From The System of Economic Contradictions:
EIGHTH EPOCH. — PROPERTY
I. — Property is inexplicable apart from the economic series. — Of the organization of common sense, or problem of certainty.
The problem of property is, after than of human destiny, the greatest that reason can propose, and the last that it will be able to resolve. Indeed, the theological problem, the enigma religion, is explicated; the philosophical problem, which has for object the value and legitimacy of knowledge, is resolved: there remains the social problem, which only makes one of these two, and of which the solution, in the opinion of everyone, comes essentially from property.
I will expose in this chapter the theory of property in itself (en soi), that is, in its origin, its spirit, its tendency, and its relations with the other economy categories. As for determining property for itself, in that which it must be after the integral solution of the contradictions, and what it becomes every day, is, as I have said, the last phase of the social constitution, the object of a new labor, of which this one aims to provide a glimpse of the design and to posit the bases.
In order to understand well the theory of property in itself, it is necessary to take the highest things, and to present in a new way the essential identity of philosophy and political economy.
Just as civilization, from the point of view of industry, aims to constitute the value of products and organize labor, and as society is nothing other than this constitution and this organization; the object is to found judgment by determining the value of knowledge and organizing the common sense; and what we call logic is nothing other than this determination and organization.
Logic, society, that is to say always reason: such is then the destiny here below of our species, considered in its generative faculties, activity and intelligence. Thus humanity, by its successive manifestations, is a living logic: it is this which made is say, at the beginning of this work, that each economic fact is the expression of a law of the mind, and that as there is nothing in the understanding that has not been previously in experience, neither is there anything in social practice which does not come from an abstraction of reason.
Thus, society, like logic, has as a primordial law the agreement of reason and experience. To bring reason and experience into accord, to advance theory and practice in unison, that is what both the economist and the philosopher equally propose; that is the first and last commandment imposed on every man who acts and thinks. A simple condition, doubtless, if one only envisions it in that formula, seemingly so simple; a prodigious effort, if one considers all that man has done from the beginning, as much in order to escape from it as in order to comply.
But what do we mean by the agreement of reason and experience, or, as we have called it, that organization of common sense, which is itself only logic?
I first call common sense judgment insofar as it applies to things that are intuitively and immediately evident, of which the perception requires neither deduction nor research. Common sense is more than instinct: instinct has no consciousness of its determinations, while common sense knows what it wants and why. Common sense is no more faith, genius or habit, which is neither known nor judged: while common sense is known and judged, as it knows and judges all that surrounds it.
The common sense is equal in all men. It is from this that comes to ideas the highest degree of evidence and the most perfect certainty: it is not this which has aroused philosophical doubt.
Common sense is at once reason and experience synthetically united: it is, once more, judgment but without dialectic nor calculation.
But common sense, by the very fact that it falls only on things of immediate evidence, rejects general ideas, and the linking/sequence of propositions, and consequently method and science: so that the more a man gives himself to speculation, the more he seems to depart from common sense, starting with certainty. How then do men, equal by common sense, become equal by science, which they naturally reject?
Common sense is susceptible to neither increase nor decrease: judgment considered in itself cannot cease to be always the same, always equal to itself and identical. How, once more, is it possible, not only to maintain equality of capacities apart from common sense, but also to raise in them knowledge above common sense?
That difficulty, so formidable at first glance, evaporates when we look at it closely. To organize the judiciary faculty, or common sense, is, properly speaking, to discover the general procedures by means of which the mind comes to know the unknown by a series of judgments which all, taken in isolation, are of an intuitive and immediate evidence, but taken together give a formula that one could not have obtained without that progression, a formula which, consequently, surpasses the ordinary scope of common sense.
Thus the entire system of our knowledges rests on common sense; but raises itself indefinitely above common sense, which, bound to the particular and the immediate, cannot embrace the general with its simple regard, and must, in order to achieve that, divide it: like a man who, covering in a step only the width of a furrow, by repeating the same movement a certain number of times, circles the globe.
Agreement of reason and experience, organization of the common sense, discovery of the general procedures by which the judgment, always identical, raises itself to the most sublime contemplations: such is the major work of humanity, that which has given rise to the largest, most complicated and most dramatic incident which has been accomplished on the earth. Neither science, religion nor society had to go anywhere near so long and deploy so much power in order to be established: this great labor, begun thirty centuries ago, has hardly managed to define itself. Eight volumes would hardly suffice to tell the story: I am going, in a few pages, to retrace the principle phases. This summary is indispensable to us in order to explain the appearance of property.
