Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Jean Grave, "The Adventures of Nono" (1901) - Full translation

I've completed a working translation of Jean Grave's "The Adventures of Nono," a children's book written for the Ferrer Schools. It's a strange and fascinating novel, with a style and vocabularly not quite appropriate in some places for most children, but with sections that seem well wrought for that purpose. I'm going to have to think about this one a bit before I make final decisions about those questions of style and vocabulary in the revision stage, but for now I think this is a pretty good representation of Grave's work.

[Cross-post from Working Translations]

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Flora Tristan, "The Modern Utopians" (1846)

I've started translating a short posthumous work by Flora Tristan, "The Emancipation of Woman," published in 1846. I'm presenting the final chapter, which includes brief appraisals of a number of prominent socialists, including Proudhon. You'll also find a comparatively glowing paragraph on one Simon Ganneau, a Saint-Simonian heretic known as the Mapah, who believed himself the androgyne incarnation of both the Mère and Père (Ma+Pa), messiah-figures sought by Saint-Simon's followers. He founded a religion called Evadaisme, a name combining those of Eve and Adam. The whole work is quite interesting, combining influences from various early socialist schools with Tristan's own ideas and perspective, and relatively short (24,000 words) so I'll be trying to work up a complete translation over the next couple of months. 


The Modern Utopians

Honor to the men of conviction who advance as scouts at the head of the humanitary caravan!
Glory to these sublime madmen, whom we killed formerly and today are content to ridicule pleasantly while they die of poverty!
Humanity has never lacked prophets, and the future that opens before us also has its revelators.
Swedenborg, through the revelation of the correspondences, has announced the unity and universality of science and has indicated to Fourier his fine system of analogies.
He has shown the celestial societies grouped by harmonious series according to the degrees of intelligence and love.
He has given heaven and hell attractions for motives, and on their antagonism he has established equilibrium.
Fourier wanted to realize the celestial dream of Swedenborg on earth, and transfigured into a phalanstery the convent of the Middle Ages.
Saint-Simon has given the initiative of the transfigurations of dogma, and has revealed the end of Christian widowhood and the great humanitary marriage by the moral emancipation of women.
A man whose name still serves as a laughing stock for the so-called sages because he still lives, Ganneau, summarizes these various systems in a magnificent orthodoxy; he justifies the emancipation of women by the cult of love and honor that he assigns to the title of mother. For him, the Emperor Napoléon is a messianic type representing the great Cain or usurper, but he reconciles him with the Christ, who is the great Abel, and from that union of obedience and strength is born the equilibrium of rights and duties.
After these great prophetic figures, who represent some general ideas, come some architects who give plans for the various parts of the social edifice.
Cabet, a man of conviction and perseverance, whose integrity took the place, up to a certain point, of ideas and talents, gave in his Icaria the plan for a great common manufacture and some rules for workshops that can have their reasonable and useful side. Proudhon, a reasoner with a serious, but overwhelming logic, takes property, such as we understand it in our time, is his stranglehold, where he crushes it. His book has not been pursued by the public prosecutor.
Victor Considérant, the regenerator of the societary school, and upholder of the work of Fourier, a man of science and talent, who will perhaps soon be called represent at the rostrum the ideas of peaceful emancipation and social organization.
That is nearly all the men of our era who are serious concerned with the future. But none of them have actively put their hand to the work, either because they lacked the means of execution, or because their plans were still not well settled, or because their faith was not keen enough.
We are told that an architect of antiquity, after having listened in silence to the details of some gigantic plans of another architect, a great maker of theories, surpassed him with a single phrase, by crying out: “What he has said, I will do!”
Oh! If courage and devotion were enough, I would, myself, this architect who speaks little, but who acts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here ends the manuscript dictated by Mme. Flora Tristan.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Manifesto of the Sixty Workers of the Seine (1864)

I was looking at how much of Proudhon's Political Capacity of the Working Classes I had translated at various times into English, with some thought about taking it up as the next logical bit of his work to tackle, when The Theory of Property finally gets finished, here in the next month or two. It's a work that I started reading through enough years ago that my French was at that time very, very rusty. So I had to search around on some old thumb drives to find some of my earliest work on it, and in the process found that I had taken the time, not knowing the history surrounding the work very well, to translate, in very rough form, the "Manifesto of the Sixty Workers of the Seine," signed by Henri Tolain and a group of other workingmen. It's been long enough ago that I"m not sure how much of what I found was the result of my most clueless initial gropings back towards a reading knowledge of French, and how much was the result of early online translation. There was at least on telltale translation of "essence" as "gasoline," so some of it was clearly the latter. But I decided to wade right in and see if I couldn't turn it into something useable. Here, as part of the background for Proudhon's last completed work, is the result:

Manifesto of the Sixty Workers of the Seine
(February 17, 1864)

