Monday, March 28, 2011

Two Socialist Catechisms

I've been reading around Proudhon quite a bit lately, trying to establish contexts as a step towards further clarifying his ideas. And I have been in search of 19th century English translations of the French socialists, as a step towards establishing the contexts for people like William B. Greene and William Henry Channing. There are large chunks of the writings of Charles Fourier, Victor Considerant, and a number of the important French socialist-feminists tucked away in the pages of American papers. The translations are often partial, and occasionally untrustworthy, but I've been setting aside time each week for searching, double-checking and correcting, and slowly but surely I'll start posting the various versions online. Some time ago, I posted a link to part of Louis Blanc's "The Socialist's Catechism," which appeared in translation in 1850 in The Spirit of the Age. (It's not always easy to know when you have a complete translation, but this seems to be complete now.) Blanc was, of course, one of Proudhon's main antagonists in the 1848 period, and in the course of another search, soon after digging up the later sections of his Catechism, I ran across some works in French, from his Nouveau Monde, critiquing Proudhon. The titles are delicious: "Men of the People, the State is You!" and "The State-Anarchy of Citizen Proudhon." In the latter, I found reference to another "Socialist Catechism," that appeared in the Voix du Peuple, which Blanc, without quite attributing it to Proudhon, nonetheless claimed represented Proudhon's "ideal." The piece was unfamiliar to me, and didn't show up in a text-search on Proudhon's works. A broader search revealed that it was an article written by Charles-François Chevé, who fired the opening shots in the Proudhon-Bastiat debate on interest. And a couple of days of wrestling with it produced a translation. It's a very interesting document, and probably was fairly close to the vision shared in Proudhon's circle at that time. It's well worth a look.

But I was really stealing time away from another project to work on the translation, and to do the inevitable research on what else of Chevé's I could track down online. With about half of this second Catechism translated, I went back to the job of tracking down articles for a collection of writings by William Henry Channing. That took me back into the pages of The Spirit of the Age, which I've been paging through to find articles left out of the published indexes. And that brought me to a pair of  translations from "The Last Word of Socialism" (no author noted) which looked interesting enough to pursue. And, while there don't seem to have been as many "last words of socialism" as "solutions of the social problem" or "socialist catechisms," that title seemed awfully familiar to me. Oh, yeah. Our pal Chevé wrote a book called Le Dernier Mot du Socialisme, par un catholique in 1848. And it turns out that what I had found was two chapters from that work, including another chapter in roughly catechistic form on "The Landlord and His Tenants." But posting those will have to wait for another day...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Proudhon, "Man is Free"

The short article by Proudhon, "God is Evil," which I posted awhile back, was essentially the introduction to a longer piece, "Man is Free," which followed it. I now have both articles translated and posted to the Libertarian Labyrinth archive.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Proudhon, The Theory of Property - Chapter 2

Here's another short chapter from The Theory of Property:


Pierre-Joseph Proudhon


That property is absolute: prejudice opposed to absolutism.

The recognition or institution of property is the most extraordinary, if not the most mysterious, act of the Collective Reason, an act that much more extraordinary and mysterious as, by its principle, property rejects collectivity and reason equally. Nothing is more simple, more clear than the material fact of appropriation: a corner of land is unoccupied; a man comes and establishes himself there, exactly as the eagle does in his canton, the fox in a burrow, the bird on the branch, the butterfly on the flower, the bee in the hollow of the tree or the rock. It is there, I repeat it, only a simple fact, solicited by need, accomplished by instinct, then affirmed by egoism and defended by force. There is the origin of all property. Then comes Society, Law, General Reason, Universal Consent, all the authorities, divine and human, which recognize, consecrate that usucapion, say,—you can do it without fear,—that usurpation. Why? Here Jurisprudence is troubled, lowering its head, pleading that one not question it.