The organization of common sense supposes previously the solution of another problem, the problem of certainty, which divides into to correlative species, certainty of subject and certainty of object. In other words, before searching for the laws of thought, one must assure oneself of the reality of the being that thinks as well as that of the being that is thought, without which one runs the risk of researching the laws of nothing.
The first moment of that great polemic is thus that when the self proceeds to the recognition of itself, feels itself, so to speak, and seeks the point of departure of its judgments. Who am I, it asks; or rather, am I something? am I certain that I am? There is the first question to which the common sense had to respond.
And it is that question to which it has effectively responded by that much-admired judgment: I think, therefore I am.
I think, and that is enough. I have only make a thought in order to be certain of my existence, since all that I can understand in that regard, is that no being is proven if I do not affirm it, and that consequently without me nothing exists. The self: such is the point of departure for the common sense, and its response to the first question of philosophy.
Thus the common sense, or rather the unknown, impenetrable nature, which thinks and speaks, the self finally, is not proven; it is posited. Its first judgment is an act of belief in itself: the reality of thought is declared by it as a first principle, necessary, an AXIOM, finally, outside of which there is no place to reason. But, either through lack of judgment, or subtlety of ideas, certain thinkers will find that affirmation of common sense already too bold. They had wanted common sense to produce its titles. Who guarantees us, they said, that we think, that we all? What is the authority of the inner sense? What is an affirmation of which all the value comes from its very spontaneity?...
Some long debates will be started in this connection. The common sense puts an end to them by this famous judgment: Given that doubt which bears on doubt itself if absurd; that investigation which has for object the legitimacy of investigation is contradictory; that such a skepticism is anti-skeptical, and only refutes itself; that it is a fact that we think and that we desire to know; that it would not be possible to dispute this fact which embraces the universe and the eternal; consequently, that the only thing that remains to do is to know where thought can lead: Pyrrhon and his sect would be recognized by philosophy for an absurdity which reassures the self on its existence; for the surplus, their opinion being convicted, by its own terms, of contradiction to common sense, it is excommunicated from common sense.
Despite the energy of these grounds, some people believe it necessary to protest still, and se pourvoir in reconsideration. The true skeptics, they will claim, are not those who doubt the reality of their doubt, for such a skepticism is ridiculous; it is those who doubt the reality of the content of doubt, and for stronger reason means to verify if that content is real: which is very different....
It is then as if you said, replied the common sense, for example, that you do not doubt the existence of religions,—since religion is a phenomenon of thought, an accident of the self,—but only of the reality of the object of religions, and for stronger reason of the possibility of determining that object;—or rather that you do not doubt the oscillation of value, since that oscillation is a phenomenon of the general thought, an accident of the collective self, but the very reality of values, for greater reason of their measure. But if, in relation to man, the reality of things is not distinguished by the law of things, like for example the reality of the values which is and can only be the law of values; and if the law of things is nothing without the self which determines and creates it, as you are forced to agree: your distinction of the reality of doubt and of the reality of the content of doubt, as well as the a fortiori which comes with it, is absurd. The universe and the self become, by thought, identical and adequate: thus, one more time, our task is to discover if, by relation to itself, the self can be mislead; if in the exercise of its faculties, it is subject to perturbations; what are the cause of these perturbations; what is the common measure of our ideas; and above all, what is the value of this concept of the non-self, which grasps the self as soon as it enters into action, and from which it is impossible for the self to separate itself.
Thus, in the judgment of common sense, the metaphysical theory of certainty is analogous to the economic theory of value, or, to put it better, these two theories are only one; and the skeptics who, while admitting the reality of doubt, deny however the reality of the content of doubt, and therefore the possibility of determining that content, resemble the economists who, affirming the oscillations of value, reject the possibility of determining these oscillations, and consequently the very reality of value. We have done justice to that contradiction of the economists, and we will show soon that as value is determined in society by a series of oscillations between supply and demand, just the same truth is constituted is us by a series of fluctuations between the reason that affirms and the experience that confirms, and that of doubt itself certainty is formed bit by bit.
The certainty of the subject thus obtained and determined, remained thus, before passing to the investigation of the laws of knowledge, to determine the certainty of the object, basis of all of our relations with the universe. That makes the second conquest of common sense, the second moment of philosophical labor.
We cannot feel, love, reason, act, exist finally, as long as we remain shut up in ourselves: the self must give development to its faculties, that it unfolds its being, that it departs in some way from its nullity: that after being posed, it opposes, that is, that it puts itself in relations with something, I know not what, which is or which seems to it to be other than it, in a word with a non-self.
