System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery

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1846

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(1809 - 1865) ~ Father of Anarcho-Mutualism : ...he turned his talents instead to the printer's trade, a profession which gave birth to many anarchists, but the first to call himself an anarchist was Proudhon. By mid-century, Proudhon was the leading left intellectual in France or for that matter, all of Europe, far surpassing Marx's notoriety or Bakunin's. Proudhon... (From : Dana Ward Bio.)
• "Revolutions are the successive manifestation of justice in human history. — It is for this reason that all revolutions have their origins in a previous revolution." (From : "Toast to the Revolution," by Pierre-Joseph Proudh....)
• "The revolution, in that epoch, without abandoning its first given, took another name, which was already celebrated. It called itself philosophy." (From : "Toast to the Revolution," by Pierre-Joseph Proudh....)
• "What is your flag? Association! And your motto? Equality before fortune! Where are you taking us? To Brotherhood!" (From : "Toast to the Revolution," by Pierre-Joseph Proudh....)

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This document contains 34 sections, with 148,141 words or 915,314 characters.

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library     THE WORKS OF P. J. PROUDHON VOLUME IV. SYSTEM OF ECONOMICAL CONTRADICTIONS. I. Published and Sold by BENJ. R. TUCKER, BOSTON, MASS. 1888 SYSTEM OF ECONOMICAL CONTRADICTIONS OR, THE PHILOSOPHY OF MISERY. BY P. J. PROUDHONDestruam et ædificabo. Deuteronomy: c. 32. VOLUME FIRST. TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY BENJ. R. TUCKER Published and Sold by BENJ. R. TUCKER, BOSTON, MASS. 1888 University Press: JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE CONTENTS. INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 CHAPTER I.OF THE ECONOM (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library    Before entering upon the subject-matter of these new memoirs, I must explain an hypothesis which will undoubtedly seem strange, but in the absence of which it is impossible for me to proceed intelligibly: I mean the hypothesis of a God.    To suppose God, it will be said, is to deny him. Why do you not affirm him?    Is it my fault if belief in Divinity has become a suspected opinion; if the bare suspicion of a Supreme Being is already noted as evidence of a weak mind; and if, of all philosophical Utopias, this is the only one which the wo... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library I.    If I follow the God-idea through its successive transformations, I find that this idea is preeminently social: I mean by this that it is much more a collective act of faith than an individual conception. Now, how and under what circumstances is this act of faith produced? This point it is important to determine.    From the moral and intellectual point of view, society, or the collective man, is especially distinguished from the individual by spontaneity of action, -- in other words, instinct. While the individual obeys, or imagines he obeys, only t... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library II.    It seems, then, that all is ended; it seems that, with the cessation of the worship and mystification of humanity by itself, the theological problem is for ever put aside. The gods have gone: there is nothing left for man but to grow weary and die in his egoism. What frightful solitude extends around me, and forces its way to the bottom of my soul! My exaltation resembles annihilation; and, since I made myself a God, I seem but a shadow. It is possible that I am still a me, but it is very difficult to regard myself as the absolute; and, if I am not the absolute... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library III.    It remains for me to tell why, in a work on political economy, I have felt it necessary to start with the fundamental hypothesis of all philosophy.    And first, I need the hypothesis of God to establish the authority of social science. -- When the astronomer, to explain the system of the world, judging solely from appearance, supposes, with the vulgar, the sky arched, the earth flat, the sun much like a football, describing a curve in the air from east to west, he supposes the infallibility of the senses, reserving the right to rectify subse... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 1. -- Opposition between FACT and RIGHT in social economy.    I AFFIRM the REALITY of an economic science.    This proposition, which few economists now dare to question, is the boldest, perhaps, that a philosopher ever maintained; and the inquiries to follow will prove, I hope, that its demonstration will one day be deemed the greatest effort of the human mind.    I affirm, on the other hand, the absolute certainty as well as the progressive nature of economic science, of all the sciences in my opinion the most comprehensive, the pur... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 2. -- Inadequacy of theories and criticisms.    We will record first an important observation: the contending parties agree in acknowledging a common authority, whose support each claims, -- SCIENCE.    Plato, a utopian, organized his ideal republic in the name of science, which, through modesty and euphemism, he called philosophy. Aristotle, a practical man, refuted the Platonic utopia in the name of the same philosophy. Thus the social war has continued since Plato and Aristotle. The modern socialists refer all things to science one an... (From : Anarchy Archives.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library Chapter 2CHAPTER II. OF VALUE. 1. -- Opposition of value in USE and value in EXCHANGE.    Value is the corner-stone of the economic edifice. The divine artist who has entrusted us with the continuation of his work has explained himself on this point to no one; but the few indications given may serve as a basis of conjecture. Value, in fact, presents two faces: one, which the economists call value in use, or intrinsic value; another, value in exchange, or of opinion. The effects which are produced by value under this double aspect, and which are very irregular... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 2. -- Constitution of value; definition of wealth.    We know value in its two opposite aspects; we do not know it in its TOTALITY. If we can acquire this new idea, we shall have absolute value; and a table of values, such as was called for in the memoir read to the Academy of Sciences, will be possible.    Let us picture wealth, then, as a mass held by a chemical force in a permanent state of composition, in which new elements, continually entering, combine in different proportions, but according to a certain law: value is the proportional relat... (From : Anarchy Archives.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 3. -- Application of the law of proportionality of values.    Every product is a representative of labor.    Every product, therefore, can be exchanged for some other, as universal practice proves.    But abolish labor, and you have left only articles of greater or less usefulness, which, being stamped with no economic character, no human seal, are without a common measure, -- that is, are logically unexchangeable.    Gold and silver, like other articles of merchandise, are representatives of value; they have,... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library Chapter 3CHAPTER III. ECONOMIC EVOLUTIONS. -- FIRST PERIOD. -- THE DIVISION OF LABOR.    The fundamental idea, the dominant category, of political economy is VALUE.    Value reaches its positive determination by a series of oscillations between supply and demand.    Consequently, value appears successively under three aspects: useful value, exchangeable value, and synthetic, or social, value, which is true value. The first term gives birth to the second in contradiction to it, and the two together, absorbing each other in re... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 1. -- Antagonistic effects of the principle of division.    All men are equal in the state of primitive communism, equal in their nakedness and ignorance, equal in the indefinite power of their faculties. The economists generally look at only the first of these aspects; they neglect or overlook the second. Nevertheless, according to the profoundest philosophers of modern times, La Rochefoucault, Helvetius, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Jacotot, intelligence differs in individuals only qualitatively, each having thereby his own specialty or genius; in its essence, ... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 2. -- Impotence of palliatives. -- MM. Blanqui, Chevalier, Dunoyer, Rossi, and Passy.    All the remedies proposed for the fatal effects of parcellaire division may be reduced to two, which really are but one, the second being the inversion of the first: to raise the mental and moral condition of the workingman by increasing his comfort and dignity; or else, to prepare the way for his future emancipation and happiness by instruction.    We will examine successively these two systems, one of which is represented by M. Blanqui, the other by ... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library Chapter 4 CHAPTER IV. SECOND PERIOD. -- MACHINERY.    "I HAVE witnessed with profound regret the CONTINUANCE OF DISTRESS in the manufacturing districts of the country."    Words of Queen Victoria on the reassembling of parliament.    If there is anything of a nature to cause sovereigns to reflect, it is that, more or less impassible spectators of human calamities, they are, by the very constitution of society and the nature of their power, absolutely powerless to cure the sufferings of their subjects; they are even prohibited from pa... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 1. -- Of the function of machinery in its relations to liberty.    The introduction of machinery into industry is accomplished in opposition to the law of division, and as if to reestablish the equilibrium profoundly compromised by that law. To truly appreciate the significance of this movement and grasp its spirit, a few general considerations become necessary.    Modern philosophers, after collecting and classifying their annals, have been led by the nature of their labors to deal also with history: then it was that they saw, not without surprise... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 2. -- Machinery's contradiction. -- Origin of capital and wages.    From the very fact that machinery diminishes the workman's toil, it abridges and diminishes labor, the supply of which thus grows greater from day to day and the demand less. Little by little, it is true, the reduction in prices causing an increase in consumption, the proportion is restored and the laborer set at work again: but as industrial improvements steadily succeed each other and continually tend to substitute mechanical operations for the labor of man, it follows that there is a... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 3. -- Of preservatives against the disastrous influence of machinery.    Reduction of manual labor is synonymous with lowering of price, and, consequently, with increase of exchange, since, if the consumer pays less, he will buy more.    But reduction of manual labor is synonymous also with restriction of market, since, if the producer earns less, he will buy less. And this is the course that things actually take. The concentration of forces in the workshop and the intervention of capital in production, under the name of machinery, engender at t... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library Chapter 5 CHAPTER V. THIRD PERIOD. -- COMPETITION.    BETWEEN the hundred-headed hydra, division of labor, and the unconquered dragon, machinery, what will become of humanity? A prophet has said it more than two thousand years ago: Satan looks on his victim, and the fires of war are kindled, Aspexit gentes, et dissolvit. To save us from two scourges, famine and pestilence, Providence sends us discord.    Competition represents that philosophical era in which, a semi-understanding of the antinomies of reason having given birth to the art of sophi... (From : Anarchy Archives.)