“The possession of the soil is a fact that force alone makes respectable, until society takes it in hand and sanctions the cause of the holder; then, under the empire of that social guarantee, the fact becomes a Right; that right, it is property. The right of property is a social creation: the laws do not only protect property; they are what give rise to it, determine it, and give it the rank and scope that it occupies in the rights of the citizen.” (E. Laboulaye. Histoire du droit de propriété, a work awarded by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, August 10, 1838.)

It is necessary to observe here that the sanction of the fact is still not property, since the possession of the soil cannot have the same character for the tenant farmer, the feudataire, the Slavic possessor, the leaseholder or the proprietor. Now, if possession is understood, marvelously, as fact and as right, it is not the same of property, of which the motives are as unknown to Mr. Laboulaye as the others.

So do not ask him how the good pleasure of the lawmaker, or of society, of what he is the agent, has been able to transform the fact into a RIGHT: Mr. Laboulaye knows nothing of it, and you declare it clear-cut. The fact posited, the right supposed, (and all of that in ten lines,) he rolls out his History, at first very interesting, of the right of property; he recounts all its vicissitudes, contradictions, corrupt practices, abuses, violences, iniquities, corruptions, degradations and transformations. Of the reason for all these things, he does not know the first word; he does not even seek it. A prudent jurist, he withdraws into a significant silence: “The appropriation of the soil,” he says to you, “is one of these facts contemporary with the first societies, that science is obliged to admit as a point of departure, BUT THAT IT CANNOT QUESTION, without running the risk of putting society itself in question."

Powerful philosopher who does not want to discuss either fact or law, and who dares to call a social creation a purely arbitrary thing, where abuse, contradiction and violence abound, draws back to cast the responsibility for the disasters, sometimes on the presumed consent of the people, sometimes on the decrees of Providence, sometimes, finally, on the irresistible course of revolutions and the force of things! Silence on that which they do not understand and that appears dangerous to them to delve into: such is, in general, the motto of the gentlemen-laureates of the Institute.

For you reader, whom this academic hypocrisy could not please, you, proprietor, who doubtless desire for society and for yourself some guaranties a bit more serious than the elegance of phrases and the force of bayonets, you want it to be discussed, even if society itself be put in question, if you should restore to the mass what a caprice of the lawmaker would have wrongly auctioned off to you. Listen then; listen without fear, and be convinced in advanced that Truth and Justice will reward your good will.

Right is right: Law is uncertain, sometimes obscure, mysterious; and it is no small thing to be able to show what is just or unjust despite appearances. Jurisprudence is nothing other than the philosophy of Right. One is not a jurist for having acquired the erudition of the texts and the knowledge of the argot of the schools; one is not even a jurist for having learned the origins and filiation of the usages, customs and legislations, their analogies, their correlation, and the texts. One is a jurist when one knows à fond la raison of the laws, their scope and their aim; when one knows the superior, organic, political thought, that rules all; when one can demonstrate that such a law is faulty, insufficient, incomplete. And for that there is no need to be a laureate of the Academy.

Every man who reasons about the Law is a jurist, just as he is a theologian if he reasons about his faith, is a philosopher if he reasons on the phenomena of nature and the mind. One is, to a greater or lesser degree, philosopher, theologian, jurist, as one brings more or less persistence, scope and depth to the research of causes, of reasons and ends. Mr. Laboulaye has done a great wrong in reproaching Michelet et Guizot for not being jurists; they are his equals and more.

Property, psychological by its nature, by constitution a matter of Law, and, I will soon add, social by destination, is ABSOLUTE: it cannot not be so. Now, before entering into the examination of motifs, we should not one thing religiously: it is that this absolutism forms against property a prejudice,—if I may put it that way,—which has up to this moment appeared invincible.

The absolute is a conception of the mind indispensable for the advance of reasoning and the clarity of ideas; it is a hypothesis necessary for speculative reason, but that is rejected by practical reason as a dangerous chimera, a logical absurdity and an immorality.