On May 31, 1863, the workers of Paris, more concerned about the triumph of the opposition than of their particular interest, would vote the list published by the newspapers. Without hesitating, without haggling over their support, inspired by their devotion to liberty, they gave a new, brilliant, and irrefutable proof of it. And the victory of the opposition was complete, such as one wished it ardently, but certainly more imposing than many dared to hope.
A worker candidacy was posted, it is true, but defended with a moderation that everyone was forced to recognize. It was put forward to support only some secondary, partisan considerations, in the face of an exceptional situation which gave to the general elections a particular character; its defenders abstained from posing the vast problem of the pauperism. It was with a great reserve of propaganda and arguments that the proletariat attempted to manifest itself: the proletariat, that wound of modern society, as slavery and serfdom were wounds of antiquity and the Middle Ages. Those who acted thus had foreseen their defeat, but they believed it was good to set a first milepost. Such a candidacy seemed necessary to them to affirm the profoundly democratic spirit of the great city.
In the next elections the situation will not be the same. By the election of nine deputies, the liberal opposition obtained in Paris a broad satisfaction. Whoever they were, selected under the same conditions, the newly elected officials would not add anything to the significance of the vote of May 31: whatever their eloquence, it would hardly add to the glare thrown today by the skilful and brilliant speakers of the opposition. There is not a point of the democratic program of which we would not wish, like it, its realization. And let us say it once and for all, we employ this word Democracy in its most radical and honest sense.
But if we agree on policy, do we agree on social economy? Are the reforms that we desire, the institutions that we demand the liberty to found, accepted by all those which represent the liberal party in the legislature? That is the question, the Gordian knot of the situation.
One fact demonstrates in a peremptory and painful way, the difficulties of the position of the workmen.
In a country whose Constitution rests on universal suffrage, in a country where everyone invokes and extols the principles of 89, we are obliged to justify some worker candidacies, to tell thoroughly, at length, the how and the why, and that in order to avoid, not only the unjust accusations of the timid and excessively conservative, but also the fears and the loathings of our friends.
Universal suffrage has made us adults politically, but it still remains to us to emancipate ourselves socially. The freedom which the Third Estate was able to win with so much strength and perseverance must be extended in France, a democratic country, to all the citizens. Equal political right necessarily implies an equal social right. We repeat it until we’re blue in the face: there are no more classes; since 1789, all the French are equal before the law.
But we who have no another property than our arms, we who undergo every day the legitimate or arbitrary conditions of capital; we who live under exceptional laws, such as the law on the coalitions and article 1781, which harmed our interests at the same time as our dignity, it is quite difficult for us to believe in that assertion.
We who, in a country where we have the right to name the deputies, have not always the means of learning how to read; we who, for want of the power to gather, to associate freely, are powerless to organize professional instruction, and who see this precious instrument of industrial progress becoming the privilege of capital, we cannot delude ourselves in that way.
We whose children often spend their younger years in the demoralizing and unhealthy environment of the factories, or in apprenticeship, which is hardly still today anything but a state close to domestic servitude; we, whose wives inevitably desert the hearth for an excessive labor, contrary to their nature and destructive of the family; we who do not have the right to agree to defend our wages peacefully, to insure ourselves against unemployment, we affirm that the equality written in the law is not in the customs, and that it has yet to be realized in the facts. Those who, deprived of education and capital, cannot resist selfish and oppressive demands through liberty and solidarity, these are inevitably subject to the domination of the capital: their interests remain subordinates to other interests.
We know it, the interests do not regulate themselves; they escape the law; they can be reconciled only by particular conventions, mobile and changing like those interests themselves. Without liberty being given to all that reconciliation is impossible. We will march to the conquest of our rights, peacefully and legally, but with energy and persistence. Our liberation will soon show the progress realized in the spirit of the working classes, of the immense multitude that vegetates as what is called the proletariat, and that, in order to use a fairer expression, we will call the salariat.
To those which wish to see resistance organized, the strike, as soon as we claim liberty, we say: you do not know the worker; they work towards an end large in other ways, fertile in different ways than the one which exhausts their strength in daily battles where, from two sides, the adversaries would ultimately find only ruin for some and poverty for the others.
The Third Estate said: What the Third Estate? Nothing! What must it be? Everything! We will not say: What is the worker? Nothing! What must he be? Everything! But we will say: the bourgeoisie, our elder brother in emancipation, knew how, in 89, to absorb the nobility and to destroy unjust privileges; it is a question for us, not to destroy the rights which the middle classes rightly enjoy, but to win the same liberty of action. In France, the democratic country par excellence, all political right, any social reform, every instrument of progress cannot remain the privilege of some. By the force of the things, the nation which possesses the innate spirit of equality, irresistibly tends to make the inheritance of all.
Any means of progress which cannot be extended, popularized, so as to contribute to the general well-being, by descending to the last layers of society, is not completely democratic, for it constitutes a privilege. The law must be broad enough to allow to each, separately or collectively, the development of their faculties, the use of their strengths, savings and intelligence, without anyone being able to establish any limits on them but the liberty of others, and not their interests.
Let no one accuse us of dreaming of agrarian laws, chimerical equality, which would put each on a Procrustean bed, division, maximum, forced taxation, etc, etc. No! It is high time to be done with these slanders propagated by our enemies and adopted by the ignorant. Liberty to work, credit, and solidarity, there are our dreams. The day when they are realized, for the glory and the prosperity of a country that is dear to us, there will be no more bourgeois nor proletarians, no bosses nor workers. All the citizens will be equal in rights.
But, we are told, all these reforms that you need, the elected deputies can demand them like you, and better than you; they are the representatives of all and named by all.
Well! we will respond: No! We are not represented, and that is why we pose this question of the worker candidacies. We know that one does not say industrial, commercial, military, journalistic candidacies, etc; but the thing is there if the word is not. Isn't the great majority of the legislature made up of large landowners, industrialists, tradesmen, generals, journalists, etc, etc, etc, which vote silently or which speak only in the offices, and only on questions in which they have the special interest?
A very small number speak on the general questions. Certainly we think that the elected workers should and could defend the general interests of the democracy, but even when they limit themselves to defending the particular interests of the most numerous class, what a specialty! They would fill a gap with the legislature where manual labor is not represented. We who do not have at our service any of these means, fortune, relations, public office, we are forced to give to our candidacies a clear and significant denomination and to call things by their name as much as we can.
We are not represented, for, in a recent meeting of the legislature, there was a unanimous demonstration of sympathy in favor of the working class, but no voice was raised to formulate, with moderation but with firmness, our aspirations, our desires and our rights as we understand them.
We are not represented, we who refuse to believe that poverty is a divine institution. Charity, a Christian institution, has radically proven and has recognized itself its powerlessness as a social institution.
Undoubtedly, in the good old days, in the times of divine right, when, imposed by God, the kings and the nobles believed themselves the fathers and elders of the people, when happiness and the equality were relegated to heaven, charity should be a social institution.
In the times of the sovereignty of the people, of universal suffrage, it is no more, can no longer be more than a private virtue. Alas! the defects and the infirmities of human nature will always leave to fraternity a vast field on which to exert itself; but the unmerited poverty that, in the form of disease, insufficient wages, and unemployment, encloses the immense majority of the workingmen, of goodwill, in a fatal circle where they struggle in vain: this poverty, we attest to it vigorously, can disappear and it will disappear. Why has no one made this distinction? We do not want to be clients or to be assisted; we want to become equals; we reject alms; we want justice.
No, we are not represented, because no one has said that the spirit of antagonism weakened every day in the popular classes. Enlightened by experience, we do not hate men, but we want to change things. Nobody said that the law on the coalitions was no longer anything but a scarecrow and that instead of putting an end to the evil, it perpetuated it by closing any exit to those who believed themselves oppressed.
No, we are not represented, because in the question of the trade-union organizations, a strange confusion was established in the mind of those who recommended them: according to them, the trade-union organizations would be made up bosses and workmen, as a sort of professional labor court, arbiters responsible for ruling from day to day on the questions which emerge. However what we ask for is an association made up exclusively of workers, elected by universal suffrage, a Chamber of Labor, we could say by analogy with the Chamber of Commerce, and they respond to us with a court.
No, we are not represented because nobody spoken of the considerable movement which appears in the working classes to organize the credit. Who knows today that thirty-five mutual credit associations function in obscurity in Paris. They contain fertile seeds, but for their complete blossoming they would need the sun of freedom.
In principle, few intelligent democrats dispute the legitimacy of our demands, and none deny us the right to put them forward ourselves.
Opportunity, the ability of the candidates, the likely obscurity of their names, since they would be selected from among the workers exercising their trade at the time of the choice (and that in order to specify the sense of their candidacy), these are the questions which are raised to conclude that our project is unrealizable, and that moreover publicity would be lacking.
First, we maintain that, after twelve years of patience, the opportune moment has come: we could not accept that we must await the next general elections, that is to wait six more years. It would take on this account eighteen years for the election of workers to be opportune—twenty and one years since 1848! What a better districts could they choose than the 1st and the 5th! There, more than everywhere else, the elements of success must be found.
The vote of May 31 judged in an undeniable way the great question of freedom in Paris. The country is calm: isn't it wise, politic, to test today the power of the free institutions which must facilitate the transition between the old society, founded on the salariat and the future society that will be founded on the common right? Is not there danger in waiting for moments of crisis, where passions are over-excited by the general distress?
Wouldn't the success of the working candidacies be an immense moral effect? It would prove that our ideas are understood, that longer feelings of conciliation are appreciated; and that finally we do not refuse any more to pass into practice, what we recognize as just in theory.
Would it be true that the workmen candidates must necessarily have these eminent qualities of speaker and publicist, who announce a man to the admiration of his fellow-citizens? We do not think so. It would be enough that they could appeal to justice while putting forward with uprightness and clarity the reforms for which we ask. Wouldn't the vote of their voters give, moreover, give to their word an authority larger than is possessed by the most famous orator? Come from the heart of the popular masses, the significance of these elections would be all the more striking as the elected officials would have been the day before more obscure and unknown. In the end, have the gifts of eloquence and universal knowledge, been required as necessary conditions for the deputies named thus far?
In 1848, the election of workmen sanctified political equality by an act; in 1864 this election would consecrate social equality.
Unless you are denying the obviousness, you must recognize that there is a special class of citizens needing a direct representation, since the enclosure of the legislature is the only place where the workmen could express their wishes freely an with dignity and to claim for themselves the share of rights that the other citizens enjoy.
Let us examine the current situation without bitterness and prevention. What does the bourgeois democracy, that we do not want with the same ardor? Universal suffrage rid of any obstacle? We want it. The freedom of press, meeting ruled by the common right? We want them. The complete separation of the Church and the State, the balance of the budget, municipal franchises? We want all that.
Well! Without our cooperation, the middle-class will have difficulty obtaining or preserving these rights, these liberties, which are the essence of a democratic society.
What do we want more especially than it, or at least more vigorously, because we are more interested in it? Primary education, free and obligatory, and freedom to work.
Education develops and strengthens the feeling of the dignity in man, i.e. the consciousness of his rights and duties. The one who is enlightened appeals to reason and not force to realize his desires.
If the freedom to work does not come to be used as counterweight to commercial freedom, we will see a financial autocracy established. The petit bourgeois, like the workers, will soon only be its servants. Today isn't it obvious that credit, far from spreading, tends on the contrary to concentrate in a few hands? And doesn't the Bank of France give an example of the flagrant contradiction of every economic principle? It enjoys at once the monopoly to emit paper money and freedom to raise the interest rate without limits.
Without us, we repeat, the bourgeois can establish nothing solid; without its cooperation our emancipation can be still delayed a long time.
Let us then unite with a common aim: the triumph of true democracy.
Propagated by us, supported by the it, the working candidacies would be the living proof of the serious, durable union of the democrats without distinction of class or of position. Will we be abandoned? Will we be forced to pursue separately the triumph of our ideas? Let us hope not, in the interest of all.
Let us summarize, to avoid any misunderstanding: The primarily political significance of the working candidacies would be this one:
To strengthen, by supplementing it, the action of the liberal opposition. It asked in the most modest terms for the essential liberties. The worker deputies would demand the necessary economic reforms.
Such is the frank summary of the general ideas put forward by the workmen during the electoral which preceded May 31. At that time the working candidacy had numerous difficulties in overcome in order to take place. So you could accuse it, not without reason, of being late-flowering. Today the terrain is free and as in our opinion the need for the working candidacies is demonstrated even by what has occurred since that time, we do not hesitate to take the lead to avoid the reproach which had been made to us in the last elections.
We put the question to the public so that on the first day of the electoral period, agreement is easier and more rapid between those who share our opinion. We frankly say what we are and what we want.
We desire the bright light of publicity, and we call upon the newspapers which suffer the monopoly created by the fact of prior authorization; but we are convinced that they will hold to honor and show us hospitality, to testify thus in favor of true freedom; by facilitating our means of expressing our thought, even when they do not share it.
We call of all our wishes the moment for discussion, the electoral period, the day when the professions of faith of the worker candidates will be in all hands, when they will be ready to answer all questions. We count on the support of those who will be convinced then that our cause is that of equality, indissolubly linked to liberty, in a word the cause of JUSTICE.
Signed by the workmen whose names follow:

Aubert (Jean), Baraguet, Bouyer, Cohadon, Coutant, Carrat, Dujardin, Kin (Arsène), Ripert, Moret, Tolain (H.), Murat, Lagarde, Royanez, Garnier (Jean), Rampillon, Barbier, Revenu, CuÉnot, Ch. Limousin, Aubert (Louis), Audoint, Beaumont, Hallereau, Perrachon, Pi'prel, Rouxel, Rainot, Vallier, Vanhamme, Vespierre, Blanc (J.-J.), Samson, CamÉlinat, Michel (Charles), Voirin, Langreni, Secretand, Thiercelin, Chevrier, Loy, Vilhem, Messerer, Faillot, Flament, Halhen, Barra, Adinet, Camille, Murat Père, Cheron, Bibal, Oudin, Chalon, Morel, Delahaye, Capet, Arblas, Cochu, Mauzon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An obscure Proudhon volume

The Besancon archive contains a number of Proudhon's manuscripts, but also several scanned books, one of which appears to be quite obscure: 
That's roughly "How Business Goes in France, and Why We Have War, If We Have It: Regarding Some New Plans for Agreements between the Railroad Companies and the State." Unsurprisingly,  given the title, some of the contents resemble Proudhon's other writings on the railroads, while others are obviously an anticipation of War and Peace, which he would publish in 1861.

It's really strange to run across a book-length work by Proudhon which I don't recognize. But this one seems quite obscure. Proudhon mentioned it in one letter, as it was about to be published. Darimon mentioned it in passing as well. One of the very few scholarly mentions I've found so far calls the published version a "partial" version of an existing manuscript.

I've been reading bits and pieces of this, and translating the section on the "General Theory of War." Like a number of the more obscure volumes, it is a bit of a mixed bag, but parts of it are very interesting.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

On Proudhon's income tax proposal

Here's a bit from The Theory of Property (which I have been working on some again), which discusses the relationship between Proudhon's famous proposal to the provisional government and his developing theory.
My famous proposition of July 31, for a tax of one-third on income, one-sixth to profit the farmer or tenant, one-sixth to profit the nation, should not even be considered as an application of my principles. It was a question, let us not forget, of immediate solutions, from day to day. In the crisis which struck all the forms of production, agriculture, manufacturing industry, commerce, income [rente] remained, inviolable and inviolate; agricultural products declined by half, land rent did not decrease; the tenants saw their wages reduced by fifty percent; the proprietor did not accept a reduction in his rent; taxes had been increased by the famous 45 centimes, and the rentier of the State received his annuities; he even received them in advance. In a nutshell, labor produced less by half and paid just as much to the right of aubaine. Celui-ci, receiving as much as in the past, bought the products at half the cost. The Republic was short on resources. So I made my tax proposal. By giving up a third of his income, the national [domanial] proprietor was still less effected by the crisis than the average laborers. The collection/allocation of the tax being entrusted to the diligence of the debtor, it would have cost the State neither costs of inspection, nor costs of receipt. The tax relief of one-sixth for the profit of the tenant and farmer was a compensation arriving just to the appropriate persons, without costing a penny to the tax authorities; the government finally found a considerable resource, as easy to realize as it was certain.
Despite the scandal that was made around my proposal and the developments that I had given it, I persist in saying that I had found a solution of irreproachable circumstances, and of a complete efficacy; and that all the detailed expedients imagined then and since, have weakened the institution of property more than my project, without pulling us from the crisis.
To say that I expected the solution of the problem of property from the success of my proposition would be absurd. I was aiming then at comprehensive solutions, the plan of which is sketched out in my General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century.
The liberty of the agricultural laborer being, from the economic point of view, the only reason to be for property in land, I naturally had to ask myself: How can society help the agricultural workers to replace the idle proprietors? To which I responded: By organizing the crédit foncier [land bank].

