Friday, July 24, 2009

Orestes Brownson and Pierre Leroux

Pierre Leroux was the other half, along with P.-J. Proudhon, of the mutualist mix, as formulated by William B. Greene. Greene was introduced to Leroux's work by Orestes A. Brownson, and adopted a number of Brownson's criticisms of Leroux's works. Greene's first major writings were, in fact, attempts to come to terms with the thought of Leroux and Brownson. From this perspective, Brownson's most important works were a review of Leroux's Humanity and "The Mediatorial Life of Jesus," both from 1842 - and they're both available now in Corvus Editions.

If you want to understand Greene's mutualism, or want another avenue of approach to the "collective force" stuff that appears in Proudhon, give these essays by Brownson a look. They will feature prominently in the essays in LeftLiberty #2 as well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Emergency mutual aid

Roderick Long has been blindsided by Alabama's tax authorities. Help out if you can.

Benjamin R. Tucker and Gertrude B. Kelly on Education

It's a rare pleasure these days to stumble on something by Benjamin R. Tucker that I didn't know was out there to find. When these items surface, it usually means some obscure radical journal or paper has surfaced. In this case, however, the source was the decidedly mainstream Educational Review, which dedicated half an issue in 1898 to "Some Socialist and Anarchist Views on Education." Two of the contributors were political candidates of the Socialistic Labor Party, but the other two were figures familiar to readers of Tucker's Liberty: Tucker himself and Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly. For the details, download the pdf or pick one up from the Corvus Shop.

Of course, more obscure periodicals are surfacing regularly, and in the pages of the Free Thought Magazine I ran across Moses Harman's "Free Lover's Creed." Also, for the real anarcho-completists, Clement Milton Hammond's "Prolongation of Human Life" is also now available in pamphlet form. (Hammond was the author of Then and Now, which ran serially in Liberty.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

JUSTICE: Program - Conclusion

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume I, "Program," section XIII.


The papacy having been broken, Catholicism is brought low: there is no more religion in the civilized world.

The Protestant churches, a sort of middle term between religious thought and philosophical thought, that remained in opposition to the Roman Church, perish in their turn, obliged as they will be either to decisively adopt philosophy, and consequently to consummate their abjuration, or to undergo a restoration of unity, and consequently to contradict themselves.

Eclecticism itself no longer has any raison d'être; of what could it remain composed? Willy-nilly, it must join the revolutionary antithesis, unless it is to dissolve into pure skepticism. Isn't it already towards the latter sad alternative that minds are inclining in France and in all of Europe? Before December 2, the governments, by a kind of tacit pact, pursued a moderate course in politics; they tended to balance themselves, and followed one another in the application of the constitutional system. Now, all political and social development is suspended; the reason of State, which had been in the process of reconciling itself with the rationality of law, floats randomly, free from any suggestion of fear, mistrust, and ancient antagonism. International relations are disturbed; there are no more principles; the despair of minds pushes them toward war.

Has England, which first, out of hatred of democracy, applauded December 2, any principles? The question has become almost laughable. For some years, England has astonished the world by its contempt for divine and human law... I am mistaken: yes, England has one principle, to destroy, one by the others, the powers of the continent.

Does Russia have principles? — If Russia had principles, if for example it believed in the inviolability of nations, then either it would restore Poland, or else it would not permit this so-called emancipation of the Italians. If Russia had principles, it would understand that there is no transition between the immorality of servitude and the recognition of the rights of man and citizen; it would be its night of August 4; instead of haggling over the liberty of its peasants, it would free them straightaway, in a revolutionary manner.

Does Austria have principles? How then is it perpetually at odds with its peoples, suspect to its neighbors, unfaithful to its allies, ungrateful to its benefactors, odious to all?

Does Germany have principles? Let us hope so. Germany is the land of philosophy, as France is the land of the Revolution. Now, a German has said that Revolution and philosophy are one and the same thing. But, since December 2, that connection has been broken: Germany, which fears a new Tugendbund perhaps more than a new Napoleon, dreams of centralization, which could well mean, one day, denationalization. With Germany centralized, there would be five empires in Europe: four military empires, the French, Austrian, German and Russian; and one mercantile, the British. These five empires, when they did not battle one another, would form a holy alliance by which they would reciprocally guarantee the obedience of their subjects and the exploitation of their plebs. But then there would be no more nations in Europe, nothing being more destructive of nationalities than military and malthusian mores.

Does Italy have principles? Is Italy imperial, pontifical, royal or federal? It does not know itself. Poor Italy! In place of the Revolution, we have brought it revolt; it has hurled back at us the tempest.

There are no more principles: Europe has descended into the chaos of December 2, and we advance through the void, per inania régna. What is sad is that we know it, we speak of it everywhere, and we accept it. We take our part in it as a natural thing, as an inevitable phase. "France has fallen; the times of the Late Empire have come for it:" this is the talk in the cafes of Paris. As one said in 93, France is revolutionary; in 1814, France is liberal; in 1830, France is conservative; in 1848, France is republican. A little while longer, and we will say with the same carelessness: France is rotten; and we will record its moral death.

Let Napoleon III now do as he wishes: the papacy struck down, nothing can call it back to life. The faith of the peoples no longer sustains it. The judgment is without appeal: neither restrictions, nor amendments will do a thing. The pope can absolve the emperor, the emperor, confessed, reconciled, will not save the pope. And as there is not a nation in Europe of which one could not note, proofs in hand, the intellectual and moral decadence, the fall of the papacy becomes the signal of the debacle.

Now, the time of the initiating races is past. The movement will not be reborn in Europe, neither in the east, nor the west, nor the center; today, regeneration can be neither Greek, nor Latin, nor Germanic. It can only come, as eighteen centuries ago, from a cosmopolitan propaganda, sustained by all people who, after having renounced the ancient gods, protest, without distinction of race nor of language, against corruption.

What will be their flag? They can have only one: the Revolution, Philosophy, Justice.

The Revolution is the French name for the new idea; Philosophy is its German name;

Let Justice become its cosmopolitan name.

  1. The coming of the people to philosophy
  2. The definition of philosophy
  3. On the quality of the philosophical mind
  4. The origin of ideas
  5. That metaphysics is within the province of primary instruction
  6. That philosophy must be essentially practical
  7. The character that must be presented by the guarantee of our judgments and the rule of our actions.--Conversion from speculative to practical reason: determination of the criterion.
  8. Justice, universal reason of things: science and conscience.
  9. Supremacy of Justice.
  10. Conditions for a philosophical propaganda.
  11. Law of Progress. Social destination.
  12. A word about the situation.
  13. Conclusion.
And that concludes the "Program," from Justice in the Revolution and in the Church. This working translation is a Collective Reason effort, by Jesse Cohn and Shawn P. Wilbur. At this point, however, the imperfections and incompletions should be considered mine. Now, I need to turn my attention to Pierre Leroux for a few days.

JUSTICE: A word about the situation

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume I, "Program," section XII.

§ XII. — A word about the situation.

It is by their principles, religious or philosophical, that societies live.

Before 89, France was Christian: its monarchy was of divine right, its economic constitution established on feudality. Christian, monarchical and feudal, the French nation could be said to be as well disciplined in its thought as it was in its government. She had principles, doctrines, a tradition, a morals; she had rights. Under Louis XIV it arrived, using its principles, at the highest degree of power and glory. No nation disputed its precedence: elder child of the Church, it walked at the head of one hundred million catholics.

The Revolution of 89 changed this position, but did not reduce it. From the Christian, monarchical, and feudal nation that had been emerged one that was philosophical, republican, and egalitarian. Then too, and more than before, it could be praised for having principles, rights, and morals. Its tradition, which up to that point had been confounded with its religion, was displaced: it was the tradition of free reason, older than catholic feudality, more imprescriptible than divine right. One moment, by this abrupt conversion, France could believe itself isolated in the midst of the peoples. But it had become initiator; soon it could judge that its word was accommodated everywhere. An incalculable future opened before it; it had only to wait until philosophy had brought minds to a state of maturity.

The revolutionary whirlwind lasted ten years.

In 1799, a thought of conciliation emerged and seized the government. Minds were divided; the country aspired to rest. It was believed that it was possible, through mutual concessions, to make an accord between the conquests of '89 and the old religious and monarchical tradition: this was the whole intent behind the consular restoration. All in good faith, and because it was in any case impossible for it to do better, France was at the same time Christian and philosophical, monarchical and democratic, propertarian and egalitarian.

Was this eclecticism founded in reason as it appeared to be founded, for more than half a century, in fact? We cannot believe it. The reception given in 1814 to the Bourbons, the bearers of the Charter, the revolution of 1830, that of 1848, proved that this system of conciliation was only a work of circumstance, and that as the nation was permeated by the new right, the Revolution took on an increasingly decisive preponderance. In any case, it is at least certain that eclectic and liberal France, just like that of ‘89 and ‘93, just like feudal France, had principles, ideas, and that its internal and external policy was the expression of these. Principles! It seemed, in its moderation, to confound the antagonistic thoughts of two modes: many intelligent people, it must be said, were seduced by it. Also, after ‘99, French power experienced an extraordinary development: Europe followed, dragged along rather than overcome, and we shall never know what would have happened if the genius of the emperor and of the governments that succeeded him, had been equal to their aspirations.