God, infinite being, that a bit later our reason, consolidated on its double base, will suppose invincibly, God, I say, because his essence embraces all, has no need to come out from himself in order to live and to know himself. His being is deployed entirely in himself; his thought is introspective: in him the self does not grasp the non-self as like itself, because both are infinite, but the infinite is necessarily unique, and that in God, consequently, time is identical with eternity, movement identical with repose, action synonymous with will, love without another object, without determining cause apart from him. God is perfect egoism, absolute solitude, supreme concentration. In all these regards, God, opposite nature of man, exists by himself and without opposition, or rather he produces the non-self from within himself instead of seeking it outside; while he is distinguished, he is always himself; his life rests on nothing else; as soon as he knows himself, he lives, and all exists, all is proven for him: Ego sum qui sum, he says. God is truly the incomprehensible, ineffable, and therefore necessary being: let reason be averse to say it, it is nonetheless forced to say it.
It is otherwise for men, for finite beings. Man exists neither by himself or in himself; his individuality requires an ambient environment in which his reason is reflected, his life is stimulated, and his soul, like his organs, draws its subsistence. Such at least is manner in which we conceive the development of our being: this point is admitted by all those who do not persist in the contradiction of the pyrrhonians.
It is a question thus of recognizing the sense of this phenomenon and of determining the quality of that non-self, that consciousness present to us as an exterior reality, necessary to our existence, but independent of our existence.
Nor, say the skeptics, let us admit that the self could not reasonable doubt that it exists: by what right will it affirm an exterior reality, and reality which is not him, which remains impenetrable to him, and that he describes as non-self? Are the objects that we see outside of ourselves truly outside of us? and if they exist outside of us, are they as we see them? Does what our senses report of the laws of nature come from nature, or is it instead only a product of our activity of thinking, which shows us outside of it what it projects from its own breast? Does experience add something to reason, or is it only reason manifested to itself? What means, finally, do we have to verify the reality or non-reality of this non-self?...
That singular question, that the common sense all alone would never had made, presented by the most profound geniuses that have honored our race, and developed with an eloquence, a sagacity, a variety of marvelous forms, has given place to an infinity of systems and conjectures, that it is very difficult to hear/understand in their voluminous authors, but of which one can make an idea, by reducing them to a few lines.
Some have at first pretended that the non-self does not exist. It was natural, and one should have expected it. A non-self which is opposed to the self, is like a man who comes to trouble another in his possession: the first movement of that one is to deny such a proximity. There is no body, they have said, no nature, no apparitions apart from the self, no other essence than the self. Everything happens in the mind; matter is an abstraction, and what we see and affirm as the tenant of we know not what experience, is purely the product of our activity, which, in determining itself, imagines that it receives from outside that which it is of its essence to create, or, to speak more justly, to become, since, relative to the soul, to be, to produce and to become, are synonyms.
But, observes the common sense, we distinguish, for good or ill, to modes in cognition, deduction and acquisition. By the first, the mind seems indeed to create all that it teaches: such is mathematics. By the second, on the contrary, the mind, ceaselessly arrested in its scientific progress, no longer advances by with the aid of a perpetual excitation, of which the cause is fully involuntary and apart from the sovereignty of the self. How then, in spiritualism, to make sense of this phenomenon, which it is impossible to be unaware of? How, if all science comes from the self alone, is it not spontaneous, complete from the origin, equal in all individuals, and in the same individual at all moments of existence? How finally to explain error and progress? Instead of resolving the problem, spiritualism rejected it; it was mistaken about the best established, the most indubitable facts, namely the experimental discoveries of the self; it tortures reason; it is forced, in order to sustain itself, to revoke in doubt its own principle, by denying the negative testimony of the mind. Spiritualism is contradictory, inadmissible.
Others then have presented themselves, who have maintained that only matter exists, and that it is mind that is an abstraction. Nothing is true, they have said, nothing is real outside of nature; nothing exists but what we can see, touch, count, weight, measure, transform; nothing exists but bodies and their infinite modifications. We are ourselves bodies, living and organized bodies; what we call soul, mind, consciousness, or self, is only an entity serving to represent the harmony of that organism. It is the object which by the movement inherent in matter engenders the subject: thought is a modification matter; intelligence, will, virtue, progress, are only determinations of a certain order, of the attributes of matter, of which the essence, moreover, is unknown to us:
But, replies the common sense, si Satanas in seipsum divlsus est, quomodo stabit? The materialist hypothesis presents a double impossiblity. If the self is nothing other than the result of the organization of the non-self; if man is the high point, the chief of nature; if it is nature itself raised to its highest power, how does it have the faculty to contradict nature, to torment it and remake it? How to explain that reaction of nature on itself, a reaction which produces industry, the sciences, the arts, all a world apart from nature, and which has a single end to vanquish nature? How to bring back, finally, to a few material modifications, that which, according to the testimony of our senses, to which alone the materialists add faith, is produced outside of the laws of matter?
