Proudhon, "the father of anarchism", in his own words

Submitted by martin on 2 March, 2008 - 9:28

From Selected Writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, ed. Stewart Edwards, Macmillan 1969.


It is when all people are owners of property that fortunes are most equal and there is work for everyone... A peasant family of four or five will live comfortably on a patrimony of some five hectares...

p.70 [1865]

Property must be spread and consolidated, under pain of falling back into State control and thereby launching society once again on a career of revolution and catastrophe... Property... itself becomes a guarantee of liberty and keeps the State on an even keel.

p.133 [1863-4]

In my System of Economic Contradictions I reiterated and confirmed my first definition of property and then added another, quite contrary, one based on considerations of quite a different kind. But this neither destroyed nor was destroyed by my first argument. Property is theft; property is liberty: these two propositions stand side by side... and each is shown to be true.

p.140 [1863-4]

When France has returned to its natural state - based on the law of medium-sized property, honest mediocrity and equality, with as far as possible a levelling-out of fortunes... - she will have nothing to fear from the onslaught of communism nor from the incursions of monarchy. The masses, who will from then on be powerless to repress public liberty, will be equally powerless to seize or confiscate property.

p.169 [1863]


Translate the legal terms contract and commutative justice into the language of affairs, and you have commerce. That is, in its most elevated sense, the action by which men, declaring themselves to be essentially producers, renounce all claims to governing each other. Commutative justice, rule by contract, or in other words, rule by economics and industry, these are all different synonyms expressing the idea whose advent must abolish the old systems of distributive justice, rule by laws...

p.96 [1851]


War is as much a feature of civilised living as it is of barbarian existence, and is, from all these points of view, the most splendid form of individual and social life. Strength, bravery, virtue, heroism, the sacrifice of possessions, liberty and life and of what is even more precious than life itself, the joys of love and family life, rest earned from toil, intellectual and civic honours, all these are things which war brings out in us and are the heights of virtue to which it beckons.

p.207 [1861]

War is linked at a very deep level... with man's sense of religion, justice, beauty and morality... War is the basis of our history, our life and our whole being. It is, I repeat, everything... I would ask those inept peacemakers... What sort of society do you envisage once you have abolished war?... What, in this state of permanent siesta, will become of mankind?

P.207 [1861]


I in no way helped to instigate the February Revolution. What I wanted was slow, measured, rational, philosophical progress. But events and human folly... decided otherwise.

p.155 [1849]


Equality of civil and political rights would mean that the privileges and grace that nature has bestowed on woman would become bound up with man's utilitarian faculties. The result of this bargaining would be that woman, instead of being elevated, would become denatured and debased... If she were to be on an equal footing with man in public life, he would find her odious and ugly. This would mean the end of the institution of marriage, the death of love and the ruin of the human race.

p.256 [1858]


All heads of families ought to be in a position to defray the costs of their children's education from the time of their birth to the age of seven or eight, through the exchange of goods or services. This will be made possible for the father of the family by economic reform...

From the age of seven to eighteen, the education and instruction of the young will be continued either at home by the parents themselves, if they wish it, or in private schools they will set up and direct at their own expense...

p.86 [1865]

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