Was this system, which, following the revolutionary period as it did, had certainly had its raison d'être, exhausted when, at the end of 1851, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, president of the Republic, seized power?

We are strongly inclined to believe so: this is even, we maintain, what explains the success of the coup d'état. December 2nd, and the regime that has been in place since then, are not the work of one man, nor an incident of history: it is a situation. An impure generation, partly born since the restoration, which of liberalism understood only libertinage, of the philosophy of the eighteenth century only impiety, of the Revolution only dissolution, of eclecticism only skepticism, of the parliamentary system only intrigue, and of eloquence only verbosity; a greedy generation, as coarse as its own native soil, without dignity, started to dominate in the country: it still dominates there. It is this generation that inaugurated, under cover of an imperial restoration, the reign of impudent mediocrity, official advertisements, open swindle. It is this generation which dishonors France and poisons it ...

Whatever the causes that so abruptly brought about the end of the middle course [juste-milieu], republican and monarchical, there is one unquestionable fact: it is, on one side, that the fear of falling into an extreme of revolution or counter-revolution drove the masses to accept the coup d’état, and that however, since this fatal date of December 2nd, France, which was once catholic, monarchical and feudal, then philosophical and democratic, finally eclectic, conciliatory and moderate—I will not use the ill-sounding epithet doctrinaire—France no longer had principles, public spirit, tradition, nor ideas, not even morals.

The France of December 2nd follows neither the Gospel, nor the Declaration of the Rights of Man; it is neither a divine-right monarchy, nor a democracy according to the Revolution, nor a government of the middle classes, with balanced powers, as the Charters of 1814 and 1830 wished to establish. A purely arbitrary despotism, a thing from a fantasy,—without precedent in the national tradition nor in the first empire, which, in spite of its military exigencies, still followed principles, nor in the dictatorship of ‘93, which certainly also had its principles, nor in the monarchy of Louis XIV, who cannot be reproached for having lacked any,—more arbitrary, finally, than Machiavelli had dreamed of, for if Machiavelli did not recoil before despotism, at least he placed it in the service of an idea: that is the France of December 2nd.

One will, I expect, cry calumny: one will quote the constitution of 1852, renewed from that of 1804; the Napoleonic idea, which served Prince Louis as a program, and this multitude of declarations, messages, decrees, circulars, professions of faith, brochures, etc, that the imperial government never stops producing. Why doesn't one add to it the reports of the limited-liability societies and their advertisements? . . . Oh! if words were a guarantee of principles, there would be few governments so well-founded in theory as the empire of the past eight years. But it is by facts, by acts, that a government reveals its essence and proclaims its thought: in this respect, and without at all wishing to reduce my criticisms to a critique of persons, I dare state that the government of Napoleon III, to his misfortune and to ours, has no principles, or, if it has principles, that it has not yet revealed them. Testimonies abound close at hand: since December 2nd, I have recorded them each day. Let us cite the latest, which is at the same time the most serious.

The middle course charted by the first Consul, which had its apogee under Louis-Philippe, recognized that the existence of Catholicism is indissolubly related to that of the papacy, and that the papacy itself, after the abrogation of the pact of Charlemagne, has only the prestige that that it draws from its temporal sovereignty. Under the Caesars, and later under the Ostrogoths, the Lombards, the Franks, and the Germans, the Pope could do without the title and power of prince: religion made him the vicar of God on earth. Charlemagne consecrated this vicariate, not by separating the two powers in the manner that this is understood today, but by opposing them and binding them to one another in a system which embraced the world. As for the gifts of land that accompanied this imperial and papal constitution, it was initially, like the three crowns that ornament the tiara, only a jewel, a badge, a kind of glorification of the pontificate. It is not what made the power of Gregory VII, of Urban II, of Innocent III, of Boniface VIII.—After the papacy, rebuffed by Philip the Fair, had been transported to Avignon, the State having broken with the church on all points and dissolved the old pact, the papacy was still supported, and Catholicism remained standing, thanks to the temporal sovereignty that the popes had gained, in part through the lands donated, and in part by force of arms. But one soon saw how powerless this sovereignty was to preserve Catholic unity. First, there was the great schism caused by the removal of the papal seat; then the Reformation, which removed half of Christendom from the Holy See. Consequently, the authority of the sovereign pontiff, of the Catholics themselves, has been steadily decreasing: the severities of Louis XIV, the legal concordat of 1802, and the capture of Savone, are the signs of this decline. Destroy the temporal holdings of the popes, and Catholicism degenerates into Protestantism, the religion of Christ falls into the dust. Those who say that the pope will never be better understood than when he deals exclusively with the affairs of heaven are either speaking in political bad faith, endeavoring to disguise atrocious deeds behind devout words, or foolish Catholics, incapable of understanding that in the affairs of life, the temporal and the spiritual, just like the soul and the body, are interdependent.

However, in the presence of this tottering papacy, what was the line of conduct taken by the French moderates?

The moderates had as their principle the reconciliation of religion and philosophy, monarchy and democracy, Church and Revolution. They were therefore very careful not to touch the papacy; they would not have dared to assume the responsibility for this great ruin, first of all, because they did not feel able to substitute their own teaching for the religious ideas, and secondly, because the hour of Protestantism seemed to them, with good reason, to have passed, there was, according to them, no longer enough faith in France to be worth the costs of a Reformation, and they would have been ashamed to indenture the conscience of the country any more to Anglican hypocrisy than to German theology; because, finally, in this serious state of uncertainty, it could neither renounce the legitimate influence exerted by France over 130 million Catholics spread across the surface of the glove nor support the formation of an Italian State whose area would have proportionally reduced the French prepotency. It is, indeed, not a matter of burning the old papacy on the furnace bridge of philosophy; it is necessary that the temporal not have to suffer from this decapitation of the spiritual.

The government of Napoléon III has had none of these scruples. Would this be an indication of change of policy on its part, the sign of a return to principles? ... After having showered the clergy with his favors, restored the religious communities, recalled the Jesuits, returned control to the Church over its teaching, and given, on all occasions, evidence of his piety; after having disputed the protectorate of the Holy See in Austria for ten years, as had Louis-Philippe, how is it that suddenly, under pretext that the events that he himself has caused are beyond his control, that their logic is inexorable, he tells the Sovereign pontiff that his royalty is no longer for this century, that consequently he has to resign himself to leaving the government of his States in lay hands and condescend to accept from Catholic nations, in compensation for their temporal treasure, a revenue! ...

For my part, I applaud the crucifixion of the Church, but on one condition, that the new chief of France should tell us what spirit he intends to substitute for the Catholic spirit: does he propose, after the example of the kings of England and the tsars of Russia, to seize the princedom and the pontificate, or to return purely and simply to the Revolution?

Alas! I am quite afraid that Napoleon III does not even suspect that one can address such questions to him. As the expression of his time, carried to the crest of power by an imbroglio, he constantly testifies, like all of his supporters, to his horror of ideas; he believes only in matter and force. He does not want a Revolution: he proved that by his public safety laws in 1851 and 1852; since then, he has never stopped proclaiming this in all of his acts, both official and unofficial or pseudonymous; he has just repeated this in his letter to the pope of December 31, 1859. He no longer wants the bourgeois moderates: he broke with them irreconcilably with his coup d'etat, and he will take care not to be exposed to their criticism. Through the fault of his situation much more than of his will, Napoleon III does not and cannot want any principle, any guarantee, any freedom. If he sacrifices the pope, it is, as he himself says, because events have forced him to this pass; because he does not have in him what he would require in order to control events, i.e., principles, ideas, a faith, a law. But at the same time that he pronounces the forfeiture of the Holy Father, that he intercepts the bishops’ mandates, that he threatens the Jesuits and bombards the catholic newspapers with warnings, he removes speech from the democracy, and condemns in his courts the philosophers, accused of insult to public and religious morals.

Therefore, neither Christian nor revolutionist, nor anything in between, in a word, nothing: this is the France, not made, but revealed at this point in time by the government of December 2.

The vulgar had not seen this character of the imperial policy initially, not to have not principles and to walk blindly. According to the habit of the French spirit all to pay to the master, one said of Napoleon III: See how happy he is! Everything succeeds to him. The ones rented its spirit of conciliation: it said itself which it was the end of the old parties. The Church greeted in him a new Constantine, while the plebs recommended it, as it had made her uncle, the herald of the Revolution. Maintaining all is discovered: the imperial government is a government without principles, and the emperor cannot about it but; as for its alleged successes, still a little time, and, the things remaining what they are, one will see only calamities there.

No, I tell you, no principles, no true successes: to support the opposite would be to grant to a man a power that the philosophers refuse even to God, that of making something of nothing.

Of what use was the expedition to the Crimea? We prided ourselves on relieving the Ottoman Empire: the peace having been made, we abandoned it like a corpse.—We wanted to halt Russian encroachment: Russia has just conquered the Caucasus, no less important, as the future will show, than Constantinople. Russia has Armenia; its colonists extend over the southernmost coast from the Black Sea to the front door of the sultans’ palace. And France does not have even a foothold in Asia Minor.—Is it the English alliance, or the European equilibrium, that profited from the capture of Sebastopol? The Malakoff’s dead were not buried before Napoleon III, disgusted with the English, signed a peace with the tsar, and contemplated an alliance posing a different threat to the freedoms of the world than the protectorate of Russia on the East. At this moment, admittedly, there is a cooling of the Russian alliance, and a reheating of the English alliance. Protestant England applauds the failure of Catholicism; it reasons, from its point of view, exactly like the French centrists. To strike at the papacy, the Revolution not being there, it is to break the catholic faisceau, it is to lessen France. It proclaims the author of the booklet the La Pape et le Congrès as great a theologian and statesman as Jacques I and Henri VIII, and perhaps will condescend she to sign with him a commercial treaty. How long that will that last? As long as any alliance formed without principles: and England does not trust it.