On the other hand, if man is only matter organized, his thought is the reflection of nature: how then does matter, how does nature know itself so badly? From whence comes religion, philosophy, doubt? What! matter is all, mind nothing: and when that matter has come to its highest manifestation, to its supreme evolution; when it is made man, finally, it no longer knows itself; it loses the memory of itself; it wanders, and advances only with the aid of experience, as if it was not matter, that is experience itself! What then is this nature forgetful of itself, which needs to learn to know itself as soon as it attains the fullness of its being, which becomes intelligent only by ignoring itself, and loses its infallibility at the price instant that it acquires reason?
Spiritualism, denying the facts, succumbed to its own powerlessness; the facts crush the materialism of their testimony: the more these systems work to establish themselves, they more they show their contradiction.
Then came, with a devout air and a rapt countenance, the mystics. — Mind and matter, thought and extent, they have said, both exits. But we do not know it by ourselves: it is God who, by his revelation, vouches for their reality. And as all things have been created by God, as all exist in God, it is still in God, infinite mind, from which intelligence proceeds, that our intelligence can see them. Thus is explained the passage from the self to the non-self, and the relations of mind and matter become intelligible.
It was a question de God for the first time: the attention of the listeners redoubled.
Doubtless, says common sense, the mind can put itself in communication only with the mind, it is clever of us to make to see in God, who is mind, the corporal things which are his works. Sadly this system rest on a vicious circle and a petition of principle. From on side, before believing in God, we need to believe in ourselves: now, we sense ourselves, we are assured of our existence, only insofar as an external reaction makes us feel it, that it to say, only insofar as we admit a non-self, which is precisely the question. As for revelation, if has been made, according to its partisans, by miracles, by signs, the instruments of which are taken from nature. Now, how to judge the miracle and believe in revelation, if we are not assured beforehand of the existence of the world, of the constancy of its laws, of the reality of its phenomena?
Thus, mysticism has this importance, that after having recognized the necessity of the subject and of the object, it sought to explain both by their origin. But that origin, which would be God, according to the mystics, that is to say a third term, intelligent like the self, and real like the non-self, was not defined, was not proved, and was not explained; on the contrary, by separating it from the world and from man, in was rendered inaccessible to the intelligence, therefore untrue. Mysticism is a mystification.
The controversy was this. Theists and unbelievers, spiritualists and materialists, skeptics and mystics, not being able to agree, the world could only believe. One watched without speech, when, with a grave air and a modest spirit, without grandiloquence, a philosopher, the most wily and the most clever who ever was, made the speech.
He began by recognizing the reality of the self and of the non-self, as well as the existence of God: but he alleged that it is radically impossible for the self to be assured, by way of reasoning or experience, of that which is outside of it, and that moreover it could not help but admit it. Yes, he said, bodies exist: the manner in which knowledge is formed in us proves it. But these bodies, this non-self, we do not know them in themselves, and all that experience reports to us in this regard, arises only from our own core. It is the proper fruit of our mind, which, solicited by its outward apperceptions, applies to things its own laws, its categories, and then imagines that the form that it gives to nature is the form of nature. Yes, again, we must believe in the existence of God, in a sovereign essence, which serves as sanction of morals and counterpart to our life. But that belief in a Supreme Being is also only a postulate of our reason, an entirely subjective hypothesis, imagined to serve our ignorance, and to which nothing, besides the necessity of our dialectic, gives testimony.
At these words a long murmur is raised. Some resign themselves to believe that they are condemned to never be demonstrated; the others will claim that there are motives for belief superior to reason; these rejected a belief that had for itself only its spontaneity, and the object of which could be reduced to a simple formality of reason; those openly accused the critical philosopher of inconsequence. Nearly all fell again, into spiritualism, or materialism, or mysticism, each taking advantage, for the system that best agreed with them, of the confessions of that philosopher. Finally a man, magnanimous at heart, with a passionate soul, managed to overcome the noise and to turn attention to himself.
