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.

By the word [anarchy] I wanted to indicate the extreme limit of political progress. Anarchy is... a form of government or constitution in which public and private consciousness, formed through the development of science and law, is alone sufficient to maintain order and guarantee all liberties... The institutions of the police, preventative and repressive methods officialdom, taxation etc., are reduced to a minimum... monarchy and intensive centralization disappear, to be replaced by federal institutions and a pattern of life based upon the commune.

I once believed, says Rousseau, ?that it was possible to be an honest man and dispense with God; but I have recovered from that error.? Fundamentally the same argument as that. of Voltaire, the same justification of intolerance: Man does good and abstains from evil only through consideration of a Providence which watches over him; a curse on those who deny its existence! And, to cap the climax of absurdity, the man who thus seeks for our virtue the sanction of a Divinity who rewards and punishes is the same man who teaches the native goodness of man as a religious dogma.

Liberty is inviolable. I can neither sell nor alienate my liberty.

That every individual in the association... has an undivided share in the company... a right to fill any position according to suitability... all positions are elective, and the by-laws subject to approval of the members. That pay is to be proportional to the nature of the position, the importance of the talents, and the extent of responsibility. In a free society, the role of the government is essentially that of legislating, instituting, creating, beginning, establishing, as little as possible should it be executive... The state is not an entrepreneur... Once a beginning has been made, the machinery established, the state withdraws, leaving the execution of the task to local authorities and citizens. [Coinage] ...it is an industry left to the towns. That there should be an inspector to supervise its manufacture I admit, but the role of the state extends no farther than that.

The revolution, in democratising us, has launched us on the paths of industrial democracy.

When deeds speak, words are nothing.

Capital, whose mirror-image in the political sphere is Government, has a synonym in the religious context, to wit, Catholicism. The economic notion of capital, the political notion of government or authority, the theological notion of the Church, these three notions are identical and completely interchangeable: an attack upon one is an attack upon the others.

I preach emancipation to the proletaires; association to the laborers.

Liberty is not daughter of order but mother of order.

That monarchy and democracy, communism and anarchy, all of them unable to realize themselves in the purity of their concepts, are obliged to complement one another by mutual borrowings. There is surely something here to dampen the intolerance of fanatics who cannot listen to a contrary opinion... They should learn, then, poor wretches, that they are themselves necessarily disloyal to their principles, that their political creeds are tissues of inconsistencies... contradiction lies at the root of all programs.

The revolutionary power . . . is in you. The people alone, acting upon themselves without intermediary, can achieve the economic Revolution . . . The people alone can save civilization and advance humanity!

When I used those pronouns you and we, it was self-evident that at that point I was identifying myself with the proletariat and identifying you with the bourgeois class.

Communism is inequality, but not as property is. Property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong. Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak. In property, inequality of conditions is the result of force, under whatever name it be disguised: physical and mental force; force of events, chance, fortune; force of accumulated property? In communism, inequality springs from placing mediocrity on a level with excellence. This damaging equation is repellent to the conscience, and causes merit to complain; for, although it may be the duty of the strong to aid the weak, they prefer to do it out of generosity, ? they never will endure a comparison. Give them equal opportunities of labor, and equal wages, but never allow their jealousy to be awakened by mutual suspicion of unfaithfulness in the performance of the common task.

If God did not exist ? it is Voltaire, the enemy of religions, who says so, ? ?it would be necessary to invent him.? Why? ?Because,? adds the same Voltaire, ?if I were dealing with an atheist prince whose interest it might be to have me pounded in a mortar, I am very sure that I should be pounded.? Strange aberration of a great mind! And if you were dealing with a pious prince, whose confessor, speaking in the name of God, should command that you be burned alive, would you not be very sure of being burned also? Do you forget, then, anti-Christ, the Inquisition, and the Saint Bartholomew, and the stakes of Vanini and Bruno, and the tortures of Galileo, and the martyrdom of so many free thinkers? Do not try to distinguish here between use and abuse: for I should reply to you that from a mystical and supernatural principle, from a principle which embraces everything, which explains everything, which justifies everything, such as the idea of God, all consequences are legitimate, and that the zeal of the believer is the sole judge of their propriety.

Nevertheless, it is with the help of these metaphysical toys that governments have been established since the beginning of the world, and it is with their help that we shall come to resolve the enigma of politics, if we are willing to make the slightest effort to do so. I hope I will be forgiven, then, for laboring this point, as one does in teaching the rudiments of grammar to children.

That, supreme Father, is what you have done for our happiness and your glory (Ad majorent Dei gloriam!); such, from the beginning, have been your will and your government; such the bread, kneaded in blood and tears, upon which you have fed us. The sins which we ask you to forgive, you caused us to commit; the traps from which we implore you to deliver us, you set for us; and the Satan who besets us is yourself.

The State is the external constitution of the social power . . . the people does not govern itself; now one individual, now several, by a title either elective or hereditary, are charged with governing it, with managing it affairs.

When the theists, in order to establish their dogma of Providence, cite the order of nature as a proof, although this argument is only a begging of the question, at least it cannot be said that it involves a contradiction, and that the fact cited bears witness against the hypothesis. In the system of the world, for instance, nothing betrays the smallest anomaly, the slightest lack of foresight, from which any prejudice whatever can be drawn against the idea of a supreme, intelligent, personal motor. In short, though the order of nature does not prove the reality of a Providence, it does not contradict it.

A single moment of disorder which the Omnipotent might have prevented and did not prevent accuses his Providence and shows him lacking in wisdom; the slightest progress which man, ignorant, abandoned, and betrayed, makes towards good honors him immeasurably. By what right should God still say to me: Be holy, for I am holy? Lying spirit, I will answer him, imbecile God, your reign is over; look to the beasts for other victims. I know that I am not holy and never can become so; and how could you be holy, if I resemble you? Eternal father, Jupiter or Jehovah, we have learned to know you; you are, you were, you ever will be, the jealous rival of Adam, the tyrant of Prometheus.

Communism violates the sovereignty of the conscience, and equality: the first, by restricting spontaneity of mind and heart, and freedom of thought and action; the second, by placing labor and laziness, skill and stupidity, and even vice and virtue on an equality in point of comfort. For the rest, if property is impossible on account of the desire to accumulate, communism would soon become so through the desire to shirk.

If I were asked to answer the following question: What is slavery? and I should answer in one word, It is murder, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: What is property! may I not likewise answer, It is robbery, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first? I undertake to discuss the vital principle of our government and our institutions, property: I am in my right. I may be mistaken in the conclusion which shall result from my investigations: I am in my right. I think best to place the last thought of my book first: still am I in my right.

No authority, no government, not even popular, that is the Revolution.

The capitalist principle and the monarchist or governmental principle are one and the same principle; that the abolition of the exploitation of man by man and the abolition of the government of man by man are one and the same formula.

There is mutuality, in fact, when in an industry, all the workers, instead of working for an owner who pays them and keeps their product, work for each other and thereby contribute to a common product from which they share the profit.

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French Libertarian, Socialist, Mutualist Philosopher and Economist