The Philosophy of Misery
Joseph-Pierre Proudhon

Part 1 out of 9

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Destruam et aedificabo.
Deuteronomy: c. 32.




% 1. Opposition between FACT and RIGHT in Social Economy
% 2. Inadequacy of Theories and Criticisms

% 1. Opposition of Value in USE and Value in EXCHANGE
% 2. Constitution of Value; Definition of Wealth
% 3. Application of the Law of Proportionality of Values

% 1. Antagonistic Effects of the Principle of Division
% 2. Impotence of Palliatives.--MM. Blanqui, Chevalier,
Dunoyer, Rossi, and Passy

% 1. Of the Function of Machinery in its Relations to Liberty
% 2. Machinery's Contradiction.--Origin of Capital and Wages
% 3. Of Preservatives against the Disastrous Influence of Machinery

% 1. Necessity of Competition
% 2. Subversive Effects of Competition, and the Destruction of
Liberty thereby
% 3. Remedies against Competition

% 1. Necessity of Monopoly
% 2. The Disasters in Labor and the Perversion of Ideas caused
by Monopoly

% 1. Synthetic Idea of the Tax. Point of Departure and
Development of this Idea
% 2. Antinomy of the Tax
% 3. Disastrous and Inevitable Consequences of the Tax.
(Provisions, Sumptuary Laws, Rural and Industrial Police,
Patents,Trade-Marks, etc.)

% 1. The Culpability of Man.--Exposition of the Myth of the Fall
% 2. Exposition of the Myth of Providence.--Retrogression of God


Before entering upon the subject-matter of these new memoirs, I
must explain an hypothesis which will undoubtedly seem strange,
but in the absence of which it is impossible for me to proceed
intelligibly: I mean the hypothesis of a God.

To suppose God, it will be said, is to deny him. Why do you not
affirm him?

Is it my fault if belief in Divinity has become a suspected
opinion; if the bare suspicion of a Supreme Being is already
noted as evidence of a weak mind; and if, of all philosophical
Utopias, this is the only one which the world no longer
tolerates? Is it my fault if hypocrisy and imbecility everywhere
hide behind this holy formula?

Let a public teacher suppose the existence, in the universe, of
an unknown force governing suns and atoms, and keeping the whole
machine in motion. With him this supposition, wholly gratuitous,
is perfectly natural; it is received, encouraged: witness
attraction--an hypothesis which will never be verified, and
which, nevertheless, is the glory of its originator. But when,
to explain the course of human events, I suppose, with all
imaginable caution, the intervention of a God, I am sure to shock
scientific gravity and offend critical ears: to so wonderful an
extent has our piety discredited Providence, so many tricks
have been played by means of this dogma or fiction by charlatans
of every stamp! I have seen the theists of my time, and
blasphemy has played over my lips; I have studied the belief of
the people,--this people that Brydaine called the best friend of
God,--and have shuddered at the negation which was about to
escape me. Tormented by conflicting feelings, I appealed to
reason; and it is reason which, amid so many dogmatic
contradictions, now forces the hypothesis upon me. A priori
dogmatism, applying itself to God, has proved fruitless: who
knows whither the hypothesis, in its turn, will lead us?

I will explain therefore how, studying in the silence of my
heart, and far from every human consideration, the mystery of
social revolutions, God, the great unknown, has become for me an
hypothesis,--I mean a necessary dialectical tool.


If I follow the God-idea through its successive transformations,
I find that this idea is preeminently social: I mean by this that
it is much more a collective act of faith than an individual
conception. Now, how and under what circumstances is this act of
faith produced? This point it is important to determine.

From the moral and intellectual point of view, society, or the
collective man, is especially distinguished from the individual
by spontaneity of action,--in other words, instinct. While the
individual obeys, or imagines he obeys, only those motives of
which he is fully conscious, and upon which he can at will
decline or consent to act; while, in a word, he thinks himself
free, and all the freer when he knows that he is possessed of
keener reasoning faculties and larger information,--society is
governed by impulses which, at first blush, exhibit no
deliberation and design, but which gradually seem to be directed
by a superior power, existing outside of society, and pushing it
with irresistible might toward an unknown goal. The
establishment of monarchies and republics, caste-distinctions,
judicial institutions, etc., are so many manifestations of this
social spontaneity, to note the effects of which is much easier
than to point out its principle and show its cause. The whole
effort, even of those who, following Bossuet, Vico, Herder,
Hegel, have applied themselves to the philosophy of history, has
been hitherto to establish the presence of a providential destiny
presiding over all the movements of man. And I observe, in this
connection, that society never fails to evoke its genius previous
to action: as if it wished the powers above to ordain what its
own spontaneity has already resolved on. Lots, oracles,
sacrifices, popular acclamation, public prayers, are the
commonest forms of these tardy deliberations of society.

This mysterious faculty, wholly intuitive, and, so to speak,
super-social, scarcely or not at all perceptible in persons, but
which hovers over humanity like an inspiring genius, is the
primordial fact of all psychology.

Now, unlike other species of animals, which, like him, are
governed at the same time by individual desires and collective
impulses, man has the privilege of perceiving and designating to
his own mind the instinct or fatum which leads him; we shall see
later that he has also the power of foreseeing and even
influencing its decrees. And the first act of man, filled and
carried away with enthusiasm (of the divine breath), is to adore
the invisible Providence on which he feels that he depends, and
which he calls GOD,--that is, Life, Being, Spirit, or, simpler
still, Me; for all these words, in the ancient tongues, are
synonyms and homophones. "I am ME," God said to Abraham,
"and I covenant with THEE.".... And to Moses: "I am the Being.
Thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, `The Being hath sent
me unto you.'" These two words, the Being and Me, have in the
original language--the most religious that men have ever
spoken--the same characteristic.[1] Elsewhere, when Ie-hovah,
acting as law-giver through the instrumentality of Moses, attests
his eternity and swears by his own essence, he uses, as a form of
oath, _I_; or else, with redoubled force, _I_, THE BEING. Thus
the God of the Hebrews is the most personal and wilful of all the
gods, and none express better than he the intuition of humanity.

[1] Ie-hovah, and in composition Iah, the Being; Iao, ioupitur,
same meaning; ha-iah, Heb., he was; ei, Gr., he is, ei-nai, to
be; an-i, Heb., and in conjugation th-i, me; e-go, io, ich, i,
m-i, me, t-ibi, te, and all the personal pronouns in which the
vowels i, e, ei, oi, denote personality in general, and the
consonants, m or n, s or t, serve to indicate the number of the
person. For the rest, let who will dispute over these analogies;
I have no objections: at this depth, the science of the
philologist is but cloud and mystery. The important point to
which I wish to call attention is that the phonetic relation of
names seems to correspond to the metaphysical relation of ideas.

God appeared to man, then, as a me, as a pure and permanent
essence, placing himself before him as a monarch before his
servant, and expressing himself now through the mouth of poets,
legislators, and soothsayers, musa, nomos, numen; now through the
popular voice, vox populi vox Dei. This may serve, among other
things, to explain the existence of true and false oracles; why
individuals secluded from birth do not attain of themselves to
the idea of God, while they eagerly grasp it as soon as it is
presented to them by the collective mind; why, finally,
stationary races, like the Chinese, end by losing it.[2] In the
first place, as to oracles, it is clear that all their
accuracy depends upon the universal conscience which inspires
them; and, as to the idea of God, it is easily seen why isolation
and statu quo are alike fatal to it. On the one hand, absence of
communication keeps the mind absorbed in animal
self-contemplation; on the other, absence of motion, gradually
changing social life into mechanical routine, finally eliminates
the idea of will and providence. Strange fact! religion, which
perishes through progress, perishes also through quiescence.

[2] The Chinese have preserved in their traditions the
remembrance of a religion which had ceased to exist among them
five or six centuries before our era.

(See Pauthier, "China," Paris, Didot.) More surprising still is
it that this singular people, in losing its primitive faith,
seems to have understood that divinity is simply the collective
me of humanity: so that, more than two thousand years ago, China
had reached, in its commonly-accepted belief, the latest results
of the philosophy of the Occident. "What Heaven sees and
understands," it is written in the Shu-king, "is only that which
the people see and understand. What the people deem worthy of
reward and punishment is that which Heaven wishes to punish and
reward. There is an intimate communication between Heaven and
the people: let those who govern the people, therefore, be
watchful and cautious." Confucius expressed the same idea in
another manner: "Gain the affection of the people, and you gain
empire. Lose the affection of the people, and you lose empire."
There, then, general reason was regarded as queen of the world, a
distinction which elsewhere has been bestowed upon revelations.
The Tao-te-king is still more explicit. In this work, which is
but an outline criticism of pure reason, the philosopher Lao-tse
continually identifies, under the name of TAO, universal reason
and the infinite being; and all the obscurity of the book of Lao
tse consists, in my opinion, of this constant identification of
principles which our religious and metaphysical habits have so
widely separated.

Notice further that, in attributing to the vague and (so to
speak) objectified consciousness of a universal reason the first
revelation of Divinity, we assume absolutely nothing concerning
even the reality or non-reality of God. In fact, admitting that
God is nothing more than collective instinct or universal reason,
we have still to learn what this universal reason is in itself.
For, as we shall show directly, universal reason is not given in
individual reason, in other words, the knowledge of social
laws, or the theory of collective ideas, though deduced from the
fundamental concepts of pure reason, is nevertheless wholly
empirical, and never would have been discovered a priori by means
of deduction, induction, or synthesis. Whence it follows that
universal reason, which we regard as the origin of these laws;
universal reason, which exists, reasons, labors, in a separate
sphere and as a reality distinct from pure reason, just as the
planetary system, though created according to the laws of
mathematics, is a reality distinct from mathematics, whose
existence could not have been deduced from mathematics alone: it
follows, I say, that universal reason is, in modern languages,
exactly what the ancients called God. The name is changed: what
do we know of the thing?

Let us now trace the evolution of the Divine idea.

The Supreme Being once posited by a primary mystical judgment,
man immediately generalizes the subject by another
mysticism,--analogy. God, so to speak, is as yet but a point:
directly he shall fill the world.