The empire,—the body of a society that has abandoned the idea,—the empire is agitated, burns powder, makes a din; its glory is not kindled. It could not, or did not know how to preserve the Ottoman empire from its dissolution; it did not put up a barrier to the incursions of Russia; it did not dare to advance to the Adriatic and it left the Austrians in the Peninsula; it does not have even courage to keep its promises to Villafranca; now it lets fall the pope which it wanted to make the federal president of Italy, and which for ten years it had supported. Let us suppose that after the annexation of the duchies and Romagnes in Piedmont comes, with the aid of British diplomacy and the party of unity, that of Venice and Naples; would Napoleon III prevent it? He could not, committed as he is by his own words, bound by his raging hunger for alliance with the English. He would only dare to claim that the will of the people is sacred, as long as nothing is at stake but the sovereignty of the Holy Father, but the annexation of the insurgent territory in the Sardinian States is another thing. The only fruit of the Italian campaign would thus have been used as instrument of the policy of Monsieurs Cavour, Garibaldi, Mazzini, Orsini; to have aroused a powerful neighbor, who cannot love us, who has never loved us, and to have consumed the investment of France.—Can we, say the policies of December 2, prevent Italy from realizing its unity? How would we have the right? Doesn't the Revolution itself make a principle of respecting nationalities?—Thus Make it then, I will answer them, make the Revolution; attach yourself to it, to its Right, its maxims; and, superior to the world by the power of your principles, and you will not have anything to fear from the expansion of your neighbors… I do not want Prussia at midday, said General Cavaignac. He was right a thousand times, since he was an eclectic. On December 2 he renounced this policy: for the little that the Italians wanted to be there to lend, we would have at our doors an empire of twenty-six million men. Is this the county of Nice or Savoy which would compensate us?

A government without principles is a science without method, a philosophy without a criterion, a religion without a God. We have just seen which sad fruits the policy of December 2 produced outside of France; the results not happier at home. Its balance sheet can be summarized in eight articles:

The tax has been raised from 1,500 to 1,800 million;

The national debt increased by three billion;

Conscription raised from 80 to 100, 120 and 140 thousands of men;

Failure of the middle class and proportional increase in the proletariat;

Reduction of the population;

Depravity of national manners;

Decline of literature and the arts;

Failure of all enterprises of the government.

To speak only about this last article, the litany of the disappointments of the imperial government would be long.

In 1852, the government reduced the government stock from 5 p.c. to 4½. And everyone applauded. We know what purely artificial rise reigned, during that first year, over all values. But the continuation by no means responded to these hopes; the Bank did not decrease its discount; more than once even it raised it up to 6 and 7 p.c., and in last analysis the 4 1/2 remained fixed at 90, which means that, in spite of the reduction, 5 p.c. is always the normal rate of the interest. Any tax, any reduction of assessed income on the property, to be just, must be general. The conversion having remained an isolated measurement, it is as if the government had declared bankruptcy to the shareholders of ½ p.c. Was this a success? The imperial government claimed to create a land-bank: it did not succeed;—to make a credit mobilier: its credit mobilier is a work of agiotage;—to establish docks: the Society of the Docks was finished by the police;—to put the rents at a cheap rate, and half of the Parisian population is driven out of the capital. It had prided itself on relieving the merchant marine; and in spite of the granted or promised subsidies, nothing is done. It had accepted the protectorate of the excavation of the isthmus of Suez; it gives up it today; is this because the business appears bad to it, or in consequence of its change of policy? What to say of the Palace of Industry, the hackney carriages, and so many other things in which the imperial government had a hand? By its commercial treaty with England, it just took the first step in a career of the free trade, i.e., of the permission of all foreign businessmen, disinterested in the question, to ensure, in the French market, and in French waters, the preponderance of England. Free trade, thanks to its name, is one of fantasies of contemporary democracy, which has never shone, as we know, by the light of economic science. There is no need, however, to be a great economist to see only the free trade, which is nothing only than the each by himself, each for himself [chacun chez soi , chacun pour soi], held in such contempt by this same democracy, is not a principle, and that without principles, i.e. without Justice, without guarantees, without reciprocity, political economy, just like politics, is fertile only in disaster. I would only like the small lesson of political economy which appealed to His Majesty to be given to France via its minister of State, to prophesy that it will be with the customs reform issued by Napoleon III as it was with that of Robert Peel: perhaps the price of imported food products will drop, but the people will be more exhausted than before. It is thus so difficult to understand, for example, that if the French wines obtain a considerable outlet in England, the price will raise, and that the French people will drink less of it than before; that it will be the same for meat, butter, vegetables, and fruit; that if, in addition, irons and wrought cottons from England arrive to us at cheaper prices, the wages of the French workers will drop by as much; as a result, that the improvements of price, on the two sides of the strait, will benefit with the shareholders, the owners, with some intermediaries, brokers, merchants; that there will be displacement of businesses and fortunes, but that all in all, industrial competition and capitalist absorption being exerted on a greater scale, the fate of the masses will worsen? … Free exchange has as a condition the exemption from payment of the discount: is one able to carry out, in these terms, the balance of trade?—The imperial government will have the honor of completing the railroads, and even of having built far too many: but it will be able to be also to boast of having delivered the country to the financial aristocracy; to have restored in favor of its creatures the contemptible regime of the pot-de-vin, and to have caused the nation to contract the habit, unknown before, of gambling. Completion of the railroads by the imperial government and its intervention in all businesses, will mark for France the ruin of the middle class, which is to say the disorganization of French society.

The government of the emperor conceived the thought, worthy of praise, to be the restorer of manners, as it had had the ambition to be the founder of the credit. There is to this end an office of propaganda to the ministry for the interior. However, see as this government moralist plays of misfortune! A Mr. Giblain, stockbroker, is accused of embezzlement in the exercise of his charge and of diversion of funds. The facts are noted by experts; the offence is obvious; 1,800 diversions and as many forgeries. The judgment appears inevitable. But no. The jury returns a verdict of not guilty: do you know why? It was determined from the debates, by the jury as well as the Court, that the facts complained of to Mr. Giblain were common with all the corporations of stockbrokers, and declared honourable by the magistrates. This is at the moment when the Court of Cassation, by its confirmative decree against the unofficial brokers, granted to the stockbrokers the privilege of the futures market, that the prosecution pursued a stockbroker accused 1° of having traded in futures, like all his fellows; 2° to have done so on his own account, like all his fellows; 3° to this end to have kept an account of the aforesaid deals, like all his fellows; 4° finally, to have profited, sometimes lost—all is not profit in this trade—on the deals which he made, like all his fellows! … Obviously, the court of appeal and the prosecution did not go in agreement. The judgment was impossible. Do you believe that if the imperial prosecutor had announced his resolution to push the investigation until the end, and to bring before the bench, if it were needed, the swindlers from all the corporations of stockbrokers; if at the same time the court of appeal had withered the aforesaid corporation, by declaring it inadmissible in its request against the unofficial brokers, do you believe, I ask, that the jury would have dared to answer: Not guilt? But the corporation is one of the pillars of the State, for this reason considered holy and inviolable. Under Louis-Philippe, the Testes and Cubières, were the exception, and the jury condemned them. Today, they are the rule, and the jury discharges them. To a power without principles, virtue itself does not succeed. In the absence of the jury, the stones would shout: Hypocrisy!

Let us be fair, however. Undoubtedly, since December 2, a lowering of public morality has taken place in France; the nation lost its self-regard; it feels its own unworthiness, and, as is habitual, it blames the government for it. That is the principle that will bring down the empire, if its unworthiness can likewise be translated into indignation. But the government is in this, like everywhere, merely the expression of the conscience of the country; and if one can only say of it that, for the fidelity with which it expresses the perdition of their hearts, it deserves the recognition of its citizens, then one cannot say that it has deserved their hatred. The humiliation of France begins to reach farther than the coup d'état; Napoleon III, if it were possible to summon him before a jury, would have only a rather small share in that. Does one think by chance that, if the dynasty of Bonaparte had suddenly disappeared, the situation of the country would have changed? That would be a serious error. France can remake itself only through the Revolution; it is not there. After rejoicings such as those which followed the death of Commodius, there would be the biddings of Didius Julianus. This is why we declare, hand on our heart: between us and Napoleon III there is neither envy nor hatred; he neither misled us nor supplanted us; we have upheld him in nothing, we do not aspire to become his successors. He is the official representative, not the personification, of an era of misfortune: that is all. Apart from the acts of Strasbourg, Boulogne and December 2, his complicity does not extend. We will allow ourselves however to recall to him, without any threat, the word of the Gospel: Voe autem homini illi per quem scandalum venit. Which means, in military language: Sentinel, guard yourself!