Religion, in the first place, declares to us: sovereignty, property, sanctity, glory, power, in a word, the absolute, belongs only to God: the man who aspires to it is impious and sacrilegious. The Psalmist said, with regard even to property: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all that it contains: Domini est terra et plenitudo ejus.” Notice to the chiefs of the tribes and to the proprietors to show themselves beneficent towards the people, not miserly. As if he had said: The true proprietor of the nation of Canaan is Jehovah; you are only its managers. That idea is found at the origin among all peoples: Mr. Laboulaye is in error when he says that property is a fact contemporary with the first society. What is contemporary with the first society is momentary occupation, or possession in common: property only comes later, by the progress of liberties and the slow elaboration of the laws.

The absolute is no less inadmissible in politics. That fullness of autocracy that attracts the theologian, because it is an image of the government of God; that the people conceive and accept with so much ease, because the absolutism is in essence religious, from divine right, is precisely what everyone condemns today, and that gives the lie to the theory of the separation and equilibrium of powers.

Political economy is in the same case as politics: just as the theory of government aims to make the State come out from the regime of the absolute, so economy science, by its theory of values, credit, exchange, taxation, division of labor, etc., has for object to make the operations of industry and exchange, the facts of circulation, production and distribution, come out from the absolute. What could be more opposed to the absolute than statistics, for example, la commercial accounting, the law of population, the dispute between supply and demand?...

Do I need to say that philosophy, or study of the reason of things, is the war of reason against the absolute? And science, finally, whose first name is analysis, science is the exclusion of every absolute, since it invariably proceeds by decomposition, definition, classification, coordination, harmony, enumeration, etc., and that where decomposition becomes impossible, or distinction is stopped, where definition is obscure, contradictory or impossible, where, finally, the absolute begins again, science ends.

Metaphysics, which gives us the notion of the absolute, joins its testimony to the others, as soon as it is a question of making the absolute enter into practice, of realizing it. Try as it might, the MOI cannot appropriate the non-moi, assimilate it and merge it with its own substance; they are fundamentally separated; try to confound them, or to suppress one or the other, both are ruined, and you no longer see anything.

How then could the proprietary absolutism justify itself, and become a law? Doubtless, the moi needs a non-moi in order to sense itself; doubtless, as we have said in the beginning, the citizen needs a reality that ballasts and fixes it, on pain of fading away like a fiction. But does that prove that the non-moi belongs to the moi, and is its product; that the earth could be give to the citizen as property and absolute domain? Isn’t it sufficient that he obtains possession, usufruct, tenancy, on the condition of good administration and responsibility? This is how it has been understood, in the beginnings, by the Germans, the Slaves, etc., how it is still practiced by the Arabs.

What strengthened this prejudice, is that the Law-maker divides it.

Thus, property is defined according to Roman Right: “Dominium est jus utendi et abutendi re sua, quatenùs juris ratio patitur; domain is the right to use and abuse one’s thing, as far as the reason of Right will suffer.” — The French definition comes down to this: “Property is the right to enjoy and to dispose of things in the most absolute manner, provided that one does not make a Usage of them prohibited by the laws and the regulations.” (Code civil, art. 541) — The Latin is more energetic, perhaps more profound than the French. But take notice of one thing, one marvelous thing, that the jurists have never grasped: it is that these two definitions contradict one another, in that each sanctions a double absolutism, that of the proprietor and that of the State, two manifestly incompatible absolutisms. Now, it must be thus, and it is here we find the wisdom of the Legislator, a wisdom assuredly very few of the jurists have been in doubt up to now.