As, in sensing his social me, man saluted his AUTHOR, so, in
finding evidence of design and intention in animals, plants,
springs, meteors, and the whole universe, he attributes to each
special object, and then to the whole, a soul, spirit, or genius
presiding over it; pursuing this inductive process of apotheosis
from the highest summit of Nature, which is society, down to the
humblest forms of life, to inanimate and inorganic matter. From
his collective me, taken as the superior pole of creation, to the
last atom of matter, man EXTENDS, then, the idea of God,--that
is, the idea of personality and intelligence,--just as God
himself EXTENDED HEAVEN, as the book of Genesis tells us; that
is, created space and time, the conditions of all things.

Thus, without a God or master-builder, the universe and man
would not exist: such is the social profession of faith. But
also without man God would not be thought, or--to clear the
interval--God would be nothing. If humanity needs an author, God
and the gods equally need a revealer; theogony, the history of
heaven, hell, and their inhabitants,--those dreams of the human
mind,--is the counterpart of the universe, which certain
philosophers have called in return the dream of God. And how
magnificent this theological creation, the work of society! The
creation of the demiourgos was obliterated; what we call the
Omnipotent was conquered; and for centuries the enchanted
imagination of mortals was turned away from the spectacle of
Nature by the contemplation of Olympian marvels.

Let us descend from this fanciful region: pitiless reason knocks
at the door; her terrible questions demand a reply.

"What is God?" she asks; "where is he? what is his extent? what
are his wishes? what his powers? what his promises?"--and here,
in the light of analysis, all the divinities of heaven, earth,
and hell are reduced to an incorporeal, insensible, immovable,
incomprehensible, undefinable I-know-not-what; in short, to a
negation of all the attributes of existence. In fact, whether
man attributes to each object a special spirit or genius, or
conceives the universe as governed by a single power, he in
either case but SUPPOSES an unconditioned, that is, an
impossible, entity, that he may deduce therefrom an explanation
of such phenomena as he deems inconceivable on any other
hypothesis. The mystery of God and reason! In order to render
the object of his idolatry more and more RATIONAL, the believer
despoils him successively of all the qualities which would make
him REAL; and, after marvellous displays of logic and genius,
the attributes of the Being par excellence are found to be the
same as those of nihility. This evolution is inevitable and
fatal: atheism is at the bottom of all theodicy.

Let us try to understand this progress.

God, creator of all things, is himself no sooner created by the
conscience,--in other words, no sooner have we lifted God from
the idea of the social me to the idea of the cosmic me,--than
immediately our reflection begins to demolish him under the
pretext of perfecting him. To perfect the idea of God, to purify
the theological dogma, was the second hallucination of the human

The spirit of analysis, that untiring Satan who continually
questions and denies, must sooner or later look for proof of
religious dogmas. Now, whether the philosopher determine the
idea of God, or declare it indeterminable; whether he approach it
with his reason, or retreat from it,--I say that this idea
receives a blow; and, as it is impossible for speculation to
halt, the idea of God must at last disappear. Then the atheistic
movement is the second act of the theologic drama; and this
second act follows from the first, as effect from cause. "The
heavens declare the glory of God," says the Psalmist. Let us
add, And their testimony dethrones him.

Indeed, in proportion as man observes phenomena, he thinks that
he perceives, between Nature and God, intermediaries; such as
relations of number, form, and succession; organic laws,
evolutions, analogies,-- forming an unmistakable series of
manifestations which invariably produce or give rise to each
other. He even observes that, in the development of this society
of which he is a part, private wills and associative
deliberations have some influence; and he says to himself that
the Great Spirit does not act upon the world directly and by
himself, or arbitrarily and at the dictation of a capricious
will, but mediately, by perceptible means or organs, and by
virtue of laws. And, retracing in his mind the chain of effects
and causes, he places clear at the extremity, as a balance, God.

A poet has said,--

Par dela tous les cieux, le Dieu des cieux reside.

Thus, at the first step in the theory, the Supreme Being is
reduced to the function of a motive power, a mainspring, a
corner-stone, or, if a still more trivial comparison may be
allowed me, a constitutional sovereign, reigning but not
governing, swearing to obey the law and appointing ministers to
execute it. But, under the influence of the mirage which
fascinates him, the theist sees, in this ridiculous system, only
a new proof of the sublimity of his idol; who, in his opinion,
uses his creatures as instruments of his power, and causes the
wisdom of human beings to redound to his glory.

Soon, not content with limiting the power of the Eternal, man,
increasingly deicidal in his tendencies, insists on sharing it.

If I am a spirit, a sentient me giving voice to ideas, continues
the theist, I consequently am a part of absolute existence; I am
free, creative, immortal, equal with God. Cogito, ergo sum,--I
think, therefore I am immortal, that is the corollary, the
translation of Ego sum qui sum: philosophy is in accord with the
Bible. The existence of God and the immortality of the soul are
posited by the conscience in the same judgment: there, man speaks
in the name of the universe, to whose bosom he transports his me;
here, he speaks in his own name, without perceiving that, in this
going and coming, he only repeats himself.

The immortality of the soul, a true division of divinity,
which, at the time of its first promulgation, arriving after a
long interval, seemed a heresy to those faithful to the old
dogma, has been none the less considered the complement of divine
majesty, necessarily postulated by eternal goodness and justice.
Unless the soul is immortal, God is incomprehensible, say the
theists; resembling in this the political theorists who regard
sovereign representation and perpetual tenure of office as
essential conditions of monarchy. But the inconsistency of the
ideas is as glaring as the parity of the doctrines is exact:
consequently the dogma of immortality soon became the
stumbling-block of philosophical theologians, who, ever since the
days of Pythagoras and Orpheus, have been making futile attempts
to harmonize divine attributes with human liberty, and reason
with faith. A subject of triumph for the impious! . . . . But
the illusion could not yield so soon: the dogma of immortality,
for the very reason that it was a limitation of the uncreated
Being, was a step in advance. Now, though the human mind
deceives itself by a partial acquisition of the truth, it never
retreats, and this perseverance in progress is proof of its
infallibility. Of this we shall soon see fresh evidence.

In making himself like God, man made God like himself: this
correlation, which for many centuries had been execrated, was the
secret spring which determined the new myth. In the days of the
patriarchs God made an alliance with man; now, to strengthen the
compact, God is to become a man. He will take on our flesh, our
form, our passions, our joys, and our sorrows; will be born of
woman, and die as we do. Then, after this humiliation of the
infinite, man will still pretend that he has elevated the ideal
of his God in making, by a logical conversion, him whom he
had always called creator, a saviour, a redeemer. Humanity does
not yet say, I am God: such a usurpation would shock its piety;
it says, God is in me, IMMANUEL, nobiscum Deus. And, at the
moment when philosophy with pride, and universal conscience with
fright, shouted with unanimous voice, The gods are departing!
excedere deos! a period of eighteen centuries of fervent
adoration and superhuman faith was inaugurated.

But the fatal end approaches. The royalty which suffers itself
to be limited will end by the rule of demagogues; the divinity
which is defined dissolves in a pandemonium. Christolatry is the
last term of this long evolution of human thought. The angels,
saints, and virgins reign in heaven with God, says the catechism;
and demons and reprobates live in the hells of eternal
punishment. Ultramundane society has its left and its right: it
is time for the equation to be completed; for this mystical
hierarchy to descend upon earth and appear in its real character.

When Milton represents the first woman admiring herself in a
fountain, and lovingly extending her arms toward her own image as
if to embrace it, he paints, feature for feature, the human
race.--This God whom you worship, O man! this God whom you have
made good, just, omnipotent, omniscient, immortal, and holy, is
yourself: this ideal of perfection is your image, purified in the
shining mirror of your conscience. God, Nature, and man are
three aspects of one and the same being; man is God himself
arriving at self-consciousness through a thousand evolutions. In
Jesus Christ man recognized himself as God; and Christianity is
in reality the religion of God-man. There is no other God than
he who in the beginning said, ME; there is no other God than

Such are the last conclusions of philosophy, which dies in
unveiling religion's mystery and its own.


It seems, then, that all is ended; it seems that, with the
cessation of the worship and mystification of humanity by itself,
the theological problem is for ever put aside. The gods have
gone: there is nothing left for man but to grow weary and die in
his egoism. What frightful solitude extends around me, and
forces its way to the bottom of my soul! My exaltation resembles
annihilation; and, since I made myself a God, I seem but a
shadow. It is possible that I am still a ME, but it is very
difficult to regard myself as the absolute; and, if I am not the
absolute, I am only half of an idea.

Some ironical thinker, I know not who, has said: "A little
philosophy leads away from religion, and much philosophy leads
back to it." This proposition is humiliatingly true.

Every science develops in three successive periods, which may be
called--comparing them with the grand periods of
civilization--the religious period, the sophistical period, the
scientific period.[3] Thus, alchemy represents the religious
period of the science afterwards called chemistry, whose
definitive plan is not yet discovered; likewise astrology was the
religious period of another science, since

[3] See, among others, Auguste Comte, "Course of Positive
Philosophy," and P. J. Proudhon, "Creation of Order in Humanity."

Now, after being laughed at for sixty years about the
philosopher's stone, chemists, governed by experience, no longer
dare to deny the transmutability of bodies; while astronomers
are led by the structure of the world to suspect also an organism
of the world; that is, something precisely like astrology. Are
we not justified in saying, in imitation of the philosopher just
quoted, that, if a little chemistry leads away from the
philosopher's stone, much chemistry leads back to it; and
similarly, that, if a little astronomy makes us laugh at
astrologers, much astronomy will make us believe in them?[4]

[4] I do not mean to affirm here in a positive manner the
transmutability of bodies, or to point it out as a subject for
investigation; still less do I pretend to say what ought to be
the opinion of savants upon this point. I wish only to call
attention to the species of scepticism generated in every
uninformed mind by the most general conclusions of chemical
philosophy, or, better, by the irreconcilable hypotheses which
serve as the basis of its theories. Chemistry is truly the
despair of reason: on all sides it mingles with the fanciful; and
the more knowledge of it we gain by experience, the more it
envelops itself in impenetrable mysteries. This thought was
recently suggested to me by reading M. Liebig's "Letters on
Chemistry" (Paris, Masgana, 1845, translation of Bertet-Dupiney
and Dubreuil Helion).

