Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the son of a brewer, was born in Besanšon,
1809. He attended the local school but was primarily self-educated at the
town's public library.
Proudhon was apprenticed as a printer and became interested in politics
after he was involved in the printing of The New
Industrial and Cooperative World by
Fourier. Proudhon now turned to writing and in 1843 published
What is Property?
In the book
Proudhon attacks the injustices of inequality and coined the phrase, "property
1842 Proudhon was arrested for his radical political views but was acquitted
in court. The following year he joined the Lyons Mutualists, a secret
society of working men. The group discussed ways of achieving a more
egalitarian society and during this period Proudhon developed the theory of
Mutualism where small groups worked together and credit was made available
through a People's Bank.
Proudhon published his most important work, System
of Economic Contradictions, was published in 1846.
responded to Proudhon's book by writing
The Poverty of Philosophy
(1847). This was the beginning of the long-term struggle of ideas
between the two men. Proudhon was opposed to Marx's authoritarianism and his
main influence was on the libertarian socialist movement.
After the 1848 Revolution in France, Proudhon was elected to the National
Assembly. This experience resulted in the publication of
of a Revolutionary
(1849) and the General Idea of the
Revolution in the 19th Century
(1851). In these books Proudhon criticized representative democracy and
argued that in reality political authority is exercised by only a small
number of people.
1854 Proudhon contracted
He survived but he never fully recovered his health. He continued to write
and published two more important books, Justice in
the Revolution and in the Church (1858) and the
Principle of Federation
the Principle of Federation
argued that nationalism inevitably leads to war. To reduce the power of
nationalism Proudhon called for a Federal Europe. Proudhon believed that
Federalism was "the supreme guarantee of all liberty and of all law, and
must, without soldiers or priests, replace both feudal and Christian society."
Proudhon went on to predict that "the twentieth century will open the era of
federations, or humanity will begin again a purgatory of a thousand years."
The International Working Men's Association was established in 1864. In the
organization Proudhon's followers clashed with those of
Karl Marx and
Bakunin. Proudhon, unlike the other two men, believed socialism was
possible without the need for a violent revolution.
Proudhon's views were to have a profound effect on several writers in Russia
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon died in 1865.