That philosophy, he observed with bitterness, which claims to have found the key to our judgments, and claims to represent pure reason, absolutely lacks unity and shines only by its incoherence. What is this God, that nothing, one says, demonstrates, and which however arrives just in time for the denouement? What is this objectivity which has no other function that to excite thought, without furnishing it with materials? If the self, nature and God existent as one appears to believe, they are in direct and reciprocal relations, and in that case we can know them: what are these relations? If, on the contrary, these relations are nil, or if they are purely subjective, as one still claims, how does one dare to affirm the reality of the non-self, and the existence de God?
The self is essentially active: it has not need of any excitation. It possesses the principles of science, it has known it and made it, it enjoys the creative power, and what you call experience in it is a veritable ejaculation. As the worker who, by making the experiment of a new idea, creates the very object of his experience, and produces thus a value adequate to his own thought: thus in the universe the self is the creator of the non-self; consequently he carries his sanction in himself, and has nothing to make from the testimony of nature, nor from an intervention of divinity. Nature is no chimera, since it is the work which manifests the worker; the non-self, as real as the self, is the product and the expression of the self; and God is nothing more than the abstract relation which unites the self and the non-self in an identical phenomenality: everything makes sense, everything is linked and explained. Experience is written science, the thought of the subject manifested, and regained by the subject.
For the first time, philosophy came to give a system. Until that moment it had only oscillated from one contradiction to the other, proceeding by negation and exclusion, that is suppressing that with which it could not agree. All the more had it attempted to affirm simultaneously its different theses, but without hoping, without being able to resolve them. That step was passed: a new period of investigation was going to begin.
To the conclusions that we just heard, someone responds, there would have been nothing to say, and that system that they summarize would be inattackable, if it was demonstrated, and this is what is always in question, that man knows something, that there exists in him a single idea prior to experience. One could conceive then what it teaches, he only deduces it; what he experiences, he remembers. But it is not true that the self has by itself any idea; it is not true that it can create science à priori; and I challenge the proponent to lay the foundation stone of his edifice.
Here is, added an inspired voice, what reason and experience have taught me. The relation which unites the self and the non-self is not at all, as one has said, a relation of filiation and causality; it is a relation of coexistence. The self and the non-self exist vis-à-vis one another, equal and inseparable, but irreducible, if it is not in a higher principle, subject-object, which engenders them both, in a word, in the absolute. That absolute is God, creator of the self and non-self, or, as said the Nicene creed, of all things visible and invisible. That God, that absolute, embraces in his essence man and nature, thought and understanding: for he alone has the fullness of being, he is All. The laws of reason and the forms of nature are thus identical: no thought manifests itself by with the aid of a reality; and reciprocally no reality is shown that penetrates but with intelligence. That is from whence comes that marvelous agreement of experience and reason, which has made you take by turns mind as a modification of nature, and nature as a modification of mind, the self and the non-self, humanity and nature, are equally enduring and real; humanity and nature are contemporary in the absolute; the only thing that distinguishes them is that in humanity the absolute develops with consciousness, while in nature it develops without consciousness. This thought and matter are inseparable and irreducible: they are manifested, according to the beings, in unequal proportions, each of the constitutive principles of the absolute showing itself in creatures by turns in inferiority or in predominance. It is an infinite evolution, a perpetual emission of forms, essences, lives, wills, powers, virtues, etc.
One moment this system appeared to remove suffrages. The fusion of the self and the non-self in the absolute; that distinction and that inseparability at the same time of thought and being, which constitutes creation; the incessant development of the mind, and the progression of beings on a endless scale, delighted everyone. That enthusiasm passed like the lightning. A new dialectician rising up suddenly: This system, he said, needs only one thing, that is proof. The self and the non-self confounded in the absolute: what is that absolute? what is its nature? what proof can we have of its existence, since it does not manifest itself, and since it is even impossible that in its absolute character it could manifest itself?... Thought and being, one adds, identical in the absolute, are irreducible in creation, as well as inseparable and homologous: how do we know that? How does the identity of the laws imply the identity of essences, the identity of realities, since it is recognized that the only thing real for us is the law? and what use to appeal to a mystical and impenetrable absolute, to reproduce that old chimera of God, in order to reconcile two terms which, by the declared identity of their laws, are completely reconciled?... Nature and humanity are the development of the absolute: why does the absolute develop? By virtue of what principle and according to what law? Where is the science of that development? Your ontology, your logic, what is it? and then, if the same rules regulate matter and thought, it suffices to study the one in order to know the other: science, whatever you say, is possible, according to you, à priori: why then do you deny science and give us only experience, which explains nothing by itself, since it is not science?