Thus M. Liebig, after having banished from science hypothetical
causes and all the entities admitted by the ancients,--such as
the creative power of matter, the horror of a vacuum, the esprit
recteur, etc. (p. 22),--admits immediately, as necessary to the
comprehension of chemical phenomena, a series of entities no less
obscure,--vital force, chemical force, electric force, the force
of attraction, etc. (pp. 146, 149). One might call it a
realization of the properties of bodies, in imitation of the
psychologists' realization of the faculties of the soul under the
names liberty, imagination, memory, etc. Why not keep to the
elements? Why, if the atoms have weight of their own, as M.
Liebig appears to believe, may they not also have electricity and
life of their own? Curious thing! the phenomena of matter, like
those of mind, become intelligible only by supposing them to be
produced by unintelligible forces and governed by contradictory
laws: such is the inference to be drawn from every page of M.
Liebig's book.

Matter, according to M. Liebig, is essentially inert and entirely
destitute of spontaneous activity (p. 148): why, then, do the
atoms have weight? Is not the weight inherent in atoms the real,
eternal, and spontaneous motion of matter? And that which we
chance to regard as rest,--may it not be equilibrium rather?
Why, then, suppose now an inertia which definitions contradict,
now an external potentiality which nothing proves?

Atoms having WEIGHT, M. Liebig infers that they are INDIVISIBLE
(p. 58). What logic! Weight is only force, that is, a thing
hidden from the senses, whose phenomena alone are perceptible,--a
thing, consequently, to which the idea of division and indivision
is inapplicable; and from the presence of this force, from the
hypothesis of an indeterminate and immaterial entity, is inferred
an indivisible material existence!

For the rest, M. Liebig confesses that it is IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE
MIND to conceive of particles absolutely indivisible; he
recognizes, further, that the FACT of this indivisibility is not
proved; but he adds that science cannot dispense with this
hypothesis: so that, by the confession of its teachers, chemistry
has for its point of departure a fiction as repugnant to the mind
as it is foreign to experience. What irony!

Atoms are unequal in weight, says M. Liebig, because unequal in
volume: nevertheless, it is impossible to demonstrate that
chemical equivalents express the relative weight of atoms, or, in
other words, that what the calculation of atomic equivalents
leads us to regard as an atom is not composed of several atoms.
This is tantamount to saying that MORE MATTER weighs more than
LESS MATTER; and, since weight is the essence of materiality, we
may logically conclude that, weight being universally identical
with itself, there is also an identity in matter; that the
differences of simple bodies are due solely, either to different
methods of atomic association, or to different degrees of
molecular condensation, and that, in reality, atoms are
transmutable: which M. Liebig does not admit.

"We have," he says, "no reason for believing that one element is
convertible into another element" (p. 135). What do you know
about it? The reasons for believing in such a conversion can
very well exist and at the same time escape your attention; and
it is not certain that your intelligence in this respect has
risen to the level of your experience. But, admitting the
negative argument of M. Liebig, what follows? That, with about
fifty-six exceptions, irreducible as yet, all matter is in a
condition of perpetual metamorphosis. Now, it is a law of our
reason to suppose in Nature unity of substance as well as unity
of force and system; moreover, the series of chemical compounds
and simple substances themselves leads us irresistibly to this
conclusion. Why, then, refuse to follow to the end the road
opened by science, and to admit an hypothesis which is the
inevitable result of experience itself?

M. Liebig not only denies the transmutability of elements, but
rejects the spontaneous formation of germs. Now, if we reject
the spontaneous formation of germs, we are forced to admit their
eternity; and as, on the other hand, geology proves that the
globe has not been inhabited always, we must admit also that, at
a given moment, the eternal germs of animals and plants were
born, without father or mother, over the whole face of the earth.

Thus, the denial of spontaneous generation leads back to the
hypothesis of spontaneity: what is there in much-derided
metaphysics more contradictory?

Let it not be thought, however, that I deny the value and
certainty of chemical theories, or that the atomic theory seems
to me absurd, or that I share the Epicurean opinion as to
spontaneous generation. Once more, all that I wish to point out
is that, from the point of view of principles, chemistry needs to
exercise extreme tolerance, since its own existence depends on a
certain number of fictions, contrary to reason and experience,
and destructive of each other.

I certainly have less inclination to the marvellous than
many atheists, but I cannot help thinking that the stories of
miracles, prophecies, charms, etc., are but distorted accounts of
the extraordinary effects produced by certain latent forces, or,
as was formerly said, by occult powers. Our science is still so
brutal and unfair; our professors exhibit so much impertinence
with so little knowledge; they deny so impudently facts which
embarrass them, in order to protect the opinions which they
champion,--that I distrust strong minds equally with
superstitious ones. Yes, I am convinced of it; our gross
rationalism is the inauguration of a period which, thanks to
science, will become truly PRODIGIOUS; the universe, to my eyes,
is only a laboratory of magic, from which anything may be
expected. . . . This said, I return to my subject.

They would be deceived, then, who should imagine, after my rapid
survey of religious progress, that metaphysics has uttered its
last word upon the double enigma expressed in these four
words,--the existence of God, the immortality of the soul. Here,
as elsewhere, the most advanced and best established conclusions,
those which seem to have settled for ever the theological
question, lead us back to primeval mysticism, and involve the new
data of an inevitable philosophy. The criticism of religious
opinions makes us smile today both at ourselves and at religions;
and yet the resume of this criticism is but a reproduction of the
problem. The human race, at the present moment, is on the eve of
recognizing and affirming something equivalent to the old notion
of Divinity; and this, not by a spontaneous movement as before,
but through reflection and by means of irresistible logic. I
will try, in a few words, to make myself understood.

If there is a point on which philosophers, in spite of
themselves, have finally succeeded in agreeing, it is without
doubt the distinction between intelligence and necessity, the
subject of thought and its object, the me and the not-me; in
ordinary terms, spirit and matter. I know well that all these
terms express nothing that is real and true; that each of them
designates only a section of the absolute, which alone is true
and real; and that, taken separately, they involve, all alike, a
contradiction. But it is no less certain also that the absolute
is completely inaccessible to us; that we know it only by its
opposite extremes, which alone fall within the limits of our
experience; and that, if unity only can win our faith, duality is
the first condition of science.

Thus, who thinks, and what is thought? What is a soul? what is a
body? I defy any one to escape this dualism. It is with
essences as with ideas: the former are seen separated in Nature,
as the latter in the understanding; and just as the ideas of God
and immortality, in spite of their identity, are posited
successively and contradictorily in philosophy, so, in spite of
their fusion in the absolute, the me and the not-me posit
themselves separately and contradictorily in Nature, and we have
beings who think, at the same time with others which do not

Now, whoever has taken pains to reflect knows today that such a
distinction, wholly realized though it be, is the most
unintelligible, most contradictory, most absurd thing which
reason can possibly meet. Being is no more conceivable without
the properties of spirit than without the properties of
matter: so that if you deny spirit, because, included in none of
the categories of time, space, motion, solidity, etc., it seems
deprived of all the attributes which constitute reality, I in my
turn will deny matter, which, presenting nothing appreciable but
its inertia, nothing intelligible but its forms, manifests itself
nowhere as cause (voluntary and free), and disappears from view
entirely as substance; and we arrive at pure idealism, that is,
nihility. But nihility is inconsistent with the existence of
living, reasoning--I know not what to call them--uniting in
themselves, in a state of commenced synthesis or imminent
dissolution, all the antagonistic attributes of being. We are
compelled, then, to end in a dualism whose terms we know
perfectly well to be false, but which, being for us the condition
of the truth, forces itself irresistibly upon us; we are
compelled, in short, to commence, like Descartes and the human
race, with the me; that is, with spirit.

But, since religions and philosophies, dissolved by analysis,
have disappeared in the theory of the absolute, we know no better
than before what spirit is, and in this differ from the ancients
only in the wealth of language with which we adorn the darkness
that envelops us. With this exception, however; that while, to
the ancients, order revealed intelligence OUTSIDE of the world,
to the people of today it seems to reveal it rather WITHIN the
world. Now, whether we place it within or without, from the
moment we affirm it on the ground of order, we must admit it
wherever order is manifested, or deny it altogether. There is no
more reason for attributing intelligence to the head which
produced the "Iliad" than to a mass of matter which crystallizes
in octahedrons; and, reciprocally, it is as absurd to refer the
system of the world to physical laws, leaving out an ordaining
ME, as to attribute the victory of Marengo to strategic
combinations, leaving out the first consul. The only distinction
that can be made is that, in the latter case, the thinking ME is
located in the brain of a Bonaparte, while, in the case of the
universe, the ME has no special location, but extends everywhere.

The materialists think that they have easily disposed of their
opponents by saying that man, having likened the universe to his
body, finishes the comparison by presuming the existence in the
universe of a soul similar to that which he supposes to be the
principle of his own life and thought; that thus all the
arguments in support of the existence of God are reducible to an
analogy all the more false because the term of comparison is
itself hypothetical.

It is certainly not my intention to defend the old syllogism:
Every arrangement implies an ordaining intelligence; there is
wonderful order in the world; then the world is the work of an
intelligence. This syllogism, discussed so widely since the days
of Job and Moses, very far from being a solution, is but the
statement of the problem which it assumes to solve. We know
perfectly well what order is, but we are absolutely ignorant of
the meaning of the words Soul, Spirit, Intelligence: how, then,
can we logically reason from the presence of the one to the
existence of the other? I reject, then, even when advanced by
the most thoroughly informed, the pretended proof of the
existence of God drawn from the presence of order in the world; I
see in it at most only an equation offered to philosophy.
Between the conception of order and the affirmation of spirit
there is a deep gulf of metaphysics to be filled up; I am
unwilling, I repeat, to take the problem for the demonstration.

But this is not the point which we are now considering. I have
tried to show that the human mind was inevitably and irresistibly
led to the distinction of being into me and not-me, spirit and
matter, soul and body. Now, who does not see that the objection
of the materialists proves the very thing it is intended to deny?
Man distinguishing within himself a spiritual principle and a
material principle,--what is this but Nature herself, proclaiming
by turns her double essence, and bearing testimony to her own
laws? And notice the inconsistency of materialism: it denies,
and has to deny, that man is free; now, the less liberty man has,
the more weight is to be attached to his words, and the greater
their claim to be regarded as the expression of truth. When I
hear this machine say to me, "I am soul and I am body," though
such a revelation astonishes and confounds me, it is invested in
my eyes with an authority incomparably greater than that of the
materialist who, correcting conscience and Nature, undertakes to
make them say, "I am matter and only matter, and intelligence is
but the material faculty of knowing."