Monday, November 25, 2013

Translation priorities poll

I've set up a poll over on the Working Translations blog, with five possible book-length translation projects, and would love to have folks pick the one that's seems most interesting. All are to some extent already in-progress. I don't necessarily promise to follow the recommendations, or promise not to substitute some similar project for the ones listed, but as I start to press towards publication of the next set of longer works, it would be nice to know in what instances I have a little extra push behind me.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Joseph Déjacque, "The Humanisphere: Anarchic Utopia" (1858)

I've now posted a complete working translation of Joseph Déjacque's, "The Humanisphere." There are a small number of problem sections, which I believe will be obvious. I hope, too, that much of what is really special about the work will be obvious as well. There is still a fair amount of editing, smoothing and annotating to be done before we can move forward with publication, first with the collaboration of another translator and then with the comrades at Little Black Cart. But it seems to me, based on my first quick revision of the text, that there is less of that to do than I had feared.

Enjoy! There is a great deal of interest in the work.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Six years (so far) in the making

I just finished the last paragraphs of a first-draft translation of Joseph Déjacque's The Humanisphere, a major milestone in a process I started back in 2007, when I translated an excerpt, "Authority and Idleness," that I at first didn't even know was from a longer work. As I mentioned when I completed the draft of Part I, Déjacque's style poses all sorts of interesting challenges, so there are a few stages yet to go before this goes to press, including handing it off to a comrade for his suggestions. But the hardest parts are finished, and I think the start-from-scratch approach will pay off for readers in the end. If has already paid off for me, in a much improved understanding of Déjacque's voice and thought, and quite a bit of general French-language skill-sharpening. 

The next step is to get a second-draft working translation posted, which I will do just as quickly as possible.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Joseph Déjacque's style

I've finally completed a first-draft translation of Part I of Joseph Déjacque's The Humanisphere, which is not long, but has to be one of the most difficult translation tasks I've attempted. I decided to start from scratch, despite the existence of several previous attempts, because I encountered some obvious problems and missed references. If I had known quite how many difficulties I would encounter, I might not have taken the task on, but I'm glad I did. 

Déjacque's style is at once fascinating and maddening. Taking Scandal, as often as not, for his muse, he had a tendency to rant a bit, and sometimes much more than a bit, and the rants often took the form of catalogs of the offenses of capitalism, the church, Civilization, etc. Sometimes the sentences would be semi-colon-spliced catalogs of catalogs, in paragraphs sometimes 500 or more words long. On top of that, Déjacque was fond of literary references and often almost purely gratuitous word-play. He was apparently one of those writers who never met a metaphor he couldn't mix, and sometimes things spiraled out of his control a bit, and the reader finds themselves in a sort of cascading free-association of ideas and images. But one of his most interesting tricks was to construct passages in which two or more metaphors or sets of associations were sustained. The French word lame meaning both "blade" and "wave," Déjacque constructed a passage which kept both sets of associations in play. Whether or not the argument is enriched by the maneuver is open to debate, but from a purely aesthetic or technical point of view, the result is engaging. 

My favorite of these double metaphors comes to its climax in the following passage:
"The great barons of usury and the baronets of small business walled themselves up [literally "crenelated themselves"] in their counting-houses, and from the height of their platform launch at the insurrection enormous blocs of armies, boiling floods of mobile guards."
He was talking about the repression of the uprisings in June 1848. Because Déjacque saw capitalism as a financial feudalism, and because he was Déjacque, it wasn't enough for the repression of the June Days to be war; it had to be a war that was like another war, with forces deployed against the people as if from siege engines. So we have "bloc(k)s" of armies from symbolic trebuchets, and metaphorical cauldrons of boiling mobile guards.

It's all fascinating, and a bit mad, and will require some combination of fine editing and footnotes to present clearly. But I'm really looking forward to that stage of fine-tuning. It isn't every text that gives you so much to work with. 

Since Part III was completed some time ago, along with parts of Part II, I expect to have a working draft of the entire work by the end of the year, and then a comrade and I will tackle any additional fine tuning and correction that is necessary. For those who have yet to experience any of The Humanisphere, some of the completed sections are available online.

More Proudhon manucripts online

There is another batch of Proudhon's manuscripts, 1300+ pages worth, available on the Gallica site.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

By Deed

I've just finished a working translation of Ravachol's "Memoirs," which were dictated to his prison guards in 1892, and am taking the opportunity to also post two related documents, "The Hare and the Hunters," the article for which Ravachol's accomplice Georges Etiévant was tried and convicted in 1898, and a letter to the "Comrades of l'Endehors," by Emile Henry, written in response to Malatesta's "A Little Theory," in the wake of Ravachol's trials.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Proudhon manuscripts online

The Ville de Besançon, home of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, has an excellent digital archive site, which I just discovered includes scans of several of Proudhon's manuscripts, including Pologne (source of The Theory of Property), Chronos, and notes on a number of the published works. We can hope that Economie and La propriété vaincue will eventually be available, but what is already there amounts to thousands of pages of material most of us have never had a chance to examine.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Proudhon on "libertarians" in 1858

I've been working my way through those sections of Proudhon's Justice in the Revolution and in the Church which I didn't have to consult carefully while writing the chapter on the State, as the next step towards organizing the Proudhon book. There have been a few moments when I've kicked myself for not going back and looking at sections, and more than a few where passages I read through in 2008-9 look very different to me now. There are two studies which I've never even begun to really do justice, but, so far, the most interesting surprise has come from a rereading of the First Study, on "The Position of the Problem of Justice," which I've felt pretty comfortable with.

In that study, Proudhon attempted to show that two prominent tendencies, which he frequently identified as "communism" and "individualism," cannot lead to an adequate theory of justice. In the argument he was covering some of the same ground that Pierre Leroux had covered in his essay on "Individualism and Socialism." He was also returning to a version of his own opposition of "community and property," from What is Property? and moving beyond the "synthesis" proposed in that work to a theory of liberty and immanent justice that would incorporate the notion of the antinomies. 

It's a key moment in the development of his thought, but what struck me this time through was a shift in his vocabulary that I had not previously noticed. For what appears to be the first and last time in the writings I have been able to search, Proudhon spoke of les libertaires—the libertarians. This was in 1858, the same year that Joseph Déjacque launched his newspaper, Le Libertaire, in New York. But while Déjacque was using the term in what would become its standard form for many years, to designate anarchists, Proudhon seems to have anticipated the libertarians of the 20th century, using the term to designate the proponents of laissez faire, and free markets in which all interests would be harmonized to the extent that they were truly understood, provided the "interference of authority" was prevented.

It's a peculiar, and rather prescient, moment. It should not, of course, surprise, given Proudhon's back-handed acknowledgment of some kind of "market anarchy," but the term libertaire is not one that we associate with Proudhon. I had, in fact, pretty well convinced myself that he had not used the term. (I notice that a friend and colleague, whose working translation of the study I had access to, had highlighted the term where it first appeared.) But to find that he had indeed, however briefly, used the term, and in very much the sense used by the modern proponents of laissez faire, while, of course, consigning those he designated by the term among those who cannot construct an adequate theory of justice, adds another interesting wrinkle to the intellectual history, as well as to the present-day wrangling over labels.

