besançon , Doubs department in the Franche-Comté region . He was the son of a cooper and a kitchen maid and worked as an ox herder until his twelfth birthday. A scholarship enabled him to attend school, which he had to end early due to lack of money. He learned the profession of typesetter and continued his education as an autodidact. When he went to Paris, he became the author of many works in the fields of socialism and political economy, including with Karl Grün , Arnold Ruge , the son of Fichte and in Paris with the members of the Société d'Économie Politique (Secretary : Garnier) wrong. His later publisher, Guillaumin, founded the Journal des Économistes in 1841 .

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon et ses enfants (translated: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and his children), painting by Gustave Courbet , 1865

In the February Revolution of 1848 he met Mikhail Bakunin and, as a member of the French National Assembly, developed a work program. He strove for a development towards socialism without violence, supported by the free decision of the workers. Proudhon rejected all state violence and shaped the anarchists' conviction that the unlimited freedom of people was the basic requirement for a socialist order:

“Human exploitation, someone has said, is theft. Well! Man's government by man is slavery! "

During the revolution, Proudhon perceived a tendency towards state socialist ideas, which he opposed in particular in the person of the “government-mad Louis Blancs ”.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon died in this house

After Louis Blanc found a much larger following in the population, Proudhon tried Napoleon III. in support of his plans to win, in which he hoped that Napoleon III. to the "representative of the revolution against will" could become.

In 1849, Proudhon tried to put his reform program into practice by founding a “ Volksbank ” which grants free credit. After six months, however, Proudhon had to close the Volksbank again as he was arrested and imprisoned for three years for two press releases.

Karl Marx initially valued Proudhon, whom he met several times in Paris in 1844/45, and praised Proudhon's "astute work" (Communism and the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung) and, in the Holy Family, his attacks on property (Qu'est-ce que la propriété?) as a progress that revolutionized national economy. During the time of the Communist Correspondence Office, Marx asked Proudhon's cooperation (letter of May 5, 1846); However, the latter refused in his reply of May 17. On the one hand, Proudhon turned against the use of revolutionary force; on the other hand, he warned Marx against authoritarian means and objectives.

To Proudhon's Contradictions économiques (subtitle: Philosophy of misery ) published in October 1846, Marx responded in 1847 with the misery of philosophy . Marx sharply criticized the philosophical and scientific inadequacies that emerged in the writings of the autodidact, which were widespread in France; Likewise, his recurring moralizing approach was disgusting to him (e.g., instead of determining the economic value of labor , Proudhon strove to determine and achieve fair wages ). Instead of measuring the existing relationships against a norm, Marx was more concerned with pointing out the internal contradictions of the existing relationships (especially between capital and labor) and developing practical social criticism from them.

The different standpoints between Marx and Proudhon marked the division of the labor movement in several ways: into supporters of direct action and non-supporters, supporters of a social revolution; of the revolutionary strike (anarchists, Blanqui's supporters and Marx 'supporters) and supporters of a gradual renewal of society (pure reform movements) and in anarchists and “statists” ( state socialism ).

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon died on January 19, 1865 in the house number 12, Rue de Passy in Passy and was buried in the Montparnasse cemetery.


Qu'est ce que la propriété? ; 1841
  • Qu'est ce que la propriété? Ou recherches sur le principe du droit et du gouvernement (1840)

In this work Proudhon draws the conclusion: property is theft . Private property is meant as a privilege or monopoly, in the sense of: "As long as property holds privileges, privileged - that is, extortionate - property means theft". In addition to personal means of work, one may only own those goods which one has produced through one's own or collective labor or acquired in exchange for it. Exploitation of the labor of others should be prevented in order to prevent the resulting accumulation of capital and concentration of power. The society should be based on the voluntary amalgamation of decentrally organized, manageable units ("fédéralisme"), i.e. a system free of domination without state and church .

Proudhon was one of the first to use the term anarchy in a positive way. Proudhon defines “anarchy” based on the original meaning of the word as “absence of every ruler, every sovereign” and concluded “that is the form of government that we are getting closer to every day (...) as man seeks justice in equality, so seeks society the order in anarchy. "

This work went on sale on October 15, 1846 and initially attracted little attention; it was not until the February Revolution that it became a best seller. In his work the author combines reflections on metaphysics, political economy, socialism and sociology. The hypothesis of the existence of God is essential in order to explain the order and progress of history and to guarantee reliable knowledge in general. Contradictions or antinomies exist everywhere, such as between use value and exchange value; Synthesis: the "constituted value" with which the labor value is measured.