  1. The coming of the people to philosophy
  2. The definition of philosophy
  3. On the quality of the philosophical mind
  4. The origin of ideas
  5. That metaphysics is within the province of primary instruction
  6. That philosophy must be essentially practical
  7. The character that must be presented by the guarantee of our judgments and the rule of our actions.--Conversion from speculative to practical reason: determination of the criterion.
  8. Justice, universal reason of things: science and conscience.
  9. Supremacy of Justice.
  10. Conditions for a philosophical propaganda.
  11. Law of Progress. Social destination.
  12. A word about the situation.
  13. Conclusion. (next)

Corvine Call #3 - Nuts & Bolts and $1 pamphlets

It's all about nuts and bolts right now, in terms of getting Corvus Distribution up and really running. One of the obvious needs was a catalog to give to potential customers, and particularly potential retailers, so here's Catalog #1 (available in booklet and 2-up formats, along with a checklist/mailorder sheet.) Working up a set of discounts, incentives, sustainer packages and the like is hard work, and after doing a lot of thinking about the issues, I decided to make things as simple, and as personal, as I could manage. After all, one of the worst things about the corporate retail world is all of the contrived "deals" and incentives that make shopping so much like threading a brightly colored minefield. And, at base, Corvus specializes in free stuff that I would like you to pay a little bit for, sometimes, if that's in the cards, one place or another, so that there will be more of it next week, and next year, and so that the people who make it their business to distribute this ultimately free stuff can afford to do so as well.

People have been asking about discounts and about subscriptions. The ultimate answer to all of these questions is: email me and we'll work something out. But here's the basics, from the catalog:


There are 3 ways to claim your resale discount:

  1. Download pdfs from, print yourself, and send us a donation to keep the flow of pamphlets coming.
  2. Order individual titles in bulk:
    5-9 copies: 40% off
    10-19 copies: 50% off
    20+ copies: 60% off and the shopping cart system at will figure your discounts automatically.
    Put together an order of 10 or more items, send it via email to shawn (at) corvusdistribution (dot) org, and we’ll work out a discount rate (40% and up in most instances.)


Send an email to shawn (at) corvusdistribution (dot) org and we’ll work out a discount scheme.


Email me at, yes,
shawn (at) corvusdistribution (dot) org with some idea of what you would like to contribute, and we’ll figure out how to get you your money’s worth in Corvus Editions.


Get in touch, and we’ll make something happen.
As of today, the Friends of Corvus Distribution has its first sustaining member, who has opted for $20 of donated support per month, with no discount claimed, but the option of changing his mind. I'll get a formal sign-up page up soon, but the deal for sustainers is simple: You pick the amount; you pick the frequency; you pick any reasonable discount, commensurate with the support you intend to give; and chances are we've got a deal.

Anyway, on to the new stuff. I've been a little distracted lately, so I've been churning out short, cheap pamphlets:

There are five new titles in the catalog today, covering a range of topics: 1) Edward Carpenter's 1911 An Unknown People, on gender roles and same-sex relationships; 2) Dyer Lum's debate-in-fiction with Rabbi Solomon Schindler on Edward Bellamy's Looking Backwards, the 1890 "A Journalist's Confession;" 3) "The Shay's Rebellion as a Political Aftermath," by land-bank historian Andrew Macfarland Davis; "Roadtown: A Mecca for Physical Culturists," an article on Edgar Chambless' radical city-planning model by Milo Hastings, himself the author of some interesting writings on urban reform; and a dual-language edition of Emile Armand's "Mini-Manual of the Individualist Anarchist."

Almost finished: works by Moses Harman, Ernest Crosby, Morrison Swift, William B. Greene, Orestes Brownson, J. K. Ingalls, Ernst Steile and Orestes Brownson.

Taking Wing: Games We Can't Win

It is often said, in justification of the opportunities for monopoly, which our present business arrangements afford, that it is an encouragement to enterprise; and, that without such encouragement, all men would become drones and idlers.—Joshua King Ingalls, "Competition."
The model of competition that presently has us in its grip really comes pretty close to to that "inhuman struggle for the mastery, which characterizes all grades of business, under existing social conditions," of which Ingalls complains. Aside from the obvious big-fish-eaten-by-bigger-fish stuff that is playing out in so many areas of business, at the level of the firm, one of the most remarkable changes in retail culture is the explicitly "militant" (in Dyer's Lum's sense) character that it has taken on. Between the front-line grunts on the sales floor and the investment brokers and hedge-fund managers establishing the basic goals of companies trying desparately not to be eaten, there are all the elements of a good old-fashioned labor dispute, but no real unmediated contacts—and all the everyday contacts are with people perhaps just barely better off, slightly less at risk, if only because they can push off some responsibility on you, can fire you if that's what it takes to survive. All the energy to challenge really moronic policies tends to be dissipated long before it reaches anyone who can do a single damn thing about anything. And while that does pretty rotten things to store morale, there no reason to believe that store morale is much of a concern, precisely because competition—between workers, between stores, between districts, etc.—"inhuman struggle for mastery" of the most preposterous tasks, more often than not—is actively encouraged. I had a chance to work a series of overnight shifts, with crews drawn from throughout the district, doing remodeling work in a different store each night, and it was striking contrast to the usual work day: there were certainly rivalries, but they really livened long nights of hard, tedious work; in daylight, at the home store, surrounded by friends all subjected to the same pressures, answering to otherwise friendly and competent managers, subjected to those same pressures and with much more to lose, the rat-in-a-trap feeling is inescapable. And we all know that managers have been encouraged to read the usual "management by hassling and intimidation" books, and that most of them are smart enough to know that they are subject to the same horseshit. And personnel hours are always short, but somehow there are hours for people to call us about "make books" and quiz us about promotions and policies (while we ought to be taking care of customers.) And the "secret shoppers" are all equipped with Blackberry's. . . . And it doesn't take long to realize that part of the reason that none of it makes any rational sense is that 1) it isn't meant to, as much as it is meant to maintain control, and 2) the "sense" that it could make would respond to rationales very far divorced from the needs and desires of either consumers or sellers.

Why, after all, would we expect the actions of a large corporation to make sense, particularly when it is part of an industry lacking in the other sort of competition—lacking sufficient diversity to generate much innovation? We all understand the madness of assuming a political leader can come in and just sort of decree change. We seem considerably less clear about the limitations on CEOs, even though their job is essentially the same sort of engineering of economic entities. The entire book business is dominated by a really small number of firms, which are pretty much stuck with one another, but which may well, as I have suggested, be really stuck on the horns of a dilemma inherent in centralized retailing. In any event, those few firms are steered by a few hands, and the bulk of the book industry rises or falls on the steadiness of their direction. The "too big to fail" dilemma is certainly at work here, if not necessarily for consumers or for investors, certainly for the dominent firms themselves, which are only surviving by further concentrating their energies on sustaining key allies in the increasingly small circle.

I'm painting a rather extreme, gloomy picture of things, I know. I don't think I'm exaggerating, although I am drawing a lot of my impressions from a particular part of the retail landscape. My impression, based on what I read and what I see as a consumer, is that the loss of robustness and the general fragility of business models, is the rule and not the exception, pretty much across the mainstream retail world. And if that's the case, there isn't much reason to expect things to change by themselves any time soon, except perhaps to become more concentrated. The result of that will certainly be a further erosion of selection, consumer prices and work conditions. If half of us are already under-employed or worse, and if individual indebtedness is already a serious problem, it's not hard to see how this could all get a lot uglier pretty easily.

For those who haven't experienced it, slipping below the level where you can meet your "ordinary" commitments is no fun, and the sort of employment for which one is supposed to be "grateful" under those conditions can be pretty grim. Harried consumers are would-be tyrants. Harried bosses are would-be tyrants. Harried creditors are would-be tyrants. And with the workplace already an arena for the dumbest gladiatorial contests imaginable, there isn't much here to love, except the vague possibility of someday slipping back above that level.

Is this the only way to do things? Of course not. We can opt for diversity of offerings, under better conditions, if we're willing to take our economies into our own hands. In so many ways, we are settling for really, really bad deals. But the change would require significant, in some sense revolutionary changes in our collective and individual playbooks. Kevin Carson has been suggesting some possible changes for a long time now. What I'm going to do, in a series of posts continuing this "Taking Wing" thread—now that this long wind-up is complete—is to talk about my tiny, tiny Corvus Distrobution project, perhaps in more detail than the project itself merits, but certainly not at any too great length given the real need for alternative models that we can apply in the here and now.

Friday, July 17, 2009

on alliance

After weeks of increasingly bellicose agreement on the importance of truth, reason and LGBT rights to the left-libertarian movement, I've decided to withdraw my formal affiliations with the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. The ALL was launched initially despite considerable diversity of basic assumptions about theory, strategy and tactics--a dangerous strategy, in many ways, but one which grew naturally, it seems to me, out of the network of friendships, political flirtations, and relations of philosophical hospitality that preceded the ALL, on SEK3 original left-libertarian list and in Tom Knapp's Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left. The growth and success of the ALLiance has probably spread that network beyond the limits that such an informal agreement could sustain, a circumstance that has certainly been on the minds of some of us more-or-less from the beginning. That's not a bad thing, and the calls from within the ALLiance for more coherence are not necessarily a bad thing. But, from my purely personal point of view, the way that implicit assumptions about the fine points of the ALLiance have been advanced as if they had been mutually adopted, and the rough handling that a few of us dissenters recieved as a result, was pretty much a bad thing.