Well! he added, I charge myself, without appealing to the absolute, and holding myself to the identity of thought and being, to construct that science of development which escapes you, and that you have not been able to find, because you distinguish that which cannot be admitted as distinct, mind and matter, that is the double face of the idea.
And we see that this Titan of philosophy attempts to reverse the eternal dualism by dualism itself; to establish identity on contradiction; to draw the being from nothing, and, with the aid of this sole logic, to explain, prophesy, what do I say? to create nature and man! No other, before him, had penetrated so deeply the innermost laws of being; none had illuminated with so lively a light the mysteries of reason. He succeeded in giving a formula which, if it is not all of science, nor even all logic, is at least the key to science and logic. But we have glimpsed quite quickly that that logic even, its author had been able to construct it only by constantly mixing in experience and taking from it his materials; that all his formulas followed observation, but never preceded it, and as, according to the system of the identity of thought and being, there was no longer anything to await from philosophy, that the circle was closed, it was demonstrated for always that science without experience is impossible; that if the self and the non-self are correlates, necessary to one another, inconceivable without one another, they are not identical; that their identity, as well as their reduction in an elusive absolute, is only a view of our intelligence, a postulate of reason, useful in certain cases for reasoning, but without the least reality; finally that the theory of contraries, of an incomparable power in order to control our opinions, to discover our errors and to determine the essential character of the true, is not however the unique form of nature, the sole revelation of experience, and consequently the sole law of the mind.
Beginning with the cogito of Descartes, we are thus brought back, by an uninterrupted series of systems, to cogito of Hegel. The philosophical revolution is accomplished; a new movement will begin: it is for common sense to make its conclusions and render its verdict.
Now, what says common sense?
Relative to knowledge: Since the being is revealed to itself only in two indissolubly linked moments that we call, first, consciousness of self, and second, revelation of the non-self; that each step subsequently accomplished in knowledge always involves these two moments together; that this dualism is perpetual and irreducible; that outside of it, there no longer exists either subject or object; that the reality of one partakes essentially of the presence of the other; that it is as absurd to isolate them as to attempt to reduce them, since, in both cases, it is to deny truth entirely and abolish science: we will conclude first that the character of science is invincibly this: Agreement of reason and experience.
Relative to certainty: Since, despite the duality of origin of knowledge, the certainty of the object is at base the same as the certainty of the subject; that that has been put beyond doubt against the anti-skeptical Pyrrhonians; that in that regard there is a force of the thing judged; that experience is as much a determination of the self as an appreciation of the non-self: it is enough for the satisfaction of reason. What can we wish for more than to be assured of the existence of bodies as we are of our own? and what use to seek if the subject and the object are identical or only adequate; if, in science, it is we who lend our ideas to nature, or if it is nature which gives us its own; while, by that distinction, one always supposes that the self and the non-self can exist in isolation, which is not the case; or that they are resolvable, which implies contradiction?
Finally, relative to God: Since it is a law of our soul and of nature, or, in order to incorporate these two ideas into one alone, of creation, let it be ordered according to a progression which goes from existence to consciousness, from spontaneity to reflection, for instinct to analysis, from infallibility to error, from genus to species, from eternity to time, from the infinite to the finite, from the ideal to the real, etc.; it follows, from a logical necessity, that the chain of beings, all invariably constituted, but in different proportions, en self and non-self, is comprised between two antithetical terms, the one, that the vulgar call creator, or God, and which reunites all the characteristics of infinity, spontaneity, eternity, infallibility, etc.; the other, which is man, assembling all the opposed characteristics of an existence that is evolutionary, reflective, temporary, subject to perturbation and error, and the foresight of which forms the principal attribute, as the absolute science, that is instinct at its highest power, is the essential attribute of Divinity.
But man is known to us at once by reason and experience; God on the contrary is still only revealed to us as a postulate of reason: in short, man is, God is possible.
Such has been, on the works of philosophy, the second judgment of common sense; a judgment of which the reasons are drawn from the materials furnished by philosophy itself, a judgment without appeal, and which was clearly produced the day when philosophy recognized that reason could do nothing without experience; that with regard to God, we lack nothing but the evidence of fact, the experimental demonstration; and where covering its face with its mantle, it has said goodbye to the world, and pronounced on it the consommatum est.
Is it possible to deny dualism, that we see burst everywhere in the world? — No.