Here's the section:
VI. — The mind goes from one extreme to the other. Advised by the failure of Communism, we are driven to the hypothesis of an unlimited freedom. The partisans of that opinion maintain that there, at base, no fundamental opposition between interests; that men all being of the same nature, all having need of one another, their interests are identical, and therefore easy to grant; that only ignorance of economic laws has caused this antagonism, which will disappear the day when, more enlightened with regard to our relations, we will return to liberty and nature. In short, we conclude that if there is disharmony between men, it comes above all from the interference of authority in things which are not within its competence, from the mania to regulate and legislate; that there is nothing to do but let liberty do its work, enlightened by science, and that all will infallibly return to order. Such is the theory of the modern economists, partisans of free trade, of laissez faire, laissez passer, of every man for himself, etc.
As we see, this is not yet to resolve the difficulty; it is to deny that it exists. – We have only to make your Justice, say the libertarians, since we do not admit the reality of the antagonism. Justice and utility are synonymous for us. It is enough that the so-called opposing interests are understood for them to be respected: virtue, in the social man, just as in the recluse, being only selfishness properly understood.
This theory, which makes social organization consist solely of the development of individual liberty, would perhaps be true, and we could say that the science of rights and the science of interests are merely one and the same science, if, the science of interests, or economic science, having been created, the application did not encounter any difficulty. This theory would be true, I say, if the interests could be fixed and rigorously defined once and for all; if, having been equal from the beginning, and later, in their development, having advanced at an equal pace, they had obeyed a constant law; if, in their increasing inequality, we did not encounter so much chance and the arbitrariness; if, despite so many shocking anomalies, the slightest project of regularization did not raise sharp protests on behalf of affluent individuals; if we could already foresee the end of the inequality, and consequently of the antagonism; if, by their essentially mobile and evolving nature, the interests did not continuously create obstacles, creating new and worsening inequalities between them; if they did not tend, despite everything, to invade, to supplant one another; if the mission of the legislator were not precisely, in the end, to consecrate by his laws, as it emerges, this science of the interests, of their relations, of their balance, and of their solidarity: a science which would be the highest expression of right if we could ever believe it to be complete, but a science which, coming always after and not before the difficulties, forced to impose its decisions through public authority, can very well serve as an instrument and auxiliary of order, but could not be taken for the very principle of order.
By these considerations, the theory of liberty, or enlightened self-interest, irreproachable on the assumption of an accomplished economic science and a demonstrated identity of interests, is reduced to question-begging. It believes realized things which cannot ever be realized; things whose ceaseless, approximate, partial, variable realization constitutes the interminable work of the human race. So, while the communist utopia still has its practitioners, the utopia of the libertarians could not receive the least beginning of execution.

VII. — The communist hypothesis and the individualist hypothesis being thus both set aside, the first as destructive of individuality, the second as chimerical, there remains one last part to take, on which, in any case, the multitude of the peoples and the majority of legislators agree: It is that of Justice.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Practicing the Encounter: Appropriation and Ecology - III

"Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
The difficulties facing our theory of just appropriation seem enormous. Hopefully, they also seem familiar. We're still just trying to find a property that would not be theft, while still remaining property in some fairly strong sense. Theories of possession, to the extent that they remain concerned with matter of fact, don't get us where we need to go. In order to provide a principle for action they require some additional element, such as respect. But those additional elements always seem to throw us back into the realm of property. There does not seem to be any possibility of talking about just relations in a material sense without some material distinction between selves and others, which inevitably involves a distinction—though not always an exclusive distinction—between mine and thine.

This is not an equivocation or compromise. Nor does it even need to be an attack. The capitalists have had their say about what is proper to human being for long enough, but it's a rotten story, which has become worse over time, and a good, Stirnerian shrug of the shoulders is about all it takes to move us along. Whether or not capitalism itself is moving towards some final crisis, capitalist philosophy seems to be an increasingly slapdash affair, and we don't have to look much farther than its own philosophical touchstones to demonstrate the fact. Proudhon's critiques of the contradictions and impossibilities of capitalist property theories still stand up pretty well today.

So let's shrug those shoulders and move along. We're working with a model of anarchist relations that depend on equality (in the absence of any clear means of applying any specific hierarchy or authority) and a recognition of the otherness of the other, the incommensurability or opacity of individuals with regard to one another (which is ultimately just part of the same argument for equality.) We will move towards harmony and accord, but have to start without any a priori criteria for exactly how we'll get there. What we have is what is imposed on us by the conditions we recognize at the start: there will always be a first step, into the encounter, which we will have to make in a sort of principled isolation, and what I've been suggesting is that the principle is property itself, manifested in three "gifts." There are plenty of ways of looking at the world which might lead us to think of it as fundamentally undivided, and might then lead us to associate that undivided world with our selves—with our own. We see versions of this in Stirner and in Whitman, and we might derive something similar from Déjacque or Pierre Leroux, or simply from the natural sciences. But, despite the truths captured by those various visions of the world, they couldn't function for us as principles in any social setting, since the first appearance of a really other being would force us to at least supplement them with some theory of property (in the broad sense we have been using.) Similarly, we might, as some individualisms do, break down the larger collectivities into their component parts and simply refuse to deal with the social as such, but that leaves us without the means to account for any sort of collective force. And, in practice, though some individualisms attempt to dispense with the notion of society, the defenders of capitalism and capitalist property seem prone to positing some other, emergent collectivity in its place, whether explicitly identified as the market or simply gestured at as a realm of emergent good consequences. Among the hierarchies for which we seem to have no sanction is the hierarchy of scales of analysis.

Still, while we have no principled grounds on which to privilege any particular class of interests, we have the practical problem posed by the fact that, despite the wide range of possible subjects of appropriation, those free absolutes who can be expected to act according to principle and who can be held responsible for their actions seem to cluster pretty much entirely among individual human actors. Some collectivities can provide feedback in the form of consequences, but generally after the fact. What the complexities of our involvements and the opacity of the others demands is a principle of individual action which allows us to enter into various encounters well-prepared to do justice, in the sense of balancing all of the various interests involved at every stage of the struggle towards accord and harmony.

In that sense, then, the anarchism we are exploring is, as I have put it elsewhere, an individualism, but an individualism at a variety of scales. And the mechanism by which we enter the encounter with an anarchistic posture is the practice of the three gifts of property: the acknowledgment of the other as other, and the gift of those parts of ourselves most integral to that other; the gift of a space within which to explore, and err, in the practice of being a material self, without the inevitable errors fatally disrupting our gift economy of property; and the gift of anarchy, the relinquishing of all existing hierarchies and the advantages they might afford us, whether directly in the material realm or on more ideological terrain, which is the step by which we move beyond mere voluntaryism. It is an individualism always already married to an aspiration that is social, that movement towards accord, harmony and justice, but we can't skip the individualizing step, nor the principle which attaches to it, without simply scrapping the whole analysis we've made here and starting anew.

We're circling an inevitable conclusion: if we want just appropriation, no matter the range of subjects we suppose, it's up to us—up to individual human actors, working through the tangled layers of our varied and potentially conflicting interests—to make it happen. We have to enter the encounter in all of our Whitmanesque largeness, representing not just our own interests—including, presumably, the interest in anarchism—but also that of the multitudes which we contain, by which we are contained, and with which we are inextricably involved. And those are big shoes to fill.

There's not really that much more to say, at least at the level of principles. It has been clear since I entered the discussions of mutualism a decade or so ago that for Proudhon property is a problem. What has been dawning over time is the extent of the problem, and the extent to which it is possibly the problem, which must be solved if we hope to make headway with a range of others. The choices, it seems to me, are to find some means to avoid this particular problem, to tackle the questions of appropriation and ecology in some other terms, or to take on the problem, and to take on in process all of that Whitmanesque largeness, those multitudes, and, of course, those contradictions that Proudhon also considered so integral to our existence. The second approach seems to have a variety of advantages, not the least of which is that it is indeed direct. and as we have posed the question it is not just an approach to the question of property, but at the same time it is a direct approach to the question of ecology—and of anarchy as well.