I have no interest in stopping any ongoing projects. I'm not dropping any friends. I expect that my affairs will be so bound up with members of the ALLiance that the difference in my explicit affiliations will hardly show. I am, in fact, increasing my participation in some affiliated projects. But for me, as a result of religious and philosophical commitments which were, up until recently, simply not issues for the ALLiance per se, the loose bonds of affiliation have started to feel other than mutual, and other than based in the sort of individualistic dynamic I though (perhaps mistakenly) was at the heart of the whole thing. YMMV, and, if so, more power to ya. But I do not want at any point to feel, for instance, that LeftLiberty or Corvus Editions or my posts here, can be taken to represent or misrepresent anything but themselves, and myself.

I look forward to working on concrete and mutually voluntary projects with fellow left-libertarians in the future.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Add it up

I was listening to a local, very mainstream news broadcast last night, and the report was that, while Oregon's unemployment rate was 12.2%, well above the national average, the underemployment rate was something like 23%. Now, as far as I can ascertain, the actual jobless rate seems to run at least twice as high as the rate of those collecting benefits (a rate which, depending on who is citing it, may or may not include those on the "extended benefits" currently available.) And those total jobless estimates, which frequently run closer to three times the "unemployment rate," don't count those who have "given up" on finding a job, nor do they count various other categories of people not on the job market because they are receiving pensions or government benefits.

So, taking a conservative estimate... 25-30% of the US population would like to work, but can't find a job, and another 20-25% have a job, but not enough of one to make a living. That's half of us accounted for...

Is it broken yet?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

JUSTICE: Law of Progress

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume I, "Program," section XI.

§ XI. — Law of progress: Social destination.

An objection is posed.—If the center or pivot of philosophy, namely Justice, is, like that of being, invariable and fixed, the system of things, which, in fact and in right, rests on that center, must also be defined in itself, and consequently fixed in its ensemble and tending to immutability. Leibnitz regarded this world as the best possible; he should have said, in virtue of the law of equilibrium that presides over it, that it is the only possible one. One can thus conceive of creation, at least in its thought, as being completed, the universal order being realized in a final manner: then, as the world would no longer have a reason to exist, since it would have reached its perfection, all would return to the universal repose. This is the secret thought of the religions: The end of things, they say, is for the Creator, just as for the creature, the consummation of glory. But strip away the mythology: underneath this unutterable glory, one finds immobility, death, nothingness. The world, drawn from nothing, i.e. inorganic immobility, amorphous, dark, returns, under the terms of its law of balance, to immobility; and our justification is nothing other than the work of our annihilation. Justice, balance, order, perfection, is petrification. Movement, life, thought, are bad things; the ideal, the absolute, the Just, which we must continually work to realize, is plenitude, immobility, non-being. It follows that, for the intelligent, moral and free being, happiness is to be found in death, in the quiet of the tomb. Such is the Buddhist dogma, expressed by this apothegm: It is better to sit than stand, to sleep than to sit, and to be dead than to sleep. Such is also the conclusion to which one of the late philosophers of Germany arrived; and it is difficult to deny that any philosophy of the absolute, just as any religion, leads to the same result. But common sense is repelled by this theory: it judges that life, action, thought are good; morality itself is repelled by it, since it gives us constantly to work, to learn, and to undertake, in a word, to do the very things that, according to our final destiny, we should regard as bad. How to escape from this contradiction?

We believe that, as the space in which the worlds whirl about is infinite; time infinite; matter, hurled into infinite space, also infinite; consequently, the power of nature and the capacity for movement infinite: in the same way, without the principle and the law of the universe changing, creation is virtually infinite, in its extent, its duration and its forms. Under this inevitable condition of the infinity, which falls on creation, the assumption of a completion, of a final consummation, is contradictory. The universe does not tend to an opposition to progress; its movement is perpetual, because the universe itself is infinite. The law of balance which presides over it does not lead it to uniformity, to an immobilism; it assures, on the contrary, eternal renewal by the economy of forces, which are infinite.

But if such is the true constitution of the universe, it mustg be admitted that such is also that of Humanity. We are not heading for any ideal perfection, for a final state that we might reach in a moment by crossing, through death, the gap that separates us from it. We are carried, along with the rest of the universe, in a ceaseless metamorphosis, which is all the more surely and gloriously achieved as we develop more in intelligence and morality. Progress thus remains the law of our heart, not in the sense only that, by the perfection of ourselves, we must approach unceasingly absolute Justice and the ideal; but in the sense that Humanity renewing themselves and developing without end, like creation itself, the ideal of Justice and beauty which we have to carry out always changes and always increases.

Thus, the contemplation of the infinite, which led us to quietism, is precisely what cures us of it: we are participants in universal, eternal life; and the more we can reflect the image of it in our own life, through action and Justice, the happier we are. The small number of days which is allotted to us has nothing to do with this: our perpetuity is in the perpetuity of our race, which in turn is linked to the perpetuity of the Universe. Even if the very globe upon which we live, which we presently know with some scientific certainty to have had a beginning, should crumble beneath our feet and disperse in space, we should see in this dissolution merely a local metamorphosis, which, changing nothing with respect to the universal organization [l’organisme universel], could not cause us despair, and consequently would not affect our happiness in any way. If the joy of the father of of a family on his deathbed is in the survival of his children, why shouldn't it be the same for our terrestrial humanity, the day when it will feel life become exhausted in its soil and consequently in its veins? After us, other worlds! … Would this idea be beyond the reach of the simple, or too low for the philosophers?

Thus determined in its nature, its conditions, its principle and its object, philosophy gives us, in its own manner, the word of our destiny.

What is philosophy?

Philosophy is the search, and, as far as the strength of the human mind permits, the discovery of the reason of things. Philosophy is thus defined as opposed to theology, which would be defined, we dare say, as the knowledge of the first cause, the inmost nature, and the final end of things.

Who created the universe?

Theology answers boldly, without understanding the meaning of its proposition: It is God. Philosophy, on the contrary, says: The universe, such as it appears to the eyes and the reason, being infinite, exists for all eternity. In it, life and spirit are permanent and indefectible; justice is the law that governs all its metamorphoses. Why should the world have a beginning? Why an end? Reason sees no need of it, and repudiates it.

What is God?

God, says theology, is the author, the creator, the preserver, the destroyer, and the sovereign lord of all things.

God, says metaphysics, auxiliary and interpreter of theology, is the infinite, absolute, necessary and universal being, which serves the universe as its substratum and hides behind its phenomena. This being is essentially one, consequently possibly personal, intelligent and free; moreover, because of its infinity, it is perfect and holy.

God, philosophy says finally, is, from the ontological point of view, a conception of the human mind, the reality of which it is impossible to deny or affirm authentically;—from the point of view of humanity, a fantastic representation of the human soul raised to the infinite.

Why was man created and put on the earth?

To know God, says theology, to love him, serve him, and by this means, to acquire eternal life.

Philosophy, pruning the mystical data from theology, answers simply: To carry out Justice, to exterminate evil, to contribute by the good administration of his sphere to the harmonious evolution of the worlds, and by this means, to obtain the greatest sum of glory and happiness, in his body and his soul.

We will continue this questionnaire. The catechism, with its mythology and its mysteries, served, for eighteen centuries, as a basis for the instruction of the people. Today, children no longer want it. Would philosophy, concrete and positive, arriving at its moment, prove less popular than the catechism has ever been?

  1. The coming of the people to philosophy
  2. The definition of philosophy
  3. On the quality of the philosophical mind
  4. The origin of ideas
  5. That metaphysics is within the province of primary instruction
  6. That philosophy must be essentially practical
  7. The character that must be presented by the guarantee of our judgments and the rule of our actions.--Conversion from speculative to practical reason: determination of the criterion.
  8. Justice, universal reason of things: science and conscience.
  9. Supremacy of Justice.
  10. Conditions for a philosophical propaganda.
  11. Law of Progress. Social destination.
  12. A word about the situation. (next)
  13. Conclusion.

JUSTICE: Conditions for a philosophical propaganda

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume I, "Program," section X.

§ X. — Conditions for a philosophical propaganda.

It is when religions pass away, when monarchies fail, when the politics of exploitation is reduced, in order to preserve itself, to proscribing the worker and the idea, and when the republic, everywhere on the agenda, seeks its formula; at the hour when the old convictions are dilapidated, when consciences are routed, when opinion is abandoned, when the multitude of egoisms shouts Every man for himself! that the moment arrives for an attempt at social restoration by means of a new propaganda.

1. Let us not fear to repeat: Justice, under various names, controls the world, nature and humanity, science and conscience, logic and morals, political economy, history, literature and art. Justice is what is most primitive in the human heart, most fundamental in society, most sacred among the nations, and what the masses demand today with the greatest ardor. It is the essence of the religions at the same time as it is the form of reason, the secret object of faith, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of knowledge. What could possibly be more universal, stronger, more complete than Justice, Justice with respect to which any superiority would imply contradiction?

Now, the people possess Justice within themselves; they have preserved it better than their masters and their priests; it is stronger among them than among the savants who teach it, the lawyers who discuss it, and the judges who apply it. The people, finally, in their native intuition and their respect for right, are more advanced than their superiors; they are lacking, as they say themselves when speaking of the intelligent animals, only speech. It is speech which we want to give to the people.