Is it possible to deny the progression of beings? — Not any more. Now, the law of that progression being known, and the last term given, it is a necessity of reason that a first term exists, and that that term be the antipode of the last. Thus the infinite being, the great All, in quo vivimus, movemur and sumus, the supreme Genus, from which man tends incessantly to free himself and to which it opposes itself as to its antagonist, that eternal Essence, finally, will not be the absolute of the philosophers: like man, its adversary; it also exists only by its distinction into self and non-self, subject and object, soul and body, spirit and matter, that is to say under two generic aspects, also in diametrical opposition. Moreover, the attributes, faculties and manifestations of God will be the inverse of the attributes, faculties and determinations of man, as logic leads inevitably to believe, and, as agrees with the infinite: from then on, it no longer lacks for the truth of the hypothesis anything but its realization, the proof of fact. But all that deduction is ineluctable in itself: and if it was possible that it could be demonstrated false by, the primordial dualism would have disappeared, man would no longer be man, reason would no longer be reason, pyrrhonism would become wisdom, and the absurd would be truth.
That is, however, what makes the humanitary philosophy tremble. It is so badly given over to the absolute, as to all its pantheistic fantasies; it has felt so great a joy, in believing to have discovered that man is all at once God and the absolute; it is so exhausted, so breathless after so many systems, that is does not have the courage to draw, against God and against man, the conclusion of its own doctrines. It dares not avow, this somnambulant philosophy, that the means necessarily suppose the extremes; that the last calls for a first, the finite an infinite, the species a genus: — that this infinite, as real as the finite that divides it; this supreme genus, which becomes species in its turn by the contrast of the progressive creation which emanates from its heart; this God, finally, antagonist of man, cannot be the absolute; that it is there precisely that which makes it possible; that if it is possible, it is necessary to seek what fact it corresponds to, and that to deny it under the pretext of resolving it in man, is to misunderstand our militant nature, and to create above, below and entirely outside of man an incomprehensible void, that philosophy is held to fill, under pain of annihilating man and seeing its idol perish.
For me, I regret to say it, since I sense that such a declaration separates me from the most intelligent party of socialists, it is impossible for me, the more I think about it, to subscribe to that definition of our species, which is only at base, among the new atheists, an echo of religious terrors; which, in the name of humanism rehabilitating and consecrating mysticism, lead to prejudice in science, habit in morals, communism in social economy, that is to say atony and misery; in logic, the absolute and the absurd. It is impossible for me, I say, to welcome that new religion, in which one seeks in vain to interest me by saying that I am its god. And it because I am forced to repudiate, in the name of logic and experience, that religion as well as all its predecessors, that it is necessary for me to still admit as plausible the hypothesis of an infinite, but not absolute, being, in which liberty and intelligence, the self and the non-self exist in a special form, inconceivable but necessary, and against which my destiny is to struggle, like Israel against Jehovah, until death.
II – Causes of the establishment of property
Property occupies the eighth place in the chain of economic contradictions; this point is the first one that we have to establish.
It is proven that the origin of property cannot be related to homesteading nor to labor. The first of these opinions is nothing more than a vicious cycle, in which the phenomenon is given as an explanation of the very phenomenon; the second is eminently subversive concerning property, because considering labor as supreme condition, it is impossible for property to establish itself. About the theory that makes property remount to an act of the collective power, it has the defect of remaining silent about the motivations of this will: well, these are the very motivations that we needed to know.
However, although all these theories, considered separately, always end in contradiction, it is certain that each of them possess a parcel of truth and it can be supposed that if, instead of isolating them, all three were studied in connection and synthetically, the real theory would be discovered in them, that is, the reason for the existence of property.
Yes, then, property begins, or to put it better it manifests itself by a sovereign, effective occupation, which excludes every idea of participation and community; yes, again, that occupation, in its legitimate and authentic form, is nothing other than work: otherwise, how could society have consented to concede and to respect property? Yes, finally, society has desired property, and all the legislations in the world have only been made for it.
Property has been established by occupation, which is to say by labor: it is necessary to recall it often, not for the preservation of property, but for the instruction of the workers. Labor seated in power, it must produce, by the evolution of its laws, property; just as it has given rise to the separation of industries, then the hierarchy of workers, then competition, monopoly, police, etc. All these antinomies are also successive positions of labor, mileposts planted by it on the eternal route, and destined to formulate, by their synthetic joining, the true right of men. But fact is not right: property, the natural product of occupation and labor, was a principle of anticipation and invasion; thus it needed to be recognized and legitimated by society: these two elements, occupation by labor and legislative sanction, that the jurists have mistakenly separated in their commentaries, are joined together to constitute property. Now, it is a question for us of knowing the providential motives of that concession, what role it enjoys in the economic system: such will be the object of this section.