Proudhon was inspired to do this by asking questions from the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques :

  1. Identify the general facts governing the relationship between profits and wages and explain the fluctuations in them.
  2. What are the causes of poverty?
  3. What is the most useful way to make use of the principle of voluntary and private association to combat poverty?
  4. Develop the theory and principles of insurance contracts, and what useful applications can be drawn from them for economic progress!
  5. Take a critical look at Pestalozzi's pedagogy, especially with regard to the well-being and moral upbringing of the lower classes!
  6. How do advancement and preference for material wealth affect a people's morale?
  7. Show how the progress of the criminal justice system against attacks on people or property has accompanied civilizational progress!
  8. Explore the different stages of family history in France!
  • Solution duprobleme social (1848)
  • Les Confessions d'un révolutionnaire pour servir à l'histoire de la Révolution de Février (1849)
  • Idée générale de la révolution au XIXe siècle . Garnier frères, Paris 1851. Digitized
  • Le manuel du spéculateur à la bourse (1853)
  • De la justice dans la révolution et dans l'Église. Nouveaux Principes de philosophie pratique (1858)
  • La Guerre et la Paix (1861)
  • Du principe Fédératif (1863)
  • De la capacité politique des classes ouvrières (1865)
  • Du principe de l'art et de sa destination sociale (1865)
  • Théorie de la propriété (1866)
  • Théorie du mouvement constitutionnel (1870)
  • Correspondances (1875)

Proudhon understood socialism as the science of freedom. Politics, on the other hand, as the struggle for power in the state, presupposes, with the latter, the domination of man by man, hence suppression; the highest perfection of society can be found in the union of order and anarchy.

Proudhon's writings influenced numerous intellectuals of his time, but above all the emerging trade union movement in France, which remained anarchist-oriented for a long time and found expression in anarcho-syndicalism .


The criticism of Karl Marx

Proudhon's grave in Paris-Montparnasse

In 1846/47 Karl Marx had come to terms with himself. The publication of the Système des contradictions économiques offered him a welcome opportunity to present the main features of his own historical and economic views in a criticism of one of the most famous French socialists at the time. As a result, Marx's Misère de la philosophie first appeared in French, but initially received little attention in France. Proudhon saved himself the trouble of publicizing Marx's criticism by giving an open answer. His marginal notes on Marx's work have survived, however: Proudhon is often unable to recognize the differences that Marx's criticism wants to see between the two positions.

According to Marx, nothing of Hegelian dialectic can be found in Proudhon's handling and preoccupation with contradictions . In fact, Proudhon only knew Hegelian terms from discussions with German socialists, as he could not read German. Against Proudhon's development of the theory of labor value , Marx asserted the original version of the English economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo , which Proudhon himself described as unscientific and based on illusions, since the value of goods and labor are not calculable quantities but can be freely determined. Marx then mainly criticizes that Proudhon's analysis does not start from a historically developed system of division of labor and commodity production, but constructs reality pseudo-dialectically according to the categories as they are found in his head.

In fact, theoretical stringency is not so much Proudhon's business (in contrast, for example, to Marx, who was trained by Hegel and Ricardo), but rather discursive eloquence and openness to all phenomena of social reality as presented to him on the basis of his own life experience and political practice to have.

  • Karl Marx: Letter to PW Annenkow. Brussels, December 28, 1846, first published Petersburg 1912. [ MEW 4: 547–557]
  • Karl Marx: The misery of philosophy. [ MEW 4: 62-182]
  • Karl Marx: Letter to Johann Baptist von Schweitzer, London January 24, 1865, published as an article on PJ Proudhon in Social-Demokratie No. 16 February 2, No. 17 3.2., No. 18 February 5, 1865, and 1885 as a supplement for the 1st German edition of the misery of philosophy . [ MEW 16:25]
  • Friedrich Engels: Foreword to the first German edition. [ MEW 4: 558-569]

Marx wrote a brochure on Proudhon's Idée générale , which was offered to several publishers without success and the manuscript of which was then lost. Parts of it can be deduced from the correspondence and from the manuscript The Complete Money .