What would become of this assertion, if, assuming in my turn the
offensive, I should demonstrate that belief in the existence of
bodies, or, in other words, in the reality of a purely corporeal
nature, is untenable? Matter, they say, is
impenetrable.--Impenetrable by what? I ask. Itself, undoubtedly;
for they would not dare to say spirit, since they would therein
admit what they wish to set aside. Whereupon I raise this double
question: What do you know about it, and what does it signify?

1. Impenetrability, which is pretended to be the definition of
matter, is only an hypothesis of careless naturalists, a gross
conclusion deduced from a superficial judgment. Experience shows
that matter possesses infinite divisibility, infinite
expansibility, porosity without assignable limits, and
permeability by heat, electricity, and magnetism, together
with a power of retaining them indefinitely; affinities,
reciprocal influences, and transformations without number:
qualities, all of them, hardly compatible with the assumption of
an impenetrable aliquid. Elasticity, which, better than any
other property of matter, could lead, through the idea of spring
or resistance, to that of impenetrability, is subject to the
control of a thousand circumstances, and depends entirely on
molecular attraction: now, what is more irreconcilable with
impenetrability than this attraction? Finally, there is a
science which might be defined with exactness as the SCIENCE OF
PENETRABILITY OF MATTER: I mean chemistry. In fact, how does
what is called chemical composition differ from penetration?[5].
. . . In short, we know matter only through its forms; of its
substance we know nothing. How, then, is it possible to affirm
the reality of an invisible, impalpable, incoercible being, ever
changing, ever vanishing, impenetrable to thought alone, to which
it exhibits only its disguises? Materialist! I permit you to
testify to the reality of your sensations; as to what occasions
them, all that you can say involves this reciprocity: something
(which you call matter) is the occasion of sensations which are
felt by another something (which I call spirit).

[5] Chemists distinguish between MIXTURE and COMPOSITION, just
as logicians distinguish between the association of ideas and
their synthesis. It is true, nevertheless, that, according to
the chemists, composition may be after all but a mixture, or
rather an aggregation of atoms, no longer fortuitous, but
systematic, the atoms forming different compounds by varying
their arrangement. But still this is only an hypothesis, wholly
gratuitous; an hypothesis which explains nothing, and has not
even the merit of being logical. Why does a purely NUMERICAL or
GEOMETRICAL difference in the composition and form of atoms give
rise to PHYSIOLOGICAL properties so different? If atoms are
indivisible and impenetrable, why does not their association,
confined to mechanical effects, leave them unchanged in essence?
Where is the relation between the cause supposed and the effect

We must distrust our intellectual vision: it is with chemical
theories as with psychological systems. The mind, in order to
account for phenomena, works with atoms, which it does not and
can never see, as with the ME, which it does not perceive: it
applies its categories to everything; that is, it distinguishes,
individualizes, concretes, numbers, compares, things which,
material or immaterial, are thoroughly identical and
indistinguishable. Matter, as well as spirit, plays, as we view
it, all sorts of parts; and, as there is nothing arbitrary in its
metamorphoses, we build upon them these psychologic and atomic
theories, true in so far as they faithfully represent, in terms
agreed upon, the series of phenomena, but radically false as soon
as they pretend to realize their abstractions and are accepted

2. But what, then, is the source of this supposition that matter
is impenetrable, which external observation does not justify and
which is not true; and what is its meaning?

Here appears the triumph of dualism. Matter is pronounced
impenetrable, not, as the materialists and the vulgar fancy, by
the testimony of the senses, but by the conscience. The ME, an
incomprehensible nature, feeling itself free, distinct, and
permanent, and meeting outside of itself another nature equally
incomprehensible, but also distinct and permanent in spite of its
metamorphoses, declares, on the strength of the sensations and
ideas which this essence suggests to it, that the NOT-ME is
extended and impenetrable. Impenetrability is a figurative term,
an image by which thought, a division of the absolute, pictures
to itself material reality, another division of the absolute; but
this impenetrability, without which matter disappears, is, in the
last analysis, only a spontaneous judgment of inward sensation, a
metaphysical a priori, an unverified hypothesis of spirit.

Thus, whether philosophy, after having overthrown theological
dogmatism, spiritualizes matter or materializes thought,
idealizes being or realizes ideas; or whether, identifying
SUBSTANCE and CAUSE, it everywhere substitutes FORCE, phrases,
all, which explain and signify nothing,--it always leads us
back to this everlasting dualism, and, in summoning us to believe
in ourselves, compels us to believe in God, if not in spirits.
It is true that, making spirit a part of Nature, in distinction
from the ancients, who separated it, philosophy has been led to
this famous conclusion, which sums up nearly all the fruit of its
researches: In man spirit KNOWS ITSELF, while everywhere else
it seems NOT TO KNOW ITSELf--"That which is awake in man, which
dreams in the animal, and sleeps in the stone," said a

Philosophy, then, in its last hour, knows no more than at its
birth: as if it had appeared in the world only to verify the
words of Socrates, it says to us, wrapping itself solemnly around
with its funeral pall, "I know only that I know nothing." What
do I say? Philosophy knows today that all its judgments rest on
two equally false, equally impossible, and yet equally necessary
and inevitable hypotheses,--matter and spirit. So that, while in
former times religious intolerance and philosophic disputes,
spreading darkness everywhere, excused doubt and tempted to
libidinous indifference, the triumph of negation on all points no
longer permits even this doubt; thought, freed from every
barrier, but conquered by its own successes, is forced to affirm
what seems to it clearly contradictory and absurd. The savages
say that the world is a great fetich watched over by a great
manitou. For thirty centuries the poets, legislators, and sages
of civilization, handing down from age to age the philosophic
lamp, have written nothing more sublime than this profession of
faith. And here, at the end of this long conspiracy against God,
which has called itself philosophy, emancipated reason concludes
with savage reason, The universe is a NOT-ME, objectified by a

Humanity, then, inevitably supposes the existence of God: and if,
during the long period which closes with our time, it has
believed in the reality of its hypothesis; if it has worshipped
the inconceivable object; if, after being apprehended in this act
of faith, it persists knowingly, but no longer voluntarily, in
this opinion of a sovereign being which it knows to be only a
personification of its own thought; if it is on the point of
again beginning its magic invocations,--we must believe that so
astonishing an hallucination conceals some mystery, which
deserves to be fathomed.

I say hallucination and mystery, but without intending to deny
thereby the superhuman content of the God-idea, and without
admitting the necessity of a new symbolism,--I mean a new
religion. For if it is indisputable that humanity, in affirming
God,--or all that is included in the word me or spirit,--only
affirms itself, it is equally undeniable that it affirms itself
as something other than its own conception of itself, as all
mythologies and theologies show. And since, moreover, this
affirmation is incontestable, it depends, without doubt, upon
hidden relations, which ought, if possible, to be determined

In other words, atheism, sometimes called humanism, true in its
critical and negative features, would be, if it stopped at man in
his natural condition, if it discarded as an erroneous judgment
the first affirmation of humanity, that it is the daughter,
emanation, image, reflection, or voice of God,--humanism, I say,
if it thus denied its past, would be but one contradiction more.
We are forced, then, to undertake the criticism of humanism; that
is, to ascertain whether humanity, considered as a whole and
throughout all its periods of development, satisfies the Divine
idea, after eliminating from the latter the exaggerated and
fanciful attributes of God; whether it satisfies the perfection
of being; whether it satisfies itself. We are forced, in short,
to inquire whether humanity TENDS TOWARD God, according to the
ancient dogma, or is itself BECOMING God, as modern philosophers
claim. Perhaps we shall find in the end that the two systems,
despite their seeming opposition, are both true and essentially
identical: in that case, the infallibility of human reason, in
its collective manifestations as well as its studied
speculations, would be decisively confirmed.--In a word, until we
have verified to man the hypothesis of God, there is nothing
definitive in the atheistic negation.

It is, then, a scientific, that is, an empirical demonstration of
the idea of God, that we need: now, such a demonstration has
never been attempted. Theology dogmatizing on the authority of
its myths, philosophy speculating by the aid of categories, God
has existed as a TRANSCENDENTAL conception, incognizable by the
reason, and the hypothesis always subsists.

It subsists, I say, this hypothesis, more tenacious, more
pitiless than ever. We have reached one of those prophetic
epochs when society, scornful of the past and doubtful of the
future, now distractedly clings to the present, leaving a few
solitary thinkers to establish the new faith; now cries to God
from the depths of its enjoyments and asks for a sign of
salvation, or seeks in the spectacle of its revolutions, as in
the entrails of a victim, the secret of its destiny.

Why need I insist further? The hypothesis of God is allowable,
for it forces itself upon every man in spite of himself: no one,
then, can take exception to it. He who believes can do no less
than grant me the supposition that God exists; he who denies is
forced to grant it to me also, since he entertained it before
me, every negation implying a previous affirmation; as for him
who is in doubt, he needs but to reflect a moment to understand
that his doubt necessarily supposes an unknown something, which,
sooner or later, he will call God.

But if I possess, through the fact of my thought, the right to
SUPPOSE God, I must abandon the right to AFFIRM him. In other
words, if my hypothesis is irresistible, that, for the present,
is all that I can pretend. For to affirm is to determine; now,
every determination, to be true, must be reached empirically. In
fact, whoever says determination, says relation, conditionality,
experience. Since, then, the determination of the idea of God
must result from an empirical demonstration, we must abstain from
everything which, in the search for this great unknown, not being
established by experience, goes beyond the hypothesis, under
penalty of relapsing into the contradictions of theology, and
consequently arousing anew atheistic dissent.


It remains for me to tell why, in a work on political economy, I
have felt it necessary to start with the fundamental hypothesis
of all philosophy.

And first, I need the hypothesis of God to establish the
authority of social science.--When the astronomer, to explain the
system of the world, judging solely from appearance, supposes,
with the vulgar, the sky arched, the earth flat, the sun much
like a football, describing a curve in the air from east to west,
he supposes the infallibility of the senses, reserving the right
to rectify subsequently, after further observation, the data with
which he is obliged to start. Astronomic philosophy, in fact,
could not admit a priori that the senses deceive us, and that
we do not see what we do see: admitting such a principle, what
would become of the certainty of astronomy? But the evidence of
the senses being able, in certain cases, to rectify and complete
itself, the authority of the senses remains unshaken, and
astronomy is possible.