I say first that property is absolute in its nature, and, in all of its tendencies, absolutist; that is to say that nothing must hinder, limit, restrain, or condition the action and enjoyment of the proprietor: apart from this there is no property. Everyone understands this. It is what the Latin expresses by the words: jus utendi et abutendi. How then, if property is absolute, can the legislator express reservations in the name of legal reason [raison du Droit], which is evidently nothing other than the reason of the State, organ and interpreter of Law [Droit]? Who will say how for these reservations will reach? Where, with regard to property, will the legal or State reason stop? What reproaches, what criticisms can we make against property? What conclusions can we posit which reduce its absolutism to nothing? The French Code is more guarded in the expression of its restrictions; it says: “Provided that one cannot make a use of property prohibited by the laws of regulation.” But one can make an infinite number of laws and regulations, laws and regulations which, perfectly well motivated by the abuse of property, would tie the hands of the proprietor, and reduce his sovereignty—egoistic, scandalous, and culpable—to nothing.

These à priori considerations against every pretention of humanity to absolutism, are the stumbling block on which are wrecked all those who have tried to resolve the problem of the origin and principle of property. They have furnished to the adversaries of the institution some formidable arguments, to which the only response has been persecution, or else, as in the case of M. Laboulaye, silence.

And yet, property is a universal fact, if not in actuality, at least in tendency; an invincible, fixed fact, to which the legislator must sooner or later give his sanction; which is reborn from its ashes, like the phoenix, which it has been destroyed by revolutions, and which the world has seen present itself in every epoch as the antithesis of caste, the guarantee of liberty, and I would almost say the incarnation of Justice.

Such is the mystery of which we are finally going to give the explanation.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lum, Tucker and Spooner on Mormonism

The first mutual aid project with Kate Sharpley Library dragged out considerably longer than I had intended, but they've had their copy of Dyer D. Lum's Utah and its People for several weeks now, and I've finally put together a volume collecting that volume, Lum's follow-up, Social Problems of Today, or, The Mormon Question in its Economic Aspects, and the articles on Mormonism from Liberty. Among the Liberty articles is one by Lysander Spooner, "War Upon Superstitious Women" (originally unsigned, but identified by Tucker in his reminiscence of Spooner.)

We'll tackle another project with KSL this Spring.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Charles Fourier on the Papillon, or Butterfly Passion

[For Roderick, a bit from Charles Fourier's Passions of the Human Soul, dealing with dinner parties and the passion for variation, the papillon. Some of Fourier's influence no doubt comes through in Stephen Pearl Andrews analogy of the dinner party.]

According to the property common to the three distributives, the papillon is of two species, distinguished into contrasted and identical.

1st. The contrasted papillon arises from transitions from one extreme to another. For example: a company of sybarites, accustomed to sumptuous banquets, will eat with great pleasure in a cottage, rustic fare,—milk and fruit served up in earthern vessels; they will find in this frugal repast a piquant contrast with their habits; the wooden spoon and the black bread will have the charm of novelty for them, and their collation in the cottage will be more gay than drawingroom festivals. If it were necessary to prolong this rural pleasure eight days, it would become a punishment; but limited to a sitting, it is a diversion for this fine company, and very fit to put it in spirits. Whence you perceive that the papillon has the precious faculty of making something out of nothing; for you cannot imagine anything less, for people habituated to china and plate, than a repast of milk and black bread, served up in earthern vessels and eaten with wooden spoons.

2ndly. The identical papillon is a variety in pleasures of the same species, as dinner. We take pleasure in a dinnerparty of friends; but an adage says: "Ennui was born one day of uniformity." This friendly dinner party must be varied every day as well by the assortment of the guests as by that of the dishes. A dinner party of friends may please three days consecutively, and provided there are some varieties of dishes or of guests; but it will be necessary to vary it the following days by a dinner of corporation, a dinner of strangers, a family dinner, a dinner of gallantry (diner galant), &c., &c. Without this variation, the most friendly dinners will become flat by uniformity, or at all events they will lose a part of their charm, and it is a great fault in harmony to wear out or blunt pleasure. The passional series have no other end than that of keeping alive, of sharpening every pleasure by judicious and varied use, either by contrasts, or by the identical varieties that I have just denned in treating of the two meals, one of which, taken beneath the thatch in earthern vessels, is a varying in contrast, and the other, diversified each day as regards the companies of friends and the cheer, a varying in identity.

