The Well-Read Anarchist #003 – “What is Property?” by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – Chapter One

by | Feb 26, 2014 | The Well-Read Anarchist | 5 comments

The Well-Read Anarchist podcast begins its exploration of the works of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon with a reading of his first major work, “What is Property?“, published in 1840. Today we read Chapter One of the book, “Method Pursued in This Work – The Idea of a Revolution.”


The Well-Read Anarchist RSS feed

“What is Property?” e-book at


  1. Joseph Proudhon uses multiple definitions of Just interchangeably. The economic of voluntary exchange and the various Governmental, though he clearly is aware that organizing an activity using violence is different from voluntary.
    Epistemology, “Now, if man arrives at a knowledge of all that he needs to know, it is reasonable to believe that, ceasing to err, he will cease to suffer.” This confuses an individual’s ability with government man, which has no ability to know. Ditto for ethics, a gov. is not ethical but an only the individual.

    • More to say: “in a word, that there has been progress in ideas. Now, that is what history proves by the most overwhelming testimony.” But later admits the Roman society remained the same after Christian dominance. “The monsters which the successors of the apostles were bent on destroying, frightened for a moment, reappeared gradually,” Changing religion had only negative effects for the poor. Per Adam Smith, the main cause of poverty and the reductions in the standard of living was government policy. Wage and price controls have the same effect no matter the religion or the type of government. It is the policy that determines social outcomes.

  2. More to say: Political change accomplishes what? “Thus the people found that the republic, among the so-called new institutions, was acting on the very principles against which they had fought, and was swayed by all the prejudices which they had intended to destroy. We congratulate ourselves…” JP talks about the problems of class/cast and guilds as bad, then recommends the killing of politicians for having wrong policies. This is not a policy that any anarchist should endorse. How about the rule that government should not be selecting one individual over another. The ability to give you a job is a source of corruption and injustice.

    • More to say: The use of the word “property” does not have the usual meaning of the word. Do not go out and study the History of Property. JP has a very idiosyncratic meaning. ” The more obnoxious forms of property–statute labor, mortmain, maitrise, and exclusion from public office.” These examples are from government policy on economic and social activities, not actual qualities of private property, and Adam Smith would agree that these are bad items consistent with crony systems. This is like saying the IRS is a capitalist enterprise because they deal with money. You are in London (1800) where would you get child slaves?-answer- the British Government. Not a Merchant.

  3. More to say: Stylist – JP starts out with the preposterous title, and assures us he seeks Truth and Justice which are words with hundreds of definitions, both are a warnings you are being played. Guess the literary and intellectual tricks. In the property quote he uses property in three different ways and the voting issue is an issue having nothing to do with any subject being discussed. It is a magicians trick to divert attention. He claims to be non-ideological but all this is %100 ideology. He leads with a falsehood, Christianity ended slavery in Roman era and few pages later – Just kidding. This is like reading the Sacramento Bee, all untrue, misleading and ideological.

Submit a Comment


Become a Corbett Report member