So social philosophy does not admit a priori that humanity can
err or be deceived in its actions: if it should, what would
become of the authority of the human race, that is, the authority
of reason, synonymous at bottom with the sovereignty of the
people? But it thinks that human judgments, always true at the
time they are pronounced, can successively complete and throw
light on each other, in proportion to the acquisition of ideas,
in such a way as to maintain continual harmony between universal
reason and individual speculation, and indefinitely extend the
sphere of certainty: which is always an affirmation of the
authority of human judgments.

Now, the first judgment of the reason, the preamble of every
political constitution seeking a sanction and a principle, is
necessarily this: THERE IS A GOD; which means that society is
governed with design, premeditation, intelligence. This
judgment, which excludes chance, is, then, the foundation of the
possibility of a social science; and every historical and
positive study of social facts, undertaken with a view to
amelioration and progress, must suppose, with the people, the
existence of God, reserving the right to account for this
judgment at a later period.

Thus the history of society is to us but a long determination of
the idea of God, a progressive revelation of the destiny of man.
And while ancient wisdom made all depend on the arbitrary and
fanciful notion of Divinity, oppressing reason and conscience,
and arresting progress through fear of an invisible master,
the new philosophy, reversing the method, trampling on the
authority of God as well as that of man, and accepting no other
yoke than that of fact and evidence, makes all converge toward
the theological hypothesis, as toward the last of its problems.

Humanitarian atheism is, therefore, the last step in the moral
and intellectual enfranchisement of man, consequently the last
phase of philosophy, serving as a pathway to the scientific
reconstruction and verification of all the demolished dogmas.

I need the hypothesis of God, not only, as I have just said, to
give a meaning to history, but also to legitimate the reforms to
be effected, in the name of science, in the State.

Whether we consider Divinity as outside of society, whose
movements it governs from on high (a wholly gratuitous and
probably illusory opinion); or whether we deem it immanent in
society and identical with that impersonal and unconscious reason
which, acting instinctively, makes civilization advance (although
impersonality and ignorance of self are contrary to the idea of
intelligence); or whether, finally, all that is accomplished in
society results from the relation of its elements (a system whose
whole merit consists in changing an active into a passive, in
making intelligence necessity, or, which amounts to the same
thing, in taking law for cause),--it always follows that the
manifestations of social activity, necessarily appearing to us
either as indications of the will of the Supreme Being, or as a
sort of language typical of general and impersonal reason, or,
finally, as landmarks of necessity, are absolute authority for
us. Being connected in time as well as in spirit, the facts
accomplished determine and legitimate the facts to be
accomplished; science and destiny are in accord; everything which
happens resulting from reason, and, reciprocally, reason
judging only from experience of that which happens, science has a
right to participate in government, and that which establishes
its competency as a counsellor justifies its intervention as a

Science, expressed, recognized, and accepted by the voice of all
as divine, is queen of the world. Thus, thanks to the hypothesis
of God, all conservative or retrogressive opposition, every
dilatory plea offered by theology, tradition, or selfishness,
finds itself peremptorily and irrevocably set aside.

I need the hypothesis of God to show the tie which unites
civilization with Nature.

In fact, this astonishing hypothesis, by which man is assimilated
to the absolute, implying identity of the laws of Nature and the
laws of reason, enables us to see in human industry the
complement of creative action, unites man with the globe which he
inhabits, and, in the cultivation of the domain in which
Providence has placed us, which thus becomes in part our work,
gives us a conception of the principle and end of all things.
If, then, humanity is not God, it is a continuation of God; or,
if a different phraseology be preferred, that which humanity does
today by design is the same thing that it began by instinct, and
which Nature seems to accomplish by necessity. In all these
cases, and whichever opinion we may choose, one thing remains
certain: the unity of action and law. Intelligent beings, actors
in an intelligently-devised fable, we may fearlessly reason from
ourselves to the universe and the eternal; and, when we shall
have completed the organization of labor, may say with pride, The
creation is explained.

Thus philosophy's field of exploration is fixed; tradition is the
starting-point of all speculation as to the future; utopia is
forever exploded; the study of the ME, transferred from the
individual conscience to the manifestations of the social will,
acquires the character of objectivity of which it has been
hitherto deprived; and, history becoming psychology, theology
anthropology, the natural sciences metaphysics, the theory of the
reason is deduced no longer from the vacuum of the intellect, but
from the innumerable forms of a Nature abundantly and directly

I need the hypothesis of God to prove my good-will towards a
multitude of sects, whose opinions I do not share, but whose
malice I fear:-- theists; I know one who, in the cause of God,
would be ready to draw sword, and, like Robespierre, use the
guillotine until the last atheist should be destroyed, not
dreaming that that atheist would be himself;-- mystics, whose
party, largely made up of students and women marching under the
banner of MM. Lamennais, Quinet, Leroux, and others, has taken
for a motto, "Like master, like man;" like God, like people; and,
to regulate the wages of the workingman, begins by restoring
religion;-- spiritualists, who, should I overlook the rights of
spirit, would accuse me of establishing the worship of matter,
against which I protest with all the strength of my
soul;--sensualists and materialists, to whom the divine dogma is
the symbol of constraint and the principle of enslavement of the
passions, outside of which, they say, there is for man neither
pleasure, nor virtue, nor genius;--eclectics and sceptics,
sellers and publishers of all the old philosophies, but not
philosophers themselves, united in one vast brotherhood, with
approbation and privilege, against whoever thinks, believes, or
affirms without their permission;--conservatives finally,
retrogressives, egotists, and hypocrites, preaching the love of
God by hatred of their neighbor, attributing to liberty the
world's misfortunes since the deluge, and scandalizing reason by
their foolishness.

Is it possible, however, that they will attack an hypothesis
which, far from blaspheming the revered phantoms of faith,
aspires only to exhibit them in broad daylight; which, instead of
rejecting traditional dogmas and the prejudices of conscience,
asks only to verify them; which, while defending itself against
exclusive opinions, takes for an axiom the infallibility of
reason, and, thanks to this fruitful principle, will doubtless
never decide against any of the antagonistic sects? Is it
possible that the religious and political conservatives will
charge me with disturbing the order of society, when I start with
the hypothesis of a sovereign intelligence, the source of every
thought of order; that the semi-Christian democrats will curse me
as an enemy of God, and consequently a traitor to the republic,
when I am seeking for the meaning and content of the idea of God;
and that the tradesmen of the university will impute to me the
impiety of demonstrating the non-value of their philosophical
products, when I am especially maintaining that philosophy should
be studied in its object,--that is, in the manifestations of
society and Nature? . . . .

I need the hypothesis of God to justify my style.

In my ignorance of everything regarding God, the world, the soul,
and destiny; forced to proceed like the materialist,--that is, by
observation and experience,--and to conclude in the language of
the believer, because there is no other; not knowing whether my
formulas, theological in spite of me, would be taken literally or
figuratively; in this perpetual contemplation of God, man, and
things, obliged to submit to the synonymy of all the terms
included in the three categories of thought, speech, and
action, but wishing to affirm nothing on either one side or the
other,--rigorous logic demanded that I should suppose, no more,
no less, this unknown that is called God. We are full of
Divinity, Jovis omnia plena; our monuments, our traditions, our
laws, our ideas, our languages, and our sciences, all are
infected by this indelible superstition outside of which we can
neither speak nor act, and without which we do not even think.

Finally, I need the hypothesis of God to explain the publication
of these new memoirs.

Our society feels itself big with events, and is anxious about
the future: how account for these vague presentiments by the sole
aid of a universal reason, immanent if you will, and permanent,
but impersonal, and therefore dumb, or by the idea of necessity,
if it implies that necessity is self-conscious, and consequently
has presentiments? There remains then, once more, an agent or
nightmare which weighs upon society, and gives it visions.

Now, when society prophesies, it puts questions in the mouths of
some, and answers in the mouths of others. And wise, then, he
who can listen and understand; for God himself has spoken, quia
locutus est Deus.

The Academy of Moral and Political Sciences has proposed the
following question:--

"To determine the general facts which govern the relations of
profits to wages, and to explain their respective oscillations."

A few years ago the same Academy asked, "What are the causes of
misery?" The nineteenth century has, in fact, but one
idea,--equality and reform. But the wind bloweth where it
listeth: many began to reflect upon the question, no one answered
it. The college of aruspices has, therefore, renewed its
question, but in more significant terms. It wishes to know
whether order prevails in the workshop; whether wages are
equitable; whether liberty and privilege compensate each other
justly; whether the idea of value, which controls all the facts
of exchange, is, in the forms in which the economists have
represented it, sufficiently exact; whether credit protects
labor; whether circulation is regular; whether the burdens of
society weigh equally on all, etc.

And, indeed, insufficiency of income being the immediate cause of
misery, it is fitting that we should know why, misfortune and
malevolence aside, the workingman's income is insufficient. It
is still the same question of inequality of fortunes, which has
made such a stir for a century past, and which, by a strange
fatality, continually reappears in academic programmes, as if
there lay the real difficulty of modern times.

Equality, then,--its principle, its means, its obstacles, its
theory, the motives of its postponement, the cause of social and
providential iniquities,--these the world has got to learn, in
spite of the sneers of incredulity.

I know well that the views of the Academy are not thus profound,
and that it equals a council of the Church in its horror of
novelties; but the more it turns towards the past, the more it
reflects the future, and the more, consequently, must we believe
in its inspiration: for the true prophets are those who do not
understand their utterances. Listen further.

"What," the Academy has asked, "are the most useful applications
of the principle of voluntary and private association that we can
make for the alleviation of misery?"

And again:--

"To expound the theory and principles of the contract of
insurance, to give its history, and to deduce from its rationale
and the facts the developments of which this contract is capable,
and the various useful applications possible in the present state
of commercial and industrial progress."