Racism and anti-semitism

In Proudhon's work, anti-Semitic resentments become evident in several places , some of which are rooted in traditional religious anti-Judaism , and in some cases in his socialist convictions. On the one hand, he considers it to be the merit of the Church Fathers that they separated Christianity from Judaism and thus prevented its spiritual and material world domination ; He also accuses them of being responsible for the crucifixion of Christ by murdering God . On the other hand, he sees in them, anticipating modern racial anti-Semitism, an inferior human race that is incapable of economic productivity, of metaphysical conceptual formation and of its own statehood. Jews are necessarily always parasites , an "enemy of the human kind". So there were only two options left:

“You have to send this race to Asia or destroy it. By iron or by fire or by expulsion it is necessary for the Jew to disappear. "

The US historian J. Salwyn Schapiro described Proudhon in an article in 1945 as a “harbinger of fascism ”. His anti-Semitism sees the Jews as the most important source of the nation's misfortune. His racism is also expressed in the description of black people as an inferior race. His glorification of war is an integral part of his social philosophy. Following Schapiro, the historian Frédéric Krier analyzes Proudhon as a “guide to the Third Reich ”. In it he refers to Proudhon's anti-Semitism, to his “fight against ' interest slavery ' and, with reservations, also (to) the demand for bound property” in the interests of the national community as well as to his “middle class socialism”.

His image of the woman

Proudhon represented the model of the nuclear family and ascribed the traditional role of caregiver to women , since he did not see them as being like men. He wrote to an anarchist friend:

“No, Madame, you know nothing of your gender; You don't know the first word of why you and your honorable sisters are acting with so much noise and so little success. And if you don't understand it, this question, if there are forty fallacies in the eight pages of reply you made to my letter, that proves exactly what I said about your sex defects. I understand by this word, the accuracy of which may not be impeccable, the quality of your understanding, which only allows you to grasp the account of things as much as men do with the little finger. In your brain, as in your stomach, there are some organs incapable of themselves by birth, which only the male mind can make to function, to conquer their native indolence, and that the male mind is only able to make it function, although himself he is not even always successful. "


Postcard from 1910

On August 13, 14 and 15, 1910, a bronze statue of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was inaugurated in Besançon , made by the sculptor Georges Laethier , who also came from Besançon. The decision to erect the statue in his hometown was made a year before his hundredth birthday and was carried out through a competition. The statue, like many others, was destroyed by the Nazis during the occupation of France and later replaced.

Work editions

  • Confessions of a Revolutionary . Edited by Arnold Ruge. Leipzig 1850
  • Oeuvres Complètes. 25 volumes. Lacroix, Paris 1870
  • Oeuvres Complètes. Nouvelle Édition publiée avec des notes et des documents inédits sous la direction de C. Bouglé et H. Moysset, Introduction et notes de Roger Picard, Slatkine Genève-Paris 1982 (In vol. I: Système des contradictions économiques, ou philosophie de la misère there is a reproduction of the marginal notes from Proudhon's hand to Marx's Das Elend der Philosophie ). doi : 10.1522 / cla.prp.sys
  • System of economic contradictions or: philosophy of misery. Edited by Lutz Roemheld & Gerhard Senft . Kramer, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3879562814
  • Selected texts. Published by Thilo Ramm & KF Koehler. Stuttgart 1963
  • Carnets inédits. Journal du Second Empire (1847–1865) CNRS, Paris 2009, ISBN 227106788X
  • Theory of Property (1866) Verlag für Sozialökonomie (Gauke), Kiel 2010, ISBN 978-3-87998-458-9 (first German translation by Lutz Roemheld).
  • Théorie de l'impôt, question mise au concours par le Conseil d'État de Vaud en 1860 , 1861.
  • On the federal principle and the need to rebuild the Party of Revolution . First edition 1863, part 1: Verlag Peter Lang, Bern 1989, ISBN 978-3-631-40852-0 . Part 2: Single Policy, 1992 ISBN 978-3631448755 . Part 3: The Unified Press, 1999, ISBN 978-3631347881 .


  • Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve (Author), Michel Brix (Ed.): P.-J. Proudhon. Sa vie et sa correspondance 1838-1848. Édition du Sandre, Paris 2010, ISBN 978-2-358-21053-9 (reprint of the Paris 1873 edition).
  • Karl Diehl : PJ Proudhon. His teaching and his life . Scientia-Verlag, Aalen 1968 (reprint of the Jena 1888 edition).
  • Edouard Droz: P.-J. Proudhon (1809-1865) . Librairie de pages libres, Paris 1909.
  • Arno Münster: The subject of revolt in the work of Jules Vallès . A contribution to the sociology of commune literature (Freiburg writings on Romance philology: vol. 25). Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1974, pp. 26-30 (also dissertation, University of Freiburg / B. 1973).
  • Arthur Mülberger: P.-J. Proudhon. Life and works . 2nd edition Mackay Society, Hamburg 1979, ISBN 3-921388-28-7 (reprint of the Stuttgart 1899 edition).
  • Pierre Haubtmann: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Sa vie et sa pensée (1809-1849). Beauchesne, Paris 1982 (dissertation Sorbonne Paris 1961).
  • Manfred Neuhaus : The social and political background for Marx's first public statement on communism and Proudhon's contribution to the development of social thought in the early forties of the 19th century . Leipzig 1982 (Doctorate to Dr. phil. University of Leipzig)
  • Manfred Neuhaus: Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph . In: Philosophers' Lexicon . Dietz Verlag, Berlin 1982, pp. 769-773.
  • Johannes Hilmer, Lutz Roemheld (Ed.): Proudhon Bibliography . Peter Lang, Frankfurt / M. 1989, ISBN 3-631-41561-3 .
  • Günter Bartsch : If you don't live freedom, it kills you . Noûs-Verlag, Tübingen 1995, pp. 11–24, ISBN 3-924249-16-4 .
  • Frédéric Krier: Socialism for the petty bourgeoisie. Pierre Joseph Proudhon - pioneer of the Third Reich. Böhlau, Cologne - Weimar - Vienna 2009.
  • Thibault Isabel: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. L'anarchy sans le désordre. Editions Autrement, Paris 2017. ISBN 978-2-7467-4545-2 .

Web links

Wikisource: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Pierre-Joseph Proudhon  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Works II, p. 387.
  2. What does property mean? Or: Investigations into the fundamentals of law and state power. French original edition 1840.
  3. ^ Gerhard Göhler and Ansgar Klein: Political Theories of the 19th Century. In: Hans-Joachim Lieber (ed.): Political theories from antiquity to the present. Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 1993, p. 587.
  4. ^ German: PJ Proudhon: What is property First memorandum: Investigations into the origin and foundations of law and rule (1840 )
  5. ^ French: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1840): Qu'est-ce que la propriété? Premier mémoire (PDF file; 684 kB)
  6. MEW: 28, 296-304, 306, 308-311, 312-315 and 317-318.
  7. ^ Roman Rosdolsky: On the genesis of Marx's "Capital". The rough draft of the capital 1857-1858 , vol. 1; European Publishing House Frankfurt am Main, 4th edition 1974; ISBN 3-434-45003-3 ; P. 19f
  8. ^ Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: Carnets, December 26, 1847 (Notebooks, December 26, 1847, quoted from Dominique Trimbur: Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph . In: Wolfgang Benz (Ed.): Handbuch des Antisemitismus . Vol. 2: Personen . De Gruyter Saur, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-598-44159-2 , pp. 657 f. (Accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  9. J. Salwyn Schapiro: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Harbinger of Fascism. In: The American Historical Review 50, No. 4 (July 1945), pp. 714-737.
  10. ^ Frédéric Krier: Socialism for the petty bourgeoisie. Pierre Joseph Proudhon - pioneer of the Third Reich. Böhlau, Cologne - Weimar - Vienna 2009, p. 389 f.
  11. Original: “Non, Madame, vous ne connaissez rien à votre sexe; vous ne savez pas le premier mot de la question que vous et vos honorables ligueuses agitez avec tant de bruit et si peu de succès. Et si vous ne la comprenez point, cette question; si, dans les huit pages de réponses que vous avez faites à ma lettre, il ya quarante paralogismes, cela tient précisément, comme je vous l'ai dit, à votre infirmité sexual. J'entends par ce mot, dont l'exactitude n'est peut-être pas irréprochable, la qualité de votre entendement, qui ne vous permet de saisir le rapport des choses qu'autant que nous hommes vous le faisons toucher du doigt. Il ya chez vous, au cerveau comme dans le ventre, certain organs incapable par lui-même de vaincre son inertie native, et que l'esprit mâle est seul capable de faire fonctionner, ce à quoi il ne réussit même pas toujours. Tel est, madame, le résultat de mes observations directes et positives: je le livre à votre sagacité obstétricale et vous laisse à en calculer, pour votre thèse, les conséquences incalculables. ”Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: Lettre à Madame J. d'Héricourt . In: La Revue philosophique et religieuse. VI (January 1857); Pp. 164–166, here p. 165; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: La Pornocratie ou les femmes dans les temps modern. 1857
  12. L'ephemeris anarchiste  : Inauguration de la statue de Proudhon en 1910 .