So, if we move forward and begin to spell out a theory of anarchistic property, how do we proceed? With our explorations of the possible subjects of appropriation, we have the beginnings of a descriptive account of possession, an account of what has been appropriated by individuals in a strictly de facto sense. We have not account of property rights—and to the extent that rights are understood as realization or justification external to our very basic encounter, we know that we won't be going there. We know that the droit d'aubaine or right of increase is almost certainly off the table. In Proudhon's terms, we can expect the fruits of social labor to become social property; whether they are ultimately managed and consumed in common, or dispersed to individuals, the role generally assigned to the capitalist—essentially that of external realization of the association—is unlikely to be rewarded as it is at present. We know that exclusive, individual property is unlikely to be the default form, given all the ways in which even apparently solitary production is amplified by accumulated technological power, and, of course, given all of the overlaps in our descriptive account of present appropriation. We now that the liberty to appropriate unowned resources will be fundamentally meaningless, as we will be hard put to find resources which are not already involved in collectivities which are themselves already involved with us human individuals. Given all of that, however, I'm still not certain we will find any more elegant place to begin looking for our principle of just appropriation than in the "enough and as good" proviso of Locke.

It was over three years ago that I spent quite a bit of time talking about that proviso and its consequences, culminating in a series of posts examining under what circumstances the individual might feel themselves free to take "a good draught" of water from a river. My argument was that Locke's appropriation proviso demanded that unilaterally just appropriation was limited to circumstances where the resource was essentially non-rivalrous, a condition very different from most modern interpretations of the very conditions for appropriation. Our good draught has to still leave a "whole river," which seems like a problem since, as I put it at the time, "a quantity of water, X, minus some non-zero "good draught," G, is unlikely to = X." But we know that our appropriation of resources is not really, or at least not necessarily, any sort of simple subtraction from quantity X, but an intervention in systems—and ultimately in something like the universal circulus of Leroux and Déjacque—with some capacity for replenishing some of their elements. We really can pull the trick with the good draught and the whole river. We just have to wait, assuming that we have not also crippled the ability of the hydrosystem to do its ordinary work. So if we want to leave enough and as good just for humans, we have to manage our resource use in such a way that we do not diminish the virtually non-rivalrous character of the resource for ourselves and those others. If we are consuming resources in a way which diminishes the resilience of ecosystems, then we need to make sure that we are doing our level best to repair the damage we are doing. And because the mechanics of this stuff is enormously complex, there are going to be lots of instances where we simply can't know the consequences of our actions, and if we want to claim anything approaching just appropriation, then we're damn well going to have to walk softly.

Of course, if we were to incorporate ecological norms into our common sense about just appropriation, I suspect that we would pretty quickly learn quite a bit more about ecological science, and would find that at least some of the conceptual work necessary to at least begin to represent the interests of various non-human actors in our schemes of just property was perhaps not so difficult as it seems at the moment, when our common sense about such things is of an almost entirely opposing character. It terms of the mechanisms of representing those interests, I think there are any number of ways of approaching the problem of appointing surrogates or caretakers, once the work of analysis is well under way. I think if we were honest with ourselves, we might feel that we had a good deal of restorative work to do, before we could really feel that any further appropriation was justified. I suspect a lot of folks don't want to confront that sort of dilemma, but it may be precisely what is needed to break down barriers to more efficient resource use, reduction and reuse of waste materials, etc.

Let's stop there, with the understanding that there is a great deal that can and eventually should be said about anarchistic property, but also that the models and mechanisms so briefly sketched out here should at least suggest ways in which a number of other social problems might be addressed with our simply system of the encounter. Rather than belabor this particular line of thought any longer at the moment, I would like to turn my attention to other concerns, with the understanding that we will come back to the threads that remain hanging here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Practicing the Encounter: Appropriation and Ecology - II

The search for an anarchist theory of appropriation has led us into an interesting position. It is common to ask the proponents of property: What happens when all the resources have been appropriated? But we're faced with a more challenging question: What if, in some very important senses, they always already are? We have to be clear, because we are not yet really talking about property rights, or rightful appropriation, but describing circumstances under which little or nothing of what we might consider available for anything like "homesteading" is not already mixed up with individualities and collectivities that our Proudhonian sociology suggests we should treat as having at least some weight in the scales of justice. So far, we haven't found much ground on which to treat the weights of the various claims of the various individualities as other than equal, but we also haven't begun to wrestle with some fairly obvious questions which arise from our expanded roster of potential subjects of appropriation. 

We know that there are important differences between free absolutes, which are capable of reflection, responsibility, self-conscious action, etc., and the other absolutes which inform and/or are informed by their actions. Back in 2010, when I began to explore these aspects of Proudhon's thinking in the context of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the conversation took the predictable turn of focusing on the fact that non-human animals and ecosystems can't vote, represent themselves in court, purchase their freedom, etc. Proponents of "market environmentalism" rightly suggested that it was necessary for human actors to be convinced of the values represented by those non-human actors' stakes, but the question of whether those values could actually be represented in a market which considered those other actors as, or as composed of, "resources" which are legitimately appropriable, apart from humans setting limits on themselves, doesn't seem to have really registered. Our thinking on matters of economics and governments is, on the one hand, mostly anthropocentric and is, on the other, married to a notion of the human person which confines the subject of appropriation largely "between hat and boots." Capitalist property then arguably splits that person against itself, but that's not a sort of complexification that is likely to lead in any of the directions Proudhon indicated. Instead, the body becomes just another sort of resource. 

Some of the differences between the "common sense" we have inherited and Proudhon's approach are ideological, and some are no doubt matters of dominant philosophical or scientific trends. I suspect we seem warring 19th century tendencies in Proudhon, who often seems ready to reduce his sociology to a sort of social physics, reminiscent of Comte's positivism, but also seems to flirt with some kind of panpsychism. As Proudhonian antinomies go, that would be neither particularly surprising nor particularly extreme, but I suspect that both aspects are at least a bit alien to most of us. We don't, I think, necessarily need to go the places that Proudhon's specific interests and influences took him, but we are undoubtedly better off attempting to be clear about what they might have been. 