Publicists admit that insurance, a rudimentary form of commercial
solidarity, is an association in things, societas in re; that is,
a society whose conditions, founded on purely economical
relations, escape man's arbitrary dictation. So that a
philosophy of insurance or mutual guarantee of security, which
shall be deduced from the general theory of real (in re)
societies, will contain the formula of universal association, in
which no member of the Academy believes. And when, uniting
subject and object in the same point of view, the Academy
demands, by the side of a theory of association of interests, a
theory of voluntary association, it reveals to us the most
perfect form of society, and thereby affirms all that is most at
variance with its convictions. Liberty, equality, solidarity,
association! By what inconceivable blunder has so eminently
conservative a body offered to the citizens this new programme of
the rights of man? It was in this way that Caiaphas prophesied
redemption by disowning Jesus Christ.

Upon the first of these questions, forty-five memoirs were
addressed to the Academy within two years,--a proof that the
subject was marvellously well suited to the state of the public
mind. But among so many competitors no one having been deemed
worthy of the prize, the Academy has withdrawn the question;
alleging as a reason the incapacity of the competitors, but in
reality because, the failure of the contest being the sole object
that the Academy had in view, it behooved it to declare, without
further delay, that the hopes of the friends of association were

Thus, then, the gentlemen of the Academy disavow, in their
session-chamber, their announcements from the tripod! There is
nothing in such a contradiction astonishing to me; and may God
preserve me from calling it a crime! The ancients believed that
revolutions announced their advent by dreadful signs, and that
among other prodigies animals spoke. This was a figure,
descriptive of those unexpected ideas and strange words which
circulate suddenly among the masses at critical moments, and
which seem to be entirely without human antecedent, so far
removed are they from the sphere of ordinary judgment. At the
time in which we live, such a thing could not fail to occur.
After having, by a prophetic instinct and a mechanical
spontaneity, pecudesque locut{ae}, proclaimed association, the
gentlemen of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences have
returned to their ordinary prudence; and with them custom has
conquered inspiration. Let us learn, then, how to distinguish
heavenly counsel from the interested judgments of men, and hold
it for certain that, in the discourse of sages, that is the most
trustworthy to which they have given the least reflection.

Nevertheless the Academy, in breaking so rudely with its
intuitions, seems to have felt some remorse. In place of a
theory of association in which, after reflection, it no longer
believes, it asks for a "Critical examination of Pestalozzi's
system of instruction and education, considered mainly in its
relation to the well-being and morality of the poor classes."
Who knows? perchance the relation between profits and wages,
association, the organization of labor indeed, are to be found at
the bottom of a system of instruction. Is not man's life a
perpetual apprenticeship? Are not philosophy and religion
humanity's education? To organize instruction, then, would be to
organize industry and fix the theory of society: the Academy,
in its lucid moments, always returns to that.

"What influence," the Academy again asks, "do progress and a
desire for material comfort have upon a nation's morality?"

Taken in its most obvious sense, this new question of the Academy
is commonplace, and fit at best to exercise a rhetorisian's
skill. But the Academy, which must continue till the end in its
ignorance of the revolutionary significance of its oracles, has
drawn aside the curtain in its commentary. What, then, so
profound has it discovered in this Epicurean thesis?

"The desire for luxury and its enjoyments," it tells us; "the
singular love of it felt by the majority; the tendency of hearts
and minds to occupy themselves with it exclusively; the agreement
of individuals AND THE STATE in making it the motive and the end
of all their projects, all their efforts, and all their
sacrifices,--engender general or individual feelings which,
beneficent or injurious, become principles of action more potent,
perhaps, than any which have heretofore governed men."

Never had moralists a more favorable opportunity to assail the
sensualism of the century, the venality of consciences, and the
corruption instituted by the government: instead of that, what
does the Academy of Moral Sciences do? With the most automatic
calmness, it establishes a series in which luxury, so long
proscribed by the stoics and ascetics,--those masters of
holiness,--must appear in its turn as a principle of conduct as
legitimate, as pure, and as grand as all those formerly invoked
by religion and philosophy. Determine, it tells us, the motives
of action (undoubtedly now old and worn-out) of which LUXURY is
historically the providential successor, and, from the
results of the former, calculate the effects of the latter.
Prove, in short, that Aristippus was only in advance of his
century, and that his system of morality must have its day, as
well as that of Zeno and A Kempis.

We are dealing, then, with a society which no longer wishes to be
poor; which mocks at everything that was once dear and sacred to
it,--liberty, religion, and glory,--so long as it has not wealth;
which, to obtain it, submits to all outrages, and becomes an
accomplice in all sorts of cowardly actions: and this burning
thirst for pleasure, this irresistible desire to arrive at
luxury,--a symptom of a new period in civilization,--is the
supreme commandment by virtue of which we are to labor for the
abolition of poverty: thus saith the Academy. What becomes,
then, of the doctrine of expiation and abstinence, the morality
of sacrifice, resignation, and happy moderation? What distrust
of the compensation promised in the other life, and what a
contradiction of the Gospel! But, above all, what a
justification of a government which has adopted as its system the
golden key! Why have religious men, Christians, Senecas, given
utterance in concert to so many immoral maxims?

The Academy, completing its thought, will reply to us:--

"Show how the progress of criminal justice, in the prosecution
and punishment of attacks upon persons and property, follows and
marks the ages of civilization from the savage condition up to
that of the best- governed nations."

Is it possible that the criminal lawyers in the Academy of Moral
Sciences foresaw the conclusion of their premises? The fact
whose history is now to be studied, and which the Academy
describes by the words "progress of criminal justice," is simply
the gradual mitigation which manifests itself, both in the
forms of criminal examinations and in the penalties inflicted, in
proportion as civilization increases in liberty, light, and
wealth. So that, the principle of repressive institutions being
the direct opposite of all those on which the welfare of society
depends, there is a constant elimination of all parts of the
penal system as well as all judicial paraphernalia, and the final
inference from this movement is that the guarantee of order lies
neither in fear nor punishment; consequently, neither in hell nor

What a subversion of received ideas! What a denial of all that
it is the business of the Academy of Moral Sciences to defend!
But, if the guarantee of order no longer lies in the fear of a
punishment to be suffered, either in this life or in another,
where then are to be found the guarantees protective of persons
and property? Or rather, without repressive institutions, what
becomes of property? And without property, what becomes of the

The Academy, which knows nothing of all these things, replies
without agitation:--

"Review the various phases of the organization of the family upon
the soil of France from ancient times down to our day."

Which means: Determine, by the previous progress of family
organization, the conditions of the existence of the family in a
state of equality of fortunes, voluntary and free association,
universal solidarity, material comfort and luxury, and public
order without prisons, courts, police, or hangmen.

There will be astonishment, perhaps, at finding that the Academy
of Moral and Political Sciences, after having, like the boldest
innovators, called in question all the principles of social
order,--religion, family, property, justice,--has not also
proposed this problem: WHAT IS THE BEST FORM OF GOVERNMENT?
In fact, government is for society the source of all initiative,
every guarantee, every reform. It would be, then, interesting to
know whether the government, as constituted by the Charter, is
adequate to the practical solution of the Academy's questions.

But it would be a misconception of the oracles to imagine that
they proceed by induction and analysis; and precisely because the
political problem was a condition or corollary of the
demonstrations asked for, the Academy could not offer it for
competition. Such a conclusion would have opened its eyes, and,
without waiting for the memoirs of the competitors, it would have
hastened to suppress its entire programme. The Academy has
approached the question from above. It has said:--

The works of God are beautiful in their own essence, justificata
in semet ipsa; they are true, in a word, because they are his.
The thoughts of man resemble dense vapors pierced by long and

As if the Academy had said to us: You shall verify the
hypothesis of your existence, the hypothesis of the Academy which
interrogates you, the hypotheses of time, space, motion, thought,
and the laws of thought. Then you may verify the hypothesis of
pauperism, the hypothesis of inequality of conditions, the
hypothesis of universal association, the hypothesis of happiness,
the hypotheses of monarchy and republicanism, the hypothesis of
Providence! . . . .

A complete criticism of God and humanity.

I point to the programme of the honorable society: it is not I
who have fixed the conditions of my task, it is the Academy of
Moral and Political Sciences. Now, how can I satisfy these
conditions, if I am not myself endowed with infallibility; in
a word, if I am not God or divine? The Academy admits, then,
that divinity and humanity are identical, or at least
correlative; but the question now is in what consists this
correlation: such is the meaning of the problem of certainty,
such is the object of social philosophy.

Thus, then, in the name of the society that God inspires, an
Academy questions.

In the name of the same society, I am one of the prophets who
attempt to answer. The task is an immense one, and I do not
promise to accomplish it: I will go as far as God shall give me
strength. But, whatever I may say, it does not come from me: the
thought which inspires my pen is not personal, and nothing that I
write can be attributed to me. I shall give the facts as I have
seen them; I shall judge them by what I shall have said; I shall
call everything by its strongest name, and no one will take
offence. I shall inquire freely, and by the rules of divination
which I have learned, into the meaning of the divine purpose
which is now expressing itself through the eloquent lips of sages
and the inarticulate wailings of the people: and, though I should
deny all the prerogatives guaranteed by our Constitution, I shall
not be factious. I shall point my finger whither an invisible
influence is pushing us; and neither my action nor my words shall
be irritating. I shall stir up the cloud, and, though I should
cause it to launch the thunderbolt, I should be innocent. In
this solemn investigation to which the Academy invites me, I have
more than the right to tell the truth,--I have the right to say
what I think: may my thought, my words, and the truth be but one
and the same thing!

And you, reader,--for without a reader there is no writer,--you
are half of my work. Without you, I am only sounding brass;
with the aid of your attention, I will speak marvels. Do you see
this passing whirlwind called SOCIETY, from which burst forth,
with startling brilliancy, lightnings, thunders, and voices? I
wish to cause you to place your finger on the hidden springs
which move it; but to that end you must reduce yourself at my
command to a state of pure intelligence. The eyes of love and
pleasure are powerless to recognize beauty in a skeleton, harmony
in naked viscera, life in dark and coagulated blood: consequently
the secrets of the social organism are a sealed letter to the man
whose brain is beclouded by passion and prejudice. Such
sublimities are unattainable except by cold and silent
contemplation. Suffer me, then, before revealing to your eyes
the leaves of the book of life, to prepare your soul by this
sceptical purification which the great teachers of the
people--Socrates, Jesus Christ, St. Paul, St. Remi, Bacon,
Descartes, Galileo, Kant, etc.--have always claimed of their

Whoever you may be, clad in the rags of misery or decked in the
sumptuous vestments of luxury, I restore you to that state of
luminous nudity which neither the fumes of wealth nor the poisons
of envious poverty dim. How persuade the rich that the
difference of conditions arises from an error in the accounts;
and how can the poor, in their beggary, conceive that the
proprietor possesses in good faith? To investigate the
sufferings of the laborer is to the idler the most intolerable of
amusements; just as to do justice to the fortunate is to the
miserable the bitterest of draughts.