Let a pleasure be varied by contrast or by identity, the variation is always subject to two modes, which are:—The gradative and the improvised.

The repasts that I have just described in the preceding paragraph would be an enjoyment of gradative papillon, since they would be formed successively of friends, of corporations, of illustrious strangers, of people of gallantry (monde galant), Sec.

The pleasures of improvised papillon are emotions unexpected which occasion an extreme surprise, as the repayment of a debt that you had given up for lost, the arrival of a friend whom the public represented as dead; in these different cases the unforeseenness doubles the pleasure, and procures two enjoyments instead of a single one. Such is the effect of a meal that soldiers find ready served in a post they have stormed, or that sportsmen unexpectedly meet with in the forest by the forethought of one of the party, who takes good care not to apprize them of it; for, by announcing it, he would destroy the charm of surprise, and would diminish the pleasure by one-half—instead of a contrasted improvised papillon, he would only give them a contrasted papillon

On recapitulating, it will be seen that the papillon is of two species, whereof each is subdivided into two modes:—
  • The gradative contrasted.
  • The improvised contrasted.
  • The gradative identical.
  • The improvised identical.
It is only in the passional series that you can every day procure papillons thus varied. For want of these varyings, pleasure is subject to become stale; witness that of a seraglio, which is hardly able to excite the enthusiasm of a sultan, though the seraglio was only invented to procure the pleasure of papillonism for the sultan. It is not found in the harem, because this assembly does not fulfil the conditions indicated further back in connection with the species and modes. Our sybarites more or less fall into similar staleness. You hear them complain of languor and want of illusion, when you would have thought them drunk with delights and rapt in the forty-fifth heaven.

It is not only in pleasures, but likewise in labors, that this want of variety must be examined. The labors in harmony are but one and the same thing with pleasures, since all labor ought to be attractive. Accordingly, the harmonians make no distinction between labor and pleasure. A dinner session and a labor session are nothing but two amusements in their eyes.

But recreations themselves are tiresome and injurious if you prolong them beyond two hours without interruption. Whatever enthusiasm may prevail in them, will not sustain itself beyond two hours, according to the laws of the composite. It is necessary, therefore, in order to keep up variety, and prevent excess and disgust, that the labors should be sufficiently numerous to relieve each other, at the latest, every two hours, and frequently every hour, with agreeable surprises; for there would not be regular enjoyment of the eleventh passion called papillon, if the varieties of pleasure were not at one time gradative, at another improvised.

Such is the kind of life that every one leads in harmony. The employment of the day is distributed there in little sessions, all well varied according to the rules of the papillon. This kind of life that prevents all excess, all ennui, is one of the means which in harmony will raise the human species to a prodigious vigour.

In civilization, the people, exhausted by the want of variety, by the monotony and the excess of a same kind of work, employs two days—Sunday and Monday—to refresh itself, and drown itself in wine, to console itself for five days of industrial punishment. In certain countries, like Sweden, the people only work three days per week, so greatly is it wearied of the civilizee regime, that has the vice of neither varying labors with the people, nor pleasures with the opulent class.

Accordingly, you see the latter class incessantly give in to excesses, such as festivals of four or five hours' duration, balls lasting through the whole night, and labors still worse, from their interminable sessions devoid of attraction. But the civilizee state is not made for this pleasure; consequently the civilizees use it as the camel uses water, whereof it drinks for thirst past and future. These excesses hinge upon the penury of enjoyments. The repast or ball would not be thus prolonged if other pleasures, equally lively, offered after two hours time.