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Proudhon, Pierre Joseph. System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library 1. -- Necessity of competition.    M. Louis Reybaud, novelist by profession, economist on occasion, breveted by the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences for his anti-reformatory caricatures, and become, with the lapse of time, one of the writers most hostile to social ideas, -- M. Louis Reybaud, whatever he may do, is none the less profoundly imbued with these same ideas: the opposition which he thus exhibits is neither in his heart nor in his mind; it is in the facts.    In the first edition of his "Studies of Contemporary Reformers," M.... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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2. -- Subversive effects of competition, and the destruction of liberty thereby.    The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, says the Gospel, and the violent take it by force. These words are the allegory of society. In society regulated by labor, dignity, wealth, and glory are objects of competition; they are the reward of the strong, and competition may be defined as the regime of force. The old economists did not at first perceive this contradiction: the moderns have been forced to recognize it.    "To elevate a State from the lowest degree of barbarism to the highest degree of opulence," wrote A. Smith, "but three things are necessary, -- peace, moderate taxes, and a tolerable admin... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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3. -- Remedies against competition.    Can competition in labor be abolished?    It would be as well worth while to ask if personality, liberty, individual responsibility can be suppressed.    Competition, in fact, is the expression of collective activity; just as wages, considered in its highest acceptation, is the expression of the merit and demerit, in a word, the responsibility, of the laborer. It is vain to declaim and revolt against these two essential forms of liberty and discipline in labor. Without a theory of wages there is no distribution, no justice; without an organization of competition there is no social guarantee, consequently no solidarity.    The socia... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Chapter 6 CHAPTER VI. FOURTH PERIOD. -- MONOPOLY     MONOPOLY, the exclusive commerce, exploitation, or enjoyment of a thing.    Monopoly is the natural opposite of competition. This simple observation suffices, as we have remarked, to overthrow the utopias based upon the idea of abolishing competition, as if its contrary were association and fraternity. Competition is the vital force which animates the collective being: to destroy it, if such a supposition were possible, would be to kill society.    But, the moment we admit competition as a necessity, it implies the idea of monopoly, since monopoly is, as it were, the seat of each competing individuality. Accordingly the economists... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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1. -- Necessity of monopoly.    Thus monopoly is the inevitable end of competition, which engenders it by a continual denial of itself: this generation of monopoly is already its justification. For, since competition is inherent in society as motion is in living beings, monopoly which comes in its train, which is its object and its end, and without which competition would not have been accepted, -- monopoly is and will remain legitimate as long as competition, as long as mechanical processes and industrial combinations, as long, in fact, as the division of labor and the constitution of values shall be necessities and laws.    Therefore by the single fact of its logical generation mono-poly ... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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2. -- The disasters in labor and the perversion of ideas caused by monopoly.    Like competition, monopoly implies a contradiction in its name and its definition. In fact, since consumption and production are identical things in society, and since selling is synonymous with buying, whoever says privilege of sale or exploitation necessarily says privilege of consumption and purchase: which ends in the denial of both. Hence a prohibition of consumption as well as of production laid by monopoly upon the wage-receivers. Competition was civil war, monopoly is the massacre of the prisoners.    These various propositions are supported by all sorts of evidence, -- physical, algebraic, and metaphy... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Chapter 7 CHAPTER VII. FIFTH PERIOD. -- POLICE, OR TAXATION.    IN positing its principles humanity, as if in obedience to a sovereign order, never goes backward. Like the traveler who by oblique windings rises from the depth of the valley to the mountain-top, it follows intrepidly its zigzag road, and marches to its goal with confident step, without repentance and without pause. Arriving at the angle of monopoly, the social genius casts backward a melancholy glance, and, in a moment of profound reflection, says to itself:    "Monopoly has stripped the poor hireling of everything, -- bread, clothing, home, education, liberty, and security. I will lay a tax upon the monopolist; at this pr... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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1. -- Synthetic idea of the tax. -- Point of departure and development of this idea.    In order to render that which is to follow more intelligible, I will explain, inverting, as it were, the method which we have followed hitherto, the superior theory of the tax; then I will give its genesis; finally I will show the contradiction and results. The synthetic idea of the tax, as well as its original conception, would furnish material for the most extensive developments. I shall confine myself to a simple announcement of the propositions, with a summary indication of the proofs.    The tax, in its essence and positive destiny, is the form of distribution among that species of functionaries which... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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2. -- 2. -- Antinomy of the tax.    I sometimes hear the champions of the statu quo maintain that for the present we enjoy liberty enough, and that, in spite of the declamation against the existing order, we are below the level of our institutions. So far at least as taxation is concerned, I am quite of the opinion of these optimists.    According to the theory that we have just seen, the tax is the reaction of society against monopoly. Upon this point opinions are unanimous: citizens and legislators, economists, journalists, and ballad-writers, rendering, each in their own tongue, the social thought, vie with each other in proclaiming that the tax should fall upon the rich, strike the sup... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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3. -- Disastrous and inevitable consequences of the tax. (Provisions, sumptuary laws, rural and industrial police, patents, trade-marks, etc.)    M. Chevalier addressed to himself, in July, 1843, on the subject of the tax, the following questions:    (1) Is it asked of all or by preference of a part of the nation? (2) Does the tax resemble a levy on polls, or is it exactly proportioned to the fortunes of the tax-payers? (3) Is agriculture more or less burdened than manufactures or commerce? (4) Is real estate more or less spared than personal property? (5) Is he who produces more favored than he who consumes? (6) Have our taxation laws the character of sumptuary laws?    To the... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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Chapter 8 CHAPTER VIII. OF THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN AND OF GOD, UNDER THE LAW OF CONTRADICTION, OR A SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM OF PROVIDENCE.     THE ancients blamed human nature for the presence of evil in the world.    Christian theology has only embroidered this theme in its own fashion; and, as that theology sums up the whole religious period extending from the origin of society to our own time, it may be said that the dogma of original sin, having in its favor the assent of the human race, acquires by that very fact the highest degree of probability.    So, according to all the testimony of ancient wisdom, each people defending its own institutions as excellent and glorifying them, it is ... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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1. -- The culpability of man. -- Exposition of the myth of the fall.    As long as man lives under the law of egoism, he accuses himself; as soon as he rises to the conception of a social law, he accuses society. In both cases humanity accuses humanity; and so far the clearest result of this double accusation is the strange faculty, which we have not yet pointed out, and which religion attributes to God as well as to man, of REPENTANCE.    Of what, then, does humanity repent? For what does God, who repents as well as ourselves, desire to punish us? Poenituit Deum quod hominem fecisset in terra, et tactus dolore cordis intrinsecus, delebo, inquit, hominem. . . . If I demonstrate that the... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

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2. -- Exposition of the myth of Providence. -- Retrogression of God.    Among the proofs, to the number of three, which theologians and philosophers are accustomed to bring forward to show the existence of a God, they give the foremost position to universal consent.    This argument I considered when, without rejecting or admitting it, I promptly asked myself: What does universal consent affirm in affirming a God? And in this connection I should recall the fact that the difference of religions is not a proof that the human race has fallen into error in affirming a supreme Me outside of itself, any more than the diversity of languages is a proof of the non-reality of reason. The hypothesis... (From : University of Virginia Library.)

Chronology

1846 :
System of Economical Contradictions: or, the Philosophy of Misery -- Publication.

January 29, 2017 ; 7:02:58 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

September 18, 2017 ; 5:07:02 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
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