Thus, we who know how to speak and write, we have but one thing to do, in order to preach to the people and to philosophize in the name of the Justice, which is to inspire ourselves with the feelings of our audience, and to take them for our arbiter. If the philosophy that we attempt to explicate is insufficient, they will tell us so; if we go astray in our controversies, if we are mistaken in our conclusions, they will inform us; if something better offers itself to them, they will take it. The people, in that which concerns Justice, are not, strictly speaking, disciples, much less neophytes. The idea is within them: the only initiation they call for, like the Roman plebs of former times, is that of the formulas. That they have faith in themselves, that is all that we ask of them; then, that that take note of the facts and the laws: our ministry does not go beyond that. We are the counselors of the people, not their initiators.

2. This first advantage entails another, no less precious: while presenting ourselves simply as missionaries of right, we need neither to prevail upon any authority, divine or human, nor to pose as geniuses, martyrs or saints. Modesty, frankness, zeal, above all, good sense—nothing more is required of us. The truths we carry are not ours; they were not revealed to us from on high by grace of the Holy Ghost, and we have no copyright or proprietary patent over them. These truths are shared by everyone; they are inscribed within every soul, and we are not called on, as a proof of our veracity, to apply them to prophecies and miracles. Speak to the slave of liberty, to the proletarian of his rights, to the worker of his salary: all will understand you, and if they see there a chance of success, they will not ask themselves in the name of whoever or whatever you hold up to them such a discourse. In matters of justice, nature has created all competent, because it has given us all the same faculty and the same interest. This is why we can weaken in our teaching without ever compromising our cause, and that no difference of opinion can lead to a schism between us. The same zeal for Justice that has divided us on a point of doctrine will reconcile us sooner or later. No authority, no priesthood, no churches. All of us who affirm right are in our belief necessarily orthodox, consequently eternally united. Heresy in Justice is a nonsense. Oh! If the apostles of Christ had been able to hold to this teaching! If the Gnostics had dared return to it! If Arius, Pelagius, Manès, Wyclef, Jan Huss and Luther had been strong enough to understand it! . . . But it was written that the popular Word had for its precursor the Word of God: how blessed are both!

3. But, one says, the people are incapable of a course of study; the abstraction of ideas, the monotony of science repels them. With them, one must always concretize, personalize and dramatize, employ ethos and pathos, constantly change object and tone. Constrained by imagination and passion, realist by temperament, they voluntarily follow the empirics, tribunes and charlatans. The fervor is not sustained; at every instant, it falls back into the materialism of interests. This proves one thing: the philosopher who devotes himself to teaching the masses instructs himself at base from theories, must be above all, in his lectures to the people, a practical demonstrator. In this, at any rate, he will not be an innovator. Isn’t the identity of the fact and the law, of the content and the form, the constant object of the tribunes? Does jurisprudence, in its schools and its books, proceed other than by formulas and examples?

Why, moreover, in teaching Justice, deprive ourselves of these two powerful levers, passion and interest? Has Justice any other end than to ensure the public happiness against the incursions of egoism? Does it not have poverty for its sanction? Yes, we know that the people feel themselves to be highly interested in Justice, and no one takes their material interests more seriously than we do. If it is a point on which we propose to return constantly, it is that all crimes and misdemeanors, all corporate privilege, all that is arbitrary in government, is for the people an immediate cause of pauperism and sorrow.

This is why, as missionaries for democracy, having to combat the most detestable passions, and the cowardly and obstinate egoism, we never intend to make the mistake of arousing popular indignation by the vehemence of our discourse. Justice is demonstrated by sentiment as well as by logic. The penal code of despotism calls this to incite the citizens to hate one another, to mistrust and hate the government. Shall we be the dupes of a hypocritical legislation, of which the sole end is to paralyze consciences in order to assure, under a false appearance of moderation, the impunity of the most guilty parties?

Man’s life is brief: the people can receive but rare and rapid lessons. What purpose do they serve if we do not render those lessons as positive as existence; if we do not put men and things in play; if, in order to seize minds, we do not give impetus to imaginations and hearts? Shall we scruple, in speaking of Justice, to be of our time, and will we not merit what is said of us by the false apostles, if, as our adversaries wish, we reduce it to a pure abstraction?

It is in the contemporaneity of facts that one must show the people, as in a mirror, the permanence of ideas. The history of religion, the Church tells us, is an uninterrupted stream of miracles. But the faithful has no need, in order to be convinced of the truth of his belief, of having seen them all; it suffices that he contemplates this Church, the establishment of which, according to the doctors, is itself the greatest of miracles. Thus it is with Justice. The history of its manifestations, of its developments, of its constitutions, of its theories, encompasses the lives of many hundreds of men. Happily, the people have nothing to do with this burden. In order to sustain their faith in Justice, it suffices for one to show it, by striking examples, Justice oppressed and then revenged, crime triumphant and then punished; it suffices that they hear the protestations of generous souls in eras of unhappiness, and that they feel that this Revolution so calumniated, which for three millenia has pushed the working masses toward liberty, is Justice.

4. But what order to follow in this teaching? What is especially painful in the study of sciences is the yoke of the methods, the length of the preliminaries, the sequence of propositions, the accuracy of the transitions, the rigor of the analyses; it is this obligation never to pass on to a new subject, before that which precedes it on the staircase of method is exhausted. Thus, before approaching the study of philosophy, the student requires six or seven years of grammar, languages, humanities, and history; logic, metaphysics, psychology, then come morals, not to mention mathematics, physics, natural history, etc. These studies having been completed, if the poor student has obtained his diplomas, he may begin studying law, which takes at least three years. It is in these conditions that the young man, rich enough pass his time thus, becomes legist, lawyer, Justice of the Peace, or substitute for the imperial prosecutor.

The people, undoubtedly, cannot traverse this entire succession; if philosophy can be acquired only under such conditions, it is condemned without reprieve. Either democracy is only a word, and there is not, outside of the language of the Church, apart from feudality and of the divine right, communion between men; or it is necessary here to change approaches. I want to say that, in agreement with popular reason, it is necessary to abandon the analytical and deductive method, glory of the School, and to replace it with a universalist and synthetic method, more in touch with the reason of the masses, which sees everything concretely and synthetically. I will explain.

Since everything, in nature and in society, pivots on Justice, since it is center, base, and summit, substance and form of every fact as well as any idea, it is obvious, à priori, that everything can be reduced directly to Justice, consequently that the true philosophical method consists in breaking all these patterns. In that sphere of the universal where we are going to move, and of which he center is called Justice, harmony, equilibrium, balance, equality, all the graduations and specifications of school vanish. Little matter that we take our point of departure at such a meridian or such a parallel, at the equator or at the pole; that we begin with political economy rather than logic, with aesthetic or moral philosophy rather than counting and grammar. For the same reason, it matters little to us to change the subject as many times as we please, and as it pleases us; for us, there can result from it neither confusion nor mix-ups. It is always the higher reason of things that we seek, that is to say the direct relation of each things with Justice, which does not undermine in any way classifications of school, and does not compromise any of his faculties.

To philosophize about this and that, in the manner of Socrates, will thus be then, except for the adjustments demanded by the circumstances, the approach to follow in a philosophico-juridical education destined for the people.—A method of this sort, one with say, is no method at all.—Perhaps: with regard to science, rigor of method is a sign of the mistrust of mind, arising from it weakness. If we should address ourselves to superior intelligences, it is the method of Socrates that they prefer, and universal reason itself, if it could speak, would not proceed otherwise. Now nothing resembles univeral reason more, as to form, than the reason of the people; in treating it thus, we do not flatter it, but serve it.

  1. The coming of the people to philosophy
  2. The definition of philosophy
  3. On the quality of the philosophical mind
  4. The origin of ideas
  5. That metaphysics is within the province of primary instruction
  6. That philosophy must be essentially practical
  7. The character that must be presented by the guarantee of our judgments and the rule of our actions.--Conversion from speculative to practical reason: determination of the criterion.
  8. Justice, universal reason of things: science and conscience.
  9. Supremacy of Justice.
  10. Conditions for a philosophical propaganda.
  11. Law of Progress. Social destination. (next)
  12. A word about the situation.
  13. Conclusion.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

JUSTICE - Supremacy of Justice

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume I, "Program," section IX.

§ IX. — Supremacy of Justice.

Philosophy defined;

Its dualism established;

Its levelling spirit and its democratic tendency demonstrated;

The formation of ideas, perceptions and concepts explained;

The criterium having been found, the goal indicated, the synthetic formula given, man’s purpose determined;

One can say, in a sense, that philosophy is finished.

It is finished, since it can present itself before the multitude and say to it: I am JUSTICE, Ego sum qui sum; it is I who shall draw you forth from misery and servitude. There is nothing more but to fill the cadres, which is the business of the professors and the scholars.

Indeed, what is this Justice, if not the sovereign essence that Humanity from time immemorial adored under the name of God; what philosophy has not ceased to seek its turn under various names: the Idea of Plato and Hegel, the Absolute of Fichte, the pure and practical Reason of Kant, the Rights of man and of the citizen of the Revolution? Since the beginning of the world, hasn’t human religious and philosophical thought, constantly revolved on this pivot?

