Friday, November 30, 2007

An excellent resource on Proudhon

I've found very little in the literature on anarchism that does much justice to Proudhon's work. His economic ideas—which were complex, based in a principle of "antinomies," and expressed at different times in significantly different language—are generally treated without much attention to detail. (The anarchist literature is substantially better in this regard than the Marxist literature, which nearly always simply repeats the judgments of Marx.) One very fine exception to the general rule is Rob Knowles' Political Economy from Below: Economic Thought in Communitarian Anarchism, 1840-1914 (Routledge, 1004: ISBN 0415949033). This is, unfortunately, one of those hardcover-only library editions, and it is most definitely not cheap. But if you can get one through your local library, go for it. The treatment is careful, well-documented, and sensitive to the real difficulties of Proudhon's work. It's not the last word, by any means, but it's one of the few secondary sources that will get you an adequate introduction to the work without wading into the original French texts.

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