A more challenging question is just how literally we have to take all this business of individualities and collectivities. And once we've settled that, we finally do need to figure out how these other claims to property are to be dealt with in practical terms. For Proudhon, the first important question is whether or not there is something there in the places that we gesture towards with words like society, family, association, market, etc., or whether we have misidentified collections of elements with no real organization for organize wholes. Such an error is always possible, and we should cultivate the egoist's disdain for spooks when we encounter them. But it has been an important aspect of radical thought to recognize that sometimes our misidentifications are of a different sort than that, as when we have mistaken our own social self-organization for the work of a State, or our collective force for divine power. Almost all anarchist factions seem to acknowledge, and even depend on the fact that there are emergent, agent-like structures in society with at least something very like interests of their own. So the broad question of collectivities doesn't seem to me to pose particular problems, however much particular structures of association may be denied by the individual factions. I think that Proudhon's treatment of the State as something which persists suggests one of the criteria we might look at for identifying potential subjects of appropriation, and the fact that what seems to persist in this particular sort of collectivity is human projects is another. When it is a question of acknowledging that our associations might deserve a place in our considerations of what it means to live together in just relations, I don't think there is a much of a stretch, theoretically speaking, though I think most of us are ideologically predisposed to resist acknowledging certain collectivities. The notion that these collectivities might have interests which are in some ways at odds with the interests of those implicated in them is also probably not a great stretch for most of us, although, again, we may have ideological reasons to resist the notion in particular cases. Communists may be loathe to acknowledge the market, and slow to acknowledge the potential space between the interests of the commune as such and the individuals who are a part of it. Capitalists can be expected to embrace and resist in a roughly opposite manner. But for those who are resistant, the escape route is probably a familiar one. We are dealing here, after all, with just another version of the "synthesis (or irreducible dialectic) of community and property." While Proudhon leads us to tackle the resulting tensions pretty much head-on, I think most of us are familiar with the ways in which individualist or collectivist theories adapt to accommodate the key questions posed by the opposing theories, without erasing either human individuals or all persistent forms of association. 

In previous posts, I've tried to lay out the reasons that Proudhon felt he had no anarchistic grounds on which to exclude these social collectivities from consideration, but those who are unconvinced still have to deal with the fact of these human projects and the individual human interests which presumably lie behind them. Existing positions being somewhat flexible, as I've suggested, regarding their individual and collective aspects, perhaps there are other means to deal with the problems raised by Proudhon's analysis, although the question of the specific, possibly antagonistic interests and reasons of the collectivities strikes me as something that it at least not easily incorporated into most existing theories. 

Incorporating ecological science, however, seems to pose a much greater challenge, even before its incorporation poses its own challenge to the conventional homesteading model of appropriation. With persistent social collectivities, we are presumably always dealing with human will, even if it is sometimes the effects of wills belonging to humans that are dead. Sometimes we are able to extend our concern to future generations, but generally without leaving the resource-management paradigm, within which most of nature remains fair game, except insofar as we impose anthropocentric consumption limits on ourselves. What ecological science teaches us is that we are dependent for the conditions of our existence on complex systems which, within limits that are not precisely known to us, do much  of the heavy lifting in the process of purifying air and water, transforming waste into the ground for new life, etc. While the political conversation about "the environment" focuses on fairly simple, abstract notions, like average global temperature, debates over the specific health effects of genetically modified species, or individual endangered species, the science ought to lead us into the much more complex study of all the various ways in which anthropogenic changes in the nature and complexity of various natural systems are really undeniable, while the effect remain unpredictable.

In relation to property theory, ecological science teaches us that our interventions in natural systems, our appropriations of resources, involve a "mixing" that goes beyond anything we usually account for in our Robinson Crusoe scenarios. Since very little of our appropriation now involves anything even remotely like the desert island or wilderness homesteading scenarios, and since contemporary appropriation is almost always technologically amplified far beyond the sort of human scale of the classical theories, we can't ignore the possibility that virtually all of our appropriation will have significant downstream effects. Most of our talk about non-invasive appropriation is probably rooted in science that is a couple of centuries out of date, even if we don't take into account any claim but those of human beings. We need to confront the fact that the rights generally granted to first-comers now clearly amount to something like a right to determine, in significant but often indeterminable ways, the sort of world in which later arrivals will live. There may be visions of liberty within which that sort of right appears justifiable, but I'm not sure we should call them anarchism, and I'm fairly certain that they do not fall within the scope of the anarchic justice advanced by Proudhon.

So we have a series of reasons to think that we may have trouble identifying "resources" which can be appropriated in a way that only influences the property of a single individual—the very sort of exclusive, individual property that we tend to think of when we used the word—and then we have Proudhon's individualities, multiplied by our advances in scientific knowledge. We not only have to account for social labor, collective force attributable to specific association, but we have the amplifying force of social labor, in the form of technology, being exerted as a part of what we still call individual appropriation. And we have collectivities which result in part from our actions and exertions, but not entirely or in any way which necessarily corresponds with our own interests and wills. How, given all this, do we define the limits of what is "our own"? An awful lot of traditional individualisms seem to fall short, leaving us, not unexpectedly, with a range of approaches which attempt to maintain individualism and some form of socialism or collectivism in some sort of interconnection or antinomic balance, such as those found in Whitman's "Song of Myself," or Pierre Leroux's work. (Whitman constantly connected oneself, "from top to toe," with the "en masse," which is "not contained between hat and boots." For Leroux, see in particular the section on Humanity in the Aphorisms.) The visions of self, and of the self's relations to its others, quickly become rather dizzyingly complex. There is the self, already a group, and then the collectivites in which the self has some interest, as well as those which perhaps have an interest of their own in the self. All of these are potential subjects of appropriation, though their various appropriations in some sense all come down to either individual human appropriations or the sort of things we tend to treat as simply "nature." And only the individual humans seem to be the sort of free absolute which can shoulder any responsibility in any of this.

What remains to us is to attempt a practical solution of the problem of defining just appropriation in a situation where nothing seems to be free to appropriate, and where the various agents of appropriation come with significantly different capacities for achieving anything like justice. It probably won't come as any surprise to say at this point that I still see some of our most promising indications in the system of Locke, and particular in the various provisos. But the exposition will have to wait for another day.

(to be concluded...)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Practicing the Encounter: Appropriation (and Ecology) - I

Let's get a little practice with all the tools we've been assembling. And, to do so, let's stick, for the moment, with the question of property. It's been one of my more or less explicit beliefs for a long time now that property theory may be transformed from a tool of capitalism into a tool useful to anarchists, simply by reexamining it very closely with a set of presuppositions informed by the insights of anarchism and ecological science. I've also been fairly emphatic that one of the reasons that this has not happened to any great extent, despite the emergence and/or reemergence of anarchistic schools with a fairly significant interest in questions of property, is that we have tended to focus on questions of abandonment, rather than on the question of initial appropriation. It's probably also the case that in at least some of the "libertarian" capitalist circles where anarchists were once likely to be challenged most seriously on questions of principle, there has been a recent to retreat from well-developed, principled arguments, for vague position such as voluntaryism, uncertain predictions about most "efficient" practices, and bald assertions about natural "liberties." I think, however, that a different, and potentially more interesting, set of challenges have emerged as a result of the examination of genuinely anarchist theory, and there is no particular need in this instance to bounce ideas off those of our adversaries in order to refine our understanding.

For the moment, I am just going to take it as a still-controversial given that some sort of theory of "property," in the general sense I have been giving it, is not just useful, but probably unavoidable for anarchists. While we want to avoid the (mis)conceptions by which property becomes capitalist from the outset, and we are, as anarchists, committed to opposing the sorts of hierarchical, "propertarian" structures that we see all around us, we probably still have a need to distinguish between the mine and thine, to make specific judgments about the just distribution of both "natural resources" and the fruits of labor, and to make judgments about responsibility in various senses which never stray very far from the question of "one's own." There are a lot of reasons why it would be nice if anarchist theory could bypass the question of "property," but my experience is that failing to confront the problem doesn't make it go away, while acknowledging that it is indeed a problem, and settling down into problem-solving mode, has in many way caused the problem to diminish in importance. And now, with the model of the encounter established as a key element of our anarchistic toolkit, it seems possible to position the problem of property as one part of the larger problem of the encounter, the problem we can expect to be solving, and re-solving, as long as we seek to practice anarchistic social relations. 