It would not be difficult to bring back to this program all the theories—religious, philosophical, aesthetic, and moral—which since the beginning of the world have occupied the human spirit. We will exempt ourselves of this work. The people do not have time to give to such vast, wild imaginings. All that they ask, is that we summarize for them this new faith in a way that catches them, that enables them to take it seriously, and to make of it at this moment a force and a weapon.

We have known well how to make astronomy accessible to the children, without making them pass through the deserts of the higher mathematics; we, formerly, had found good means to make all the substance of the religion—history, dogmas, liturgy, scriptures—penetrate into the mind of the people, without for that obliging them to become theologians. Why, today, should we not teach them philosophy and Justice in the same way, without imposing any other condition on them than to make use of their good sense?

We will thus say to the People:

Justice is simultaneously, for any reasonable being, the principle and form of thought, the guarantee of the judgment, the code of conduct, the goal of knowledge and the end of existence. It is feeling and concept, manifestation and law, idea and action; it is universal life, spirit, and reason. Just as, in nature, all converges, all conspires, all consents, according to the old expression, in the same way, in a word, all the world tends to harmony and balance; in society, likewise, all is subordinated to Justice, all serves it, all is done by its command, according to its measure and for its sake; it is upon its foundation that the edifice of interests is constructed, and, to this end, that of knowledge: while at the same time, it is in itself subordinate to nothing, recognizing no authority beyond itself, serving as an instrument to no power, not even to freedom. It is, of all our ideas, the most understandable, the most present, and the most fertile; of our feelings, the only one that men honour without reserve, and the most indestructible. The ignoramus perceives it as fully as does the wise man, and, to defend it, becomes instantly as subtle as the doctors, as courageous as the heroes. Before the glare of right, mathematical certainty fades. So it is that the construction of Justice is the great enterprise of mankind, the most masterly of sciences, the work of the collective spontaneity much more than of the genius of legislators, and an unending task. We will thus say to the People:

This, O People, is why Justice is severe, and does not suffer mocking remarks. All knees bend before it, and all heads are bowed. It alone allows, tolerates, forbids or permits: it would cease to be, if it required, on behalf of that which it is, any permission, authorization, or tolerance. Any obstacle is an insult to it, and every man is called to arms to overcome it. Quite different is religion, which could not prolong its life except by making itself tolerant, which could not continue to exist without tolerance. It is enough to say that its role is done with. Justice, on the contrary, is fundamental and unconditioned; it suffers no opposition, it admits of no competition, neither in the conscience, nor in the mind; and whoever sacrifices it, even to the Idea, or even to Love, is excluded from the communion of mankind. No peace with iniquity, O democrats: may that be the motto of your peace and your war cry. — But, the last of the Christians will say to us, your Justice is the reign of God that the Gospel prescribes us from seeking in any thing, Quœrite primum regnum Dei et justitiam ejus; it is the sacrifice which God prefers, Sacrificate sacrificium justitiæ. How, then, can you not welcome our God, and how can you reject his religion?

It is because you yourselves, oh inconsistent worshippers, believe in Justice even more than you do in your God. You affirm his word, not because it is divine, but because your spirit finds it true; you follow its precepts, not because God is the author, but because they seem to you right. Theology wishes in vain to reverse this order, to give sovereignty to God and to subordinate Justice to him: the intimate sense protests, and, in popular teaching, in prayer, it is Justice that serves as witness to the Divinity and the pledge of the religion. Justice is the supreme God, it is the living God, God the Almighty, the only God who dares be intolerant with respect to those who blaspheme against him, beneath which are nothing but pure idealities and assumptions. Pray to your God, Christians, the law permits it; but be sure that you do not prefer him to Justice, if you would not be treated as conspirators and corrupters.

What man, now, in the presence of this great principle of Justice, would not have the right to call himself a philosopher? It would be a return immediately to the antique spirit of caste, to disavow the progress of twenty-five centuries, to hold, like the senate of old Rome, that the patrician alone has the privilege of the legal formulas and the sacred things, and that in the presence of fulgurating Jupiter the slave does not have the right to call himself religious. All the relations of men with one another are governed by Justice; all natural laws derive from that by which the beings, and the elements which compose them, are or tend to be equilibrated, all the formulas of the reason are reduced to the equation or series of equations. Logic, the art of right reasoning, can be defined, like chemistry since Lavoisier, as the art of maintaining balance. Whoever commits an error or a sin has faltered, one says, he has stumbled, he has lost his balance. Under a thousand different expressions, language unceasingly reproduces the same idea. Do we not recognize, by this sign, the existence of a popular philosophy, which is nothing other than the philosophy of right, a philosophy that comes simultaneously from reason and from nature? And this is not, at bottom, the same philosophy taught, in his barbaric language, by that philosopher who has never been equaled by any other, the immortal Kant, when he demanded from practical reason, from that which he called its categorical imperative, the supreme guarantee of speculative reason, and when he acknowledged with frankness that there was nothing certain beyond right and duty?

  1. The coming of the people to philosophy
  2. The definition of philosophy
  3. On the quality of the philosophical mind
  4. The origin of ideas
  5. That metaphysics is within the province of primary instruction
  6. That philosophy must be essentially practical
  7. The character that must be presented by the guarantee of our judgments and the rule of our actions.--Conversion from speculative to practical reason: determination of the criterion.
  8. Justice, universal reason of things: science and conscience.
  9. Supremacy of Justice.
  10. Conditions for a philosophical propaganda. (next)
  11. Law of Progress. Social destination.
  12. A word about the situation.
  13. Conclusion.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Return of JUSTICE: The universal reason of things

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume I, "Program," section VIII.

§ VIII. — Justice, the universal reason of things. — Science and conscience.

The people, in their laborious existence, even more than the philosophers in their speculations, have need of a guide: they need, we have said, a guide for their reason, a rule for their conscience, a superior point of view from which they may embrace their knowledge and their destiny. All this they found in religion.

God, the eternal Word, had created man from clay and had animated him with his breath; God had taught how to him to speak; God had imprinted in his heart the ideas of the infinite, the eternal, the Just and the ideal; God had taught him religion, worship, and the mysteries; God had delivered to him the elements of all sciences by revealing the history of creation to him, making the animals appear before him and inviting him to name them, showing him the common origin of all peoples and the cause of their dispersion. It was God who had imposed on man the law of labor, created and sanctified the family, founded society, and separated the States, which he governed by his providence. God, finally, living and seeing, principle and goal, all-powerful, just and truthful, guaranteed man's faith, and promised, after a time of trials on this earth, to reward him for his piety with a limitless happiness.

Philosophy, which is the search for the reason of things, lost God in the process of seeking God's reason; at the same time, a dispersion took hold of knowledge, doubt gripped men’s souls, and they became unable to think of anything but the origin of man and his final end. But this state of anguish could only be momentary: under better conditions, reason will render us what revelation had given us; and although this legitimate hope has not yet been fulfilled, we can judge, by a simple outline of the state of human knowledge, as to its conditions and its totality, as to how close it may be to that fulfillment. Is it so bad, after all, that something has always been lacking in our knowledge? Isn't it enough for our security, for our dignity, that we see our intellectual wealth increase indefinitely?

It thus is a question of assuring ourselves that Justice, the principle and the source of which we will from now on locate within ourselves, fulfills, as a critical and organic principle, the object of philosophy, and that consequently it can replace religion for us, to our advantage. Deprived of the support of heaven, man remains himself. Like Medea, he will say: "Myself, myself alone, and is that not enough?" Philosophy is for the affirmative: it awaits the certainty of its principles, the justification of its hopes. Let us see now.

Since philosophy is the search for the reason of things, by including under the word things all the manifestations of the human being, and since, according to this definition, any search for the nature or the in-itself of things, for their substance and materiality, just as for any kind of absolute, is excluded from philosophy, it readily follows that the principle of certainty, the archetypal idea to which all our knowledge must be referred, must be, above all, a rational principle, that which is most frankly rational, that which is most eminently intelligible, that which is least a thing, if one can put it thus.

The idea of Justice satisfies this first condition. Its most apparent character is to express a relationship that is all the more rational, one might say, to the extent that it is formed voluntarily, in full knowledge of the cause, by two reasonable beings, two persons. Justice is synallagmatic: it produces not merely the impression of the not-self upon the self and the action of the one upon the other, but an exchange between two selves who know one another as they each know themselves, and who swear, on their mutually guaranteed honor, an alliance in perpetuity. One will not find, in all the encyclopedia of knowledge, an idea of this stature.

But it is not enough for Justice to be the relation of two wills: it would not fulfill its office if it were that alone. It is equally necessary that it be reality and ideality; moreover, that it should preserve, with the power of synthesis that we have just recognized in it, a character of sufficient primordiality to serve simultaneously as the summit of the philosophical pyramid and as the principle of all knowledge. Again, Justice combines these advantages: it is the point of transition between the sensible and the intelligible, the real and the ideal, the concepts of metaphysics and the perceptions of experience. [1]

It would be, indeed, a narrow understanding of Justice to imagine that it intervenes only in the fabrication of laws, that it has a place only in national assemblies and courts. Undoubtedly it is under this aspect of political sovereignty that it enters our thought and dominates mankind. But this Justice, with respect to which, in our relationship with our neighbors, we are especially preoccupied with the enforcement, imposes itself with no less authority on the understanding and the imagination than it does on the conscience; its formula governs the whole world, and everywhere, if it is allowed to express itself in this way, it preaches to us by precept and example.