You occupy a high position: I strip you of it; there you are,
free. There is too much optimism beneath this official costume,
too much subordination, too much idleness. Science demands an
insurrection of thought: now, the thought of an official is his

Your mistress, beautiful, passionate, artistic, is, I like to
believe, possessed only by you. That is, your soul, your spirit,
your conscience, have passed into the most charming object of
luxury that nature and art have produced for the eternal torment
of fascinated mortals. I separate you from this divine half of
yourself: at the present day it is too much to wish for justice
and at the same time to love a woman. To think with grandeur and
clearness, man must remove the lining of his nature and hold to
his masculine hypostasis. Besides, in the state in which I have
put you, your lover would no longer know you: remember the wife
of Job.

What is your religion? . . . . Forget your faith, and, through
wisdom, become an atheist.--What! you say; an atheist in spite of
our hypothesis!--No, but because of our hypothesis. One's
thought must have been raised above divine things for a long time
to be entitled to suppose a personality beyond man, a life beyond
this life. For the rest, have no fears for your salvation. God
is not angry with those who are led by reason to deny him, any
more than he is anxious for those who are led by faith to worship
him; and, in the state of your conscience, the surest course for
you is to think nothing about him. Do you not see that it is
with religion as with governments, the most perfect of which
would be the denial of all? Then let no political or religious
fancy hold your soul captive; in this way only can you now keep
from being either a dupe or a renegade. Ah! said I in the days
of my enthusiastic youth, shall I not hear the tolling for the
second vespers of the republic, and our priests, dressed in white
tunics, singing after the Doric fashion the returning hymn:
Change o Dieu, notre servitude, comme le vent du desert en un
souffle rafraichissan! . . . . . But I have despaired of
republicans, and no longer know either religion or priests.

I should like also, in order to thoroughly secure your judgment,
dear reader, to render your soul insensible to pity, superior to
virtue, indifferent to happiness. But that would be too much to
expect of a neophyte. Remember only, and never forget, that
pity, happiness, and virtue, like country, religion, and love,
are masks. . . .



% 1.--Opposition between FACT and RIGHT in social economy.

I affirm the REALITY of an economic science.

This proposition, which few economists now dare to question, is
the boldest, perhaps, that a philosopher ever maintained; and the
inquiries to follow will prove, I hope, that its demonstration
will one day be deemed the greatest effort of the human mind.

I affirm, on the other hand, the ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY as well as
the PROGRESSIVE nature of economic science, of all the sciences
in my opinion the most comprehensive, the purest, the best
supported by facts: a new proposition, which alters this science
into logic or metaphysics in concreto, and radically changes the
basis of ancient philosophy. In other words, economic science is
to me the objective form and realization of metaphysics; it is
metaphysics in action, metaphysics projected on the vanishing
plane of time; and whoever studies the laws of labor and exchange
is truly and specially a metaphysician.

After what I have said in the introduction, there is nothing in
this which should surprise any one. The labor of man continues
the work of God, who, in creating all beings, did but externally
realize the eternal laws of reason. Economic science is, then,
necessarily and at once a theory of ideas, a natural theology,
and a psychology. This general outline alone would have sufficed
to explain why, having to treat of economic matters, I was
obliged previously to suppose the existence of God, and by what
title I, a simple economist, aspire to solve the problem of

But I hasten to say that I do not regard as a science the
incoherent ensemble of theories to which the name POLITICAL
ECONOMY has been officially given for almost a hundred years, and
which, in spite of the etymology of the name, is after ail but
the code, or immemorial routine, of property. These theories
offer us only the rudiments, or first section, of economic
science; and that is why, like property, they are all
contradictory of each other, and half the time inapplicable. The
proof of this assertion, which is, in one sense, a denial of
political economy as handed down to us by Adam Smith, Ricardo,
Malthus, and J. B. Say, and as we have known it for half a
century, will be especially developed in this treatise.

The inadequacy of political economy has at all times impressed
thoughtful minds, who, too fond of their dreams for practical
investigation, and confining themselves to the estimation of
apparent results, have constituted from the beginning a party of
opposition to the statu quo, and have devoted themselves to
persevering, and systematic ridicule of civilization and its
customs. Property, on the other hand, the basis of all social
institutions, has never lacked zealous defenders, who, proud to
be called PRACTICAL, have exchanged blow for blow with the
traducers of political economy, and have labored with a
courageous and often skilful hand to strengthen the edifice which
general prejudice and individual liberty have erected in concert.

The controversy between conservatives and reformers, still
pending, finds its counterpart, in the history of philosophy, in
the quarrel between realists and nominalists; it is almost
useless to add that, on both sides, right and wrong are equal,
and that the rivalry, narrowness, and intolerance of opinions
have been the sole cause of the misunderstanding.

Thus two powers are contending for the government of the world,
and cursing each other with the fervor of two hostile religions:
political economy, or tradition; and socialism, or utopia.

What is, then, in more explicit terms, political economy? What
is socialism?

Political economy is a collection of the observations thus far
made in regard to the phenomena of the production and
distribution of wealth; that is, in regard to the most common,
most spontaneous, and therefore most genuine, forms of labor and

The economists have classified these observations as far as they
were able; they have described the phenomena, and ascertained
their contingencies and relations; they have observed in them, in
many cases, a quality of necessity which has given them the name
of LAWS; and this ensemble of information, gathered from the
simplest manifestations of society, constitutes political

Political economy is, therefore, the natural history of the most
apparent and most universally accredited customs, traditions,
practices, and methods of humanity in all that concerns the
production and distribution of wealth. By this title,
political economy considers itself legitimate in FACT and in
RIGHT: in fact, because the phenomena which it studies are
constant, spontaneous, and universal; in right, because these
phenomena rest on the authority of the human race, the strongest
authority possible. Consequently, political economy calls itself
a SCIENCE; that is, a rational and systematic knowledge of
regular and necessary facts.

Socialism, which, like the god Vishnu, ever dying and ever
returning to life, has experienced within a score of years its
ten-thousandth incarnation in the persons of five or six
revelators,--socialism affirms the irregularity of the present
constitution of society, and, consequently, of all its previous
forms. It asserts, and proves, that the order of civilization is
artificial, contradictory, inadequate; that it engenders
oppression, misery, and crime; it denounces, not to say
calumniates, the whole past of social life, and pushes on with
all its might to a reformation of morals and institutions.

Socialism concludes by declaring political economy a false and
sophistical hypothesis, devised to enable the few to exploit the
many; and applying the maxim A fructibus cognoscetis, it ends
with a demonstration of the impotence and emptiness of political
economy by the list of human calamities for which it makes it

But if political economy is false, jurisprudence, which in all
countries is the science of law and custom, is false also; since,
founded on the distinction of thine and mine, it supposes the
legitimacy of the facts described and classified by political
economy. The theories of public and international law, with all
the varieties of representative government, are also false, since
they rest on the principle of individual appropriation and the
absolute sovereignty of wills.

All these consequences socialism accepts. To it, political
economy, regarded by many as the physiology of wealth, is but the
organization of robbery and poverty; just as jurisprudence,
honored by legists with the name of written reason, is, in its
eyes, but a compilation of the rubrics of legal and official
spoliation,--in a word, of property. Considered in their
relations, these two pretended sciences, political economy and
law, form, in the opinion of socialism, the complete theory of
iniquity and discord. Passing then from negation to affirmation,
socialism opposes the principle of property with that of
association, and makes vigorous efforts to reconstruct social
economy from top to bottom; that is, to establish a new code, a
new political system, with institutions and morals diametrically
opposed to the ancient forms.

Thus the line of demarcation between socialism and political
economy is fixed, and the hostility flagrant.

Political economy tends toward the glorification of selfishness;
socialism favors the exaltation of communism.

The economists, saving a few violations of their principles, for
which they deem it their duty to blame governments, are optimists
with regard to accomplished facts; the socialists, with regard to
facts to be accomplished.

The first affirm that that which ought to be IS; the second,
that that which ought to be IS NOT. Consequently, while the
first are defenders of religion, authority, and the other
principles contemporary with, and conservative of,
property,--although their criticism, based solely on reason,
deals frequent blows at their own prejudices,--the second reject
authority and faith, and appeal exclusively to science,--
although a certain religiosity, utterly illiberal, and an
unscientific disdain for facts, are always the most obvious
characteristics of their doctrines.

For the rest, neither party ever ceases to accuse the other of
incapacity and sterility.

The socialists ask their opponents to account for the inequality
of conditions, for those commercial debaucheries in which
monopoly and competition, in monstrous union, perpetually give
birth to luxury and misery; they reproach economic theories,
always modeled after the past, with leaving the future hopeless;
in short, they point to the regime of property as a horrible
hallucination, against which humanity has protested and struggled
for four thousand years.

The economists, on their side, defy socialists to produce a
system in which property, competition, and political organization
can be dispensed with; they prove, with documents in hand, that
all reformatory projects have ever been nothing but rhapsodies of
fragments borrowed from the very system that socialism sneers
at,--plagiarisms, in a word, of political economy, outside of
which socialism is incapable of conceiving and formulating an

Every day sees the proofs in this grave suit accumulating, and
the question becoming confused.

While society has traveled and stumbled, suffered and thrived, in
pursuing the economic routine, the socialists, since Pythagoras,
Orpheus, and the unfathomable Hermes, have labored to establish
their dogma in opposition to political economy. A few attempts
at association in accordance with their views have even been made
here and there: but as yet these exceptional undertakings, lost
in the ocean of property, have been without result; and, as if
destiny had resolved to exhaust the economic hypothesis before
attacking the socialistic utopia, the reformatory party is
obliged to content itself with pocketing the sarcasms of its
adversaries while waiting for its own turn to come.