There is a very thorny analysis of property in the context of this encounter of equal uniques, with more or less incommensurable values, which still has to be on our agenda, and which will involve a more head-on encounter with some of the varieties of egoism, but I suspect it may be easier to work towards that question through a somewhat less abstract, speculative look at appropriation. In the past, engaging in a sort of variant reading of Locke, I've identified the elements that would probably be necessary for a complete, coherent theory of just appropriation:
  1. An understanding of the subject of appropriation ("individual," "collective," irreducibly individual-collective, etc.;
  2. A theory of the nature of that subject's relation to itself as "self-ownership," "self-enjoyment," etc.;
  3. A theory of nature (active or passive? productive? capable of "projects" worthy of acknowledgment?) and of the relation between nature and the subject of appropriation;
  4. Some answer to the question "is there a right of appropriation"?—and some reasonable account for any such right, grounded in the previous elements;
  5. A theory of justice in the exercise of appropriation (provisos, etc.);
  6. A mechanism for appropriation;
That still looks like a fairly useful list, but a number of the elements look rather different to me than they did in early 2011. 

Some of the questions look considerably simpler than they once did, and others look enormously more complicated. Having rather thoroughly embraced Proudhon's sociology in this examination, the answer to the first question seems to be "irreducibly individual-collective," at least in the sense that we have been looking at all potential subjects as at once individualities and collectivities.

Let's take a moment and define those two terms a bit more precisely. They both refer to the range of individuals recognized within Proudhon's sociology, but designate different aspects of those individuals. Since every individual is also a group, since the unity of the individual is itself a matter of the organization of elements according to a specific, developing law of organization, there are occasions where the different designations will be useful, and since we are not just talking about individual humans, let's let these other terms designate the full range of possibilities.

Now, despite my recourse to borrowing from Stirner's vocabulary, we're starting from a place rather different than at least some egoists would probably choose. Someone like John Beverley Robinson, for example, suggested that egoism involved the realization by the individual "that, as far as they are concerned, they are the only individual." We are isolated by what we might call the opacity of the other:
For each one of us stands alone in the midst of a universe. We are surrounded by sights and sounds which we interpret as exterior to ourselves, although all we know of them are the impressions on our retina and ear drums and other organs of sense. The universe for the individual is measured by these sensations; they are, for him/her, the universe. Some of them they interpret as denoting other individuals, whom they conceive as more or less like themselves. But none of these is his/herself. He/she stands apart. His/her consciousness, and the desires and gratifications that enter into it, is a thing unique; no other can enter into it.
However near and dear to you may be your spouse, children, friends, they are not you; they are outside of you. You are forever alone. Your thoughts and emotions are yours alone. There is no other who experiences your thoughts or your feelings. 
This is probably not the only way to interpret Stirner's position, and Robinson is not terribly consistent, if this understanding of the unique as "the only one" is supposed to be taken at all literally. In any event, it seems to involve an almost entirely opposite response to this problem of opacity from that made by Proudhon, for whom the world seems to be filled with an unknown, but unquestionably large number of at least potential others, which must, by his sole criterion of justice, be encountered as equals.

Does it make sense to extend our range of possible subjects of appropriation to include everything that fits Proudhon's criterion for an individuality? He talked about approaching rocks as equals in some contexts. Must we stretch our theory of appropriation to accommodate sedimentation?

We can probably dodge some of the worst elements of this particular dilemma, since there are theoretical conundrums that are unlikely to come up in any practical context. So let's turn to those which are indeed likely to come up. They are probably bad enough, when it comes to shaking up our view of what property theory is all about. We're familiar with a range of arguments which claim that non-human animals may have as good a "right" to resources as human beings, despite their inability to, say, claim those "rights" in the conventional institutions. It isn't clear that the counterarguments have much behind them that isn't ultimately derived from some version of divine command or simply anthropocentric assertion. We may reject the panpsychist intuition that seems to lurk behind Proudhon's hesitation at drawing a firm line between animal, vegetable and mineral (or we may not), but that still leaves a lot of candidates for some sort of reasonable claim to be subjects of appropriation, even if we're just now thinking of individuals of species within the animal kingdom. And we have no reason to believe that we can stop there. After all, we have introduced the notion of individualities that are also collectivities precisely because we know that the claimants who must be accounted for in the balance of justice come in a variety of scales.

Some of the collectivities for which we probably have to account are easy enough to recognize. In a given workshop, for example, whether or not we decide that individual laborers have separate claims to some portion of the fruits of the collective labor equal to their individual input, Proudhon's theory of collective force leads us to believe that some portion of the products is the result of the association itself, and so we might say that the association was among the subjects of appropriation. Most of the practical disagreements among anarchists probably come down to differences of opinion about at what scale we should identify the subject of the property relation, with individualists looking towards the human individual and communists looking towards some relevant collectivity. Where the Proudhonian approach differs from these is in not choosing a particular scale, because there doesn't seem to be a clear criterion for doing so, and attempting to produce a relation of justice among individualities of various scales. We might, then, find instances where a family, or a city, or a federation, or perhaps in some case, even humanity, seemed to be the appropriate subject of property relations (weeding out, of course, all the instances where those terms refer to spooks, usurpations, etc.) And if we accept the theory of collective force it becomes fairly hard to find a reason to exclude these collectivities from our account, since they expressions, at least in large part, of the associated actions of agents that we would be hard put to exclude from the realm of equal uniques.

What we have accepted on the basis of social science has its equivalents in the realm of ecological science. When Proudhon moved from the critique of property to that of the State, he simply shifted his attention from one form of oppression of human beings by human beings to another. With a greater appreciation of our material interconnectedness within ecosystems, and the interconnectedness of ecosystems, perhaps there is another, analogous critique that needs to be made. There are probably a variety of ways in which the collective force and the fact of association involved in our de facto ecological associations are harnessed and turned against us, both by denying them and by affirming them in fundamentally political ways. The "debates" about anthropogenic climate change seem full of political arguments posing as ecological ones. But the thing that we can no longer entirely deny, despite all of our politic ducking and weaving, is that we are connected, and connected with nonhuman nature, in ways which are not reducible to the best of our sociological or economic models. What we are understandably slow to conclude from that is that those models, which tend to treat "nature" simply as a store of "resources," "unowned" prior to human appropriation, may not really be up to the tasks to which we attempt to apply them.

Alongside a range of social collectivities, ranging from individual couples to whole societies, we have to consider the possibility that our potential subjects of appropriation may include a range of natural communities, perhaps culminating in that universal circulus that Pierre Leroux, Joseph Déjacque, and others spoke about. As in the case of social collectivities, we find ourselves confronted with associations in which some of the associated force with which we are confronted is our own, but, in contrast with them, much of it comes from individualities that we are much less likely to include in our present discussions of property. I don't think the Proudhonian philosophy or sociology leaves us any easy way to leave out these previously excluded elements, but even if we were just to focus on the traditional concern for the protection of the property of individual human beings from invasion or destruction there seem to be enough potential "downstream effects" to call for at least some reconsideration.

So, assuming we accept that something like the full range of potential subjects of appropriation have to figure in our account, what implications does that have?

It looks like the consequences are fairly significant, beginning with the fact that there is likely to be very little that looks like unowned resources, which we could simply homestead, with or without the consideration of provisos.

It appears that every act of appropriation will involve an encounter.

[to be continued...]