One of the principal remedies for excess would be, to secure a full development of the papillon. Harmony will have to procure for every man, woman and child a mass of pleasures sufficiently numerous to relieve each other constantly. That is to say, that after having partaken in the course of the day of a dozen enjoyments, you may be able to enjoy the next day others in like number, but with variety of contrast and identity, successive or improvised, according to the table given further back—a table to which would have to be added, moreover, conditions of progressive development, whereof mention will be made in the chapters on the focal passion. But to speculate here upon variety alone, which is the object of the eleventh passion, it is clear that, in supposing the sessions of pleasure confined to a dozen per day for the poorest of men, they will have to be relieved by thirds, and to have in reserve at least four new pleasures for the next day, as many for the day after, and a similar varying distributed over the days, the weeks, the months, the years, the lustres, the phases, and the whole course of life.

The exercise of the papillon would be hindered, and there would exist no harmony of passion, if the eleventh that requires these varieties, had not its full development.

Amongst the most boasted enjoyments, there are some that soon become blunt, can only excite enthusiasm once or twice, and must be lost sight of for a long time to re-appear with advantage. Their supply must therefore be countless, if you want to vary them according to the rules of the papillon. Habit renders the most delicate viands insipid to us, and the human species being exposed to be "used up," more or less, in connection with every habitual pleasure, it is not overrating it to estimate at a third the renewal that the enjoyments must receive every day, in order to secure to the papillon a full development, for which purpose everything has been well prepared by God in the mechanism of harmony.

It is not only to human beings, it is to the whole of nature that the use of this passion extends. I have observed that the purely material beings are subject to it as well as animate bodies; thus a field requires to vary its productions, and dislikes to receive, many years in succession, the same kind of seed. The grain, on its side, does not like to be sown in the field that has brought it forth; it degenerates in it, and requires the alternation of soil. Plants require that you should reproduce them alternately from bulbs, from grains, from sets, from grafts, & they become degenerate if you neglect this precaution of varying. The races of men* and of animals are subject to the same want; they are beautified by crossing, and debilitated by keeping to one line.

Thus all nature is animated by this passion for varying and papillonism, which is the sovereign vice in the eyes of the philosophers, the friends of black broth and of uniformity. You must observe carefully that the passion for variety is a want, and not a whim. Every one knows by experience that after having lived some time at a table uniformly served, the stomach remits and slackens its functions, notwithstanding the salubrity of the viands; and the day that you pass to a table with different cheer, you are sure to digest more rapidly, though you may eat more. The stomach, as well as the heart and the mind of man, experience, like the whole of nature, the want of varying, especially in love matters, so inclined to follow the laws of the papillon, and to desert the conjugal standard. Our ballad writers have sufficiently preached on this head the power of the eleventh passion, and it is meet to cite in this place one of their couplets:—

"Je le tien de tous lea epoux,
Tel est l'effet du mariage,
L'ennui se glisse parmi nous,
Au sein du plus heureux menage.

"Votre femme a beaucoup d'appas,
Celle du voisin n'en a guere;
Mais on veut ce que l'on n'a pas,
Et ce qu'on a cesse de plaire."

If the philosophers had analysed the passions, and especially the papillon, the cabalist, and the composite, which are three passions antipathetic to the incoherent household, they would have come to suspect that this tie, which places families in respective isolation, is opposed to the nature of man; and that civilization, which clashes on all hands with the three distributive passions, is in its whole character the antipode of destiny, since it cannot admit the exercise of three passions, whereof the attraction is so powerful, especially that of the composite.

* It is said that the Scotch and Spanish nobility, which have been in the habit of intermarrying in the same family, have become greatly degenerate; whereas the Persian magnates have become an improved race, through the introduction of Circassian and Georgian slaves in their harems.—Translator.

They don't write 'em like that anymore

A couple of finds:
  • An early translation (Charles A. Dana, in the Harbinger) of "An Unpublished Fragment of Fourier," describing "the Antienne, or first repast." Turns out that breakfast in harmony is quite an affair.
  • An unfinished, probably incomplete, unused French preface for an edition of Proudhon's War and Peace that was ultimately abandoned, by Georges Sorel, who was alternately one of the best and one of he worst readers of Proudhon I can think of.