This, then, is the state of the cause: socialism incessantly
denounces the crimes of civilization, verifies daily the
powerlessness of political economy to satisfy the harmonic
attractions of man, and presents petition after petition;
political economy fills its brief with socialistic systems, all
of which, one after another, pass away and die, despised by
common sense. The persistence of evil nourishes the complaint of
the one, while the constant succession of reformatory checks
feeds the malicious irony of the other. When will judgment be
given? The tribunal is deserted; meanwhile, political economy
improves its opportunities, and, without furnishing bail,
continues to lord it over the world; possideo quia possideo.

If we descend from the sphere of ideas to the realities of the
world, the antagonism will appear still more grave and

When, in these recent years, socialism, instigated by prolonged
convulsions, made its fantastic appearance in our midst, men whom
all controversy had found until then indifferent and lukewarm
went back in fright to monarchical and religious ideas;
democracy, which was charged with being developed at last to its
ultimate, was cursed and driven back. This accusation of the
conservatives against the democrats was a libel. Democracy is by
nature as hostile to the socialistic idea as incapable of filling
the place of royalty, against which it is its destiny endlessly
to conspire. This soon became evident, and we are witnesses of
it daily in the professions of Christian and proprietary faith by
democratic publicists, whose abandonment by the people began at
that moment.

On the other hand, philosophy proves no less distinct from
socialism, no less hostile to it, than politics and religion.

For just as in politics the principle of democracy is the
sovereignty of numbers, and that of monarchy the sovereignty of
the prince; just as likewise in affairs of conscience religion is
nothing but submission to a mystical being, called God, and to
the priests who represent him; just as finally in the economic
world property--that is, exclusive control by the individual of
the instruments of labor--is the point of departure of every
theory,--so philosophy, in basing itself upon the a priori
assumptions of reason, is inevitably led to attribute to the ME
alone the generation and autocracy of ideas, and to deny the
metaphysical value of experience; that is, universally to
substitute, for the objective law, absolutism, despotism.

Now, a doctrine which, springing up suddenly in the heart of
society, without antecedents and without ancestors, rejected from
every department of conscience and society the arbitrary
principle, in order to substitute as sole truth the relation of
facts; which broke with tradition, and consented to make use of
the past only as a point from which to launch forth into the
future,--such a doctrine could not fail to stir up against it the
established AUTHORITIES; and we can see today how, in spite of
their internal discords, the said AUTHORITIES, which are but one,
combine to fight the monster that is ready to swallow them.

To the workingmen who complain of the insufficiency of wages and
the uncertainty of labor, political economy opposes the liberty
of commerce; to the citizens who are seeking for the conditions
of liberty and order, the ideologists respond with representative
systems; to the tender souls who, having lost their ancient
faith, ask the reason and end of their existence, religion
proposes the unfathomable secrets of Providence, and philosophy
holds doubt in reserve. Subterfuges always; complete ideas,
in which heart and mind find rest, never! Socialism cries that
it is time to set sail for the mainland, and to enter port: but,
say the antisocialists, there is no port; humanity sails onward
in God's care, under the command of priests, philosophers,
orators, economists, and our circumnavigation is eternal.

Thus society finds itself, at its origin, divided into two great
parties: the one traditional and essentially hierarchical, which,
according to the object it is considering, calls itself by turns
royalty or democracy, philosophy or religion, in short, property;
the other socialism, which, coming to life at every crisis of
civilization, proclaims itself preeminently ANARCHICAL and
ATHEISTIC; that is, rebellious against all authority, human and

Now, modern civilization has demonstrated that in a conflict of
this nature the truth is found, not in the exclusion of one of
the opposites, but wholly and solely in the reconciliation of the
two; it is, I say, a fact of science that every antagonism,
whether in Nature or in ideas, is resolvable in a more general
fact or in a complex formula, which harmonizes the opposing
factors by absorbing them, so to speak, in each other. Can we
not, then, men of common sense, while awaiting the solution which
the future will undoubtedly bring forth, prepare ourselves for
this great transition by an analysis of the struggling powers, as
well as their positive and negative qualities? Such a work,
performed with accuracy and conscientiousness, even though it
should not lead us directly to the solution, would have at least
the inestimable advantage of revealing to us the conditions of
the problem, and thereby putting us on our guard against every
form of utopia.

What is there, then, in political economy that is necessary
and true; whither does it tend; what are its powers; what are
its wishes? It is this which I propose to determine in this
work. What is the value of socialism? The same investigation
will answer this question also.

For since, after all, socialism and political economy pursue the
same end,--namely, liberty, order, and well-being among men,--it
is evident that the conditions to be fulfilled--in other words,
the difficulties to be overcome--to attain this end, are also the
same for both, and that it remains only to examine the methods
attempted or proposed by either party. But since, moreover, it
has been given thus far to political economy alone to translate
its ideas into acts, while socialism has scarcely done more than
indulge in perpetual satire, it is no less clear that, in judging
the works of economy according to their merit, we at the same
time shall reduce to its just value the invective of the
socialists: so that our criticism, though apparently special,
will lead to absolute and definitive conclusions.

This it is necessary to make clearer by a few examples, before
entering fully upon the examination of political economy.

% 2.--Inadequacy of theories and criticisms.

We will record first an important observation: the contending
parties agree in acknowledging a common authority, whose support
each claims,--SCIENCE.

Plato, a utopian, organized his ideal republic in the name of
science, which, through modesty and euphemism, he called
philosophy. Aristotle, a practical man, refuted the Platonic
utopia in the name of the same philosophy. Thus the social war
has continued since Plato and Aristotle. The modern socialists
refer all things to science one and indivisible, but without
power to agree either as to its content, its limits, or its
method; the economists, on their side, affirm that social science
in no wise differs from political economy.

It is our first business, then, to ascertain what a science of
society must be.

Science, in general, is the logically arranged and systematic
knowledge of that which IS.

Applying this idea to society, we will say: Social science is
the logically arranged and systematic knowledge, not of that
which society HAS BEEN, nor of that which it WILL BE, but of
that which it IS in its whole life; that is, in the sum total of
its successive manifestations: for there alone can it have reason
and system. Social science must include human order, not alone
in such or such a period of duration, nor in a few of its
elements; but in all its principles and in the totality of its
existence: as if social evolution, spread throughout time and
space, should find itself suddenly gathered and fixed in a
picture which, exhibiting the series of the ages and the sequence
of phenomena, revealed their connection and unity. Such must be
the science of every living and progressive reality; such social
science indisputably is.

It may be, then, that political economy, in spite of its
individualistic tendency and its exclusive affirmations, is a
constituent part of social science, in which the phenomena that
it describes are like the starting-points of a vast
triangulation and the elements of an organic and complex whole.
From this point of view, the progress of humanity, proceeding
from the simple to the complex, would be entirely in harmony with
the progress of science; and the conflicting and so often
desolating facts, which are today the basis and object of
political economy, would have to be considered by us as so
many special hypotheses, successively realized by humanity in
view of a superior hypothesis, whose realization would solve all
difficulties, and satisfy socialism without destroying political
economy. For, as I said in my introduction, in no case can we
admit that humanity, however it expresses itself, is mistaken.

Let us now make this clearer by facts.

The question now most disputed is unquestionably that of the

As John the Baptist preached in the desert, REPENT YE, so the
socialists go about proclaiming everywhere this novelty old as
the world, ORGANIZE LABOR, though never able to tell what, in
their opinion, this organization should be. However that may be,
the economists have seen that this socialistic clamor was
damaging their theories: it was, indeed, a rebuke to them for
ignoring that which they ought first to recognize,--labor. They
have replied, therefore, to the attack of their adversaries,
first by maintaining that labor is organized, that there is no
other organization of labor than liberty to produce and exchange,
either on one's own personal account, or in association with
others,--in which case the course to be pursued has been
prescribed by the civil and commercial codes. Then, as this
argument served only to make them the laughing-stock of their
antagonists, they assumed the offensive; and, showing that the
socialists understood nothing at all themselves of this
organization that they held up as a scarecrow, they ended by
saying that it was but a new socialistic chimera, a word without
sense,--an absurdity. The latest writings of the economists are
full of these pitiless conclusions.

Nevertheless, it is certain that the phrase organization of labor
contains as clear and rational a meaning as these that
follow: organization of the workshop, organization of the
army, organization of police, organization of charity,
organization of war. In this respect, the argument of the
economists is deplorably irrational. No less certain is it that
the organization of labor cannot be a utopia and chimera; for at
the moment that labor, the supreme condition of civilization,
begins to exist, it follows that it is already submitted to an
organization, such as it is, which satisfies the economists, but
which the socialists think detestable.

There remains, then, relatively to the proposal to organize labor
formulated by socialism, this objection,--that labor is
organized. Now, this is utterly untenable, since it is notorious
that in labor, supply, demand, division, quantity, proportion,
price, and security, nothing, absolutely nothing is regulated; on
the contrary, everything is given up to the caprices of
free-will; that is, to chance.

As for us, guided by the idea that we have formed of social
science, we shall affirm, against the socialists and against the
economists, not that labor MUST BE ORGANIZED, nor that it is

Labor, we say, is being organized: that is, the process of
organization has been going on from the beginning of the world,
and will continue till the end. Political economy teaches us the
primary elements of this organization; but socialism is right in
asserting that, in its present form, the organization is
inadequate and transitory; and the whole mission of science is
continually to ascertain, in view of the results obtained and the
phenomena in course of development, what innovations can be
immediately effected.

Socialism and political economy, then, while waging a burlesque
war, pursue in reality the same idea,--the organization of labor.

But both are guilty of disloyalty to science and of mutual
calumny, when on the one hand political economy, mistaking for
science its scraps of theory, denies the possibility of further
progress; and when socialism, abandoning tradition, aims at
reestablishing society on undiscoverable bases.

Thus socialism is nothing but a profound criticism and continual
development of political economy; and, to apply here the
celebrated aphorism of the school, Nihil est in intellectu, quod
non prius fuerit in sensu, there is nothing in the socialistic
hypotheses which is not duplicated in economic practice. On the
other hand, political economy is but an impertinent rhapsody, so
long as it affirms as absolutely valid the facts collected by
Adam Smith and J. B. Say.

Another question, no less disputed than the preceding one, is
that of usury, or lending at interest.

Usury, or in other words the price of use, is the emolument, of


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