Justice thus takes various names, according to the faculties to which it is addressed. Within the order of the conscience, the highest of all, it is JUSTICE properly speaking, rule of our rights and our duties; in the order of intelligence, logic, mathematics, etc, it is equality or equation; in the sphere of imagination, it is called ideal; in nature, it is balance. Justice is essential to each one of these categories of ideas or facts under a particular name and as an indispensable condition; to man alone, a complex being, whose spirit embraces in its unity the acts of freedom and the operations of the intelligence, the things of nature and creations of the ideal, impose themselves synthetically with an authority that is always the same; and therefore the individual who, in his relationships to his fellows, neglects the laws of nature or mind, lacks Justice.

A man asks: why? Because human society, different from the animal communities, is established on a constantly changing totality of synallagmatic relationships, and because, without speech, the determination of these relationships, and consequently legislation and Justice, would be impossible. Therefore, the solemn formula of speech is the sermon, the imprecation and the anathema; the liar is everywhere considered infamous, and among civilized people, the man who respects himself, according to the precept of the Gospel, eschews swearing: he gives his word. How many centuries will pass before we abolish this feudal shame, the legal oath? … It is through the influence of the same juridical sentiment and its dualistic formula that language tends to become more and more adequate to the idea, and that one notices there these innumerable dual forms (rhymes, parallelisms, agreements in kind, number and case, distiches, oppositions, antonymies, etc), which make grammar a system of couples, I would say almost transactions.

Man reasons, and his logic is only a development of his grammar, of which it retains the copulative paces: however, as it occupies itself less with form than content, it more closely approaches Justice, of which it is, if you will allow me this expression, the secretary. Tell, me, is it by chance that what is in grammar only a phrase, becomes in logic a judgment? And if grammar is the preparation for logic, is it less true to say that logic, having for its goal to teach us how to write the judgments of Justice correctly, is the preparation for jurisprudence?

At the same time as he receives impressions and images of external objects, man, we have said, ascends, by virtue of the identity of his thought, to those higher concepts that are called transcendental, because they exceed the range of the senses, or metaphysical, as if they were a revelation of supernatural things. Here, once again, the dualism of Justice appears. While Kant, after having made the enumeration of his categories, distributed them into four groups, each one formed of a thesis and of an antithesis, balanced by a synthesis; Hegel, following this example, built his entire philosophy on a system of antinomies that produce one another, while being mistaken as to the role and value of the synthesis, revealed to us that great law which dominated his entire critique, namely that Justice, a pure concept as much as it is a fact of experience, is the muse of metaphysics.

It was Plato, if I am not mistaken, who said that the beautiful is the splendor of the truth. This definition may please the artist, who asks only to be impressed; it is not enough for the philosopher, who wants to feel and to understand at the same time. It is certain that the ideal is a transcendent conception of reason, which elevates art, like religion and Justice, above real things and simple utility. But how is this idea of beauty formed in us? By what transition does our spirit rise from the imperfect and miserable aspects of reality to this divine contemplation of the ideal? It is an artist who teaches it to us: through Justice. The goal of art, said Raphael, is to render things, not absolutely such as nature presents them to us, but such as it should have made them, and such as we discover, in studying nature, that nature tends to make them without ever arriving at it. Being, reduced to its pure and just form, without excess or defect, without violence or softness: that is art. Anytime being, in its reality, approximates its idea in some thing, it becomes beautiful, it sparkles, and, without exceeding its limitations, it takes on the character of the infinite. Justness in form and expression, Justice in social life: the law is always the same. It is thereby that the man of genius and the man of good glorify themselves; this is the secret of the mysterious bond that links art with morality.

Shall we speak of politics and its balances? Of political economy, of the endless division of functions, the balance of values, the relation of supply to demand, trade and its balance? Just as the concept of accuracy, i.e. of Justice applied to the shape of the things, is the transition between the real and the ideal, so the notion of value is at once subjective and objective, and all of Justice is the transition between the world of nature and the world of society. Will we say, finally, that war, excessive, is only one investigation, through the struggle of the forces, of Justice? … But what good is it to insist on things that it is enough to name in order to see at once appear the principle which governs them and constitutes them, the right? It is by his conscience, much more than by his understanding and his imagination, that man embraces God, the Universe and Humanity; it is that conscience, for any statement, which creates in him reason, of which even the name, according to the etymology, means nothing but the justification of the fact by its causes, its circumstances, its medium, its elements, its time, its end, in word its idea, always Justice.

Each one knows what satisfaction seizes the soul upon the clear apperception of a truth, upon the regular conclusion of a reasoning, the demonstrated certainty of an hypothesis. There is something emotional in this pleasure caused by the possession of truth, which is not pure intelligence, which is not impassioned, and that one can compare only with the joy of the triumph gained by virtue over vice. One also knows what heated controversy can exist between men of the most peaceful character with regard to questions in which their interests are by no means engaged. In all of this, I repeat, we can sense an element of will intricately mixed with the operations of the understanding, and which, in my opinion, is nothing other than Justice intervening in the philosopher's investigation and rejoicing in his success. Just so, the pure form or beauty, exact knowledge or truth, is still Justice.

Conscience and science would thus be, at base, identical. What gives the sanction to the one is the other. What makes us exclaim, in a tone of satisfied pride or rather of satisfied conscience: It is obvious, is that the obviousness is not only in us an act of judgement, but an act of the conscience, a kind of stop in the last resort which defies the lie: It is obvious!

The separation of science and conscience, like that of logic and right, is only a scholastic abstraction. In our soul, things do not occur thus: the certainty of knowledge is something more intimate to us, more emotional, more vital, than the logicians and the psychologists say. Also, as one said of the good man, that he could be eloquent, vir bonus dicendi peritus, because he had a conscience, pectus est quod disertos facit, one could also say that the wise man is incompatible with the dishonest man, and that what science builds in us is the conscience.

Assured, by justice, as to his science and his conscience, finding in his own heart the reason of the Universe and the reason of himself, what more does man require? And what could the heavens and the powers of the skies offer to him? …

Need I add that, as the quality of the philosophical spirit is the same one in all the men, and as they do not differ between them, from this point of view, except by the sum of their knowledge, so the conscience in all is also of equal quality: they differ, in this regard, only by the development of their moral sense and the sum of their virtues?

It is by virtue of this second principle that the Revolution, which declared all the citizens, because of the equivalence of their judgment, to be equal before the law, wanted further to make them all legislators and dispensers of justice: voters, jurors, judges, referees, experts, members of the communal assembly and the provincial council, representatives of the people, guardians of the nation; it wanted to given them all the right to publish their opinions, to discuss the acts and to control the accounts of the government, to criticize the laws and to pursue their reform.

Democracy of the intelligence and democracy of the conscience: such are the two great principles of philosophy, the two articles of faith of the Revolution.

Let us summarize this section.

Since philosophy is essentially dualistic, since in its language and its reasoning the ideas of sensible things incessantly call upon metaphysical ideas and vice versa; and since, in addition, among the objects of its study are included, often mixed and confused, things of nature and humanity, of speculation, of morals and art, it follows that the critical principle of philosophy, dualist and synthetic in its form, empirical and idealist by virtue of its double origin, must be capable of being applied, with equal suitability, to all the categories of knowledge.

However, the idea of Justice is the only one which meets these conditions: it is thus the Justice which we will take for universal and absolute criterion of certainty. The proposal of Descartes, I think, therefore I am, is not certain because it is obvious, which does not mean anything; it is obvious because its two terms are adequate, i.e. equal before the justice of the understanding, confirmed by the judgment of the conscience; and every obvious proposition is found in the same case.

That is not all. With the criterion of certainty, one needs for philosophy a principle in virtue of which it coordinates its materials, and which, in construction without end of knowledge, does not enable him any more to be mislaid.

Once again, the idea of Justice answers this wish. Indeed, Justice, or better the reason, the line reason, as it was formerly said, being all at the same time paramount and understanding with the supreme degree, is with itself its principle, its measurement and its end, so that for the philosopher, the critical principle and the organic or teleological principle is the same one. From where it results that the last word of philosophy, its constant goal, is to realize, by the synthesis of knowledge, the agreement between man and nature, that is to say, as Fourier called it, universal Harmony. There is nothing beyond that.


1. Kant endeavoured to show that there were a priori synthetic judgements, although that implied a contradiction to some extent, and he was right to think so, since without an a priori synthetic judgement, the unity of philosophical construction is impossible. Hegel, on the contrary, argued that such judgements do not exist, and all his philosophy, understood in good faith, is nothing but the analysis and then the reconstruction of a synthesis that is necessarily conceived a priori. What, then, is this synthesis that Kant affirms and does not find, that Hegel denies and demonstrates? It is nothing other than Justice, at once the most complete concept and the most paramount, that Hegel calls sometimes the Idea, sometimes the Spirit or the Absolute.

  1. The coming of the people to philosophy
  2. The definition of philosophy
  3. On the quality of the philosophical mind
  4. The origin of ideas
  5. That metaphysics is within the province of primary instruction
  6. That philosophy must be essentially practical
  7. The character that must be presented by the guarantee of our judgments and the rule of our actions.--Conversion from speculative to practical reason: determination of the criterion.
  8. Justice, universal reason of things: science and conscience.
  9. Supremacy of Justice. (next)
  10. . . .