Let us prove first that in order to establish property, social consent was necessary.
As long as property is not recognized and legitimated by the State, it remains an extra-social fact; it is in the same position as the child, who is only supposed to become a member of the family, the city and the Church, by the recognition of the father, the inscription in the register of the civil state, and the ceremony of baptism. In the absence of these formalities, the child is as we believe the animals to be: it is a useless member, a base and servile soul, unworthy of consideration; it is a bastard. Thus the social recognition was necessary to property, and all property implies a primitive community. Without that recognition, property remains simple occupation, and can be contested by the first comer.
“The right to a thing.” said Kant, “is the right of private use of a thing with regard to which I am in common possession (primitive or subsequent) with all other men: for that common possession is the unique condition under which I could forbid to any other possessor the private use of the thing; because without the supposition of that possession, it would be impossible to conceive how I, though not presently possessor of the thing, can be wronged by those who possess it and who use it.—My individual or unilateral will cannot oblige anyone else to forbid themselves the use of a thing, if they were not so obliged before. Thus, the use can only be forbidden by wills joined in a common possession. If it was not thus, one would need to conceive a right in a thing, as if it was an obligation towards me, and from which would be derived in the last analysis the right against every possessor of that thing: a truly absurd idea.”
Thus, according to Kant, the right of property, that is the legitimacy of occupation, proceeds from the consent of the State, which originally implies common possession. It cannot, said Kant, be otherwise. Thus, every time that the proprietor dares to oppose his right to the State, the State, reminding the proprietor of the convention, can always end the dispute with this ultimatum: Either recognize my sovereignty, and submit that which the public interest demands, or I will declare that your property has ceased to be placed under the safeguard of the laws, and withdraw from you my protection.
It follows from this that in the mind of the legislator the institution of property, like those of credit, commerce and monopoly, has been made with an aim of equilibrium, which first places property among the elements of organization, and the first among the general means of constituting values. “The right to a thing.” said Kant, “is the right to private use of a thing with regard to which I am in common possession (primitive or subsequent) with all other men.” By virtue of that principle, every man deprived of property can and must appeal for it to the community, guardian of the rights of all; from which it results, as one has said, that in the sight of Providence, conditions must be equal.
This is what Kant, as well as Reid, clearly understood and expressed in the following passage: “One asks now how far does the faculty to take possession of a resource (fonds) extend?—As far as the faculty to have it in its power, which is as far the one who appropriates it can defend it. As if the resource said: If you cannot defend me, no more can you command me.”
I am not however sure whether or not this passage must be understood as applying to possession prior to property. For, Kant adds, the acquisition is only peremptory in society; in the state of nature, it is only provisory. One could then conclude from this that, in the thought of Kant, acquisition, once become peremptory by social consent, can increase indefinitely under social protection: something which could not take place in the state of nature, where the individual alone defends his property.
Whichever it is, it at least follows from the principle of Kant, that in the state of nature, acquisition extends for each family to all that which it can defend, which is to say all that it can cultivate; or better, it is equal to a fraction of the cultivatable surface divided by the number of families: since, if acquisition surpasses this quotient, it immediately encounters more enemies than defenders. Now, as in the state of nature that acquisition, thus limited, is only provisory, the State, by putting an end to the provision, has wanted to put an end to the reciprocal hostility of the acquirers, by rendering their acquisitions peremptory. Equality has thus been the secret thought, the key object of the legislator, in the constitution of property. In this system, the only reasonable thing, the only one admissible, is the property of my neighbor which is the guarantee of my property. I no longer say with the moneylender, possideo quia possideo; I say with the philosopher, possideo quia possides.
We will see by what follows that equality by property is every bit as chimerical as equality by credit, monopoly, competition, or any other economic category; and that in this regard the providential genius, while gathering from property the most precious fruits and the most unexpected, has not been less deceived in his hope, and is bound to the impossible. Property contains neither more nor less truth than all the moments which preceded it in the economic evolution; like them, it contributes, in equal proportion, to the development of well-being and to the increase of misery; it is not the form of order, it must change and disappear with order. Thus the systems of the philosophers on certainty, after having enriched logic with their glimpses, resolve themselves and disappear in the conclusions of common sense.
But in the end the thought which has presided at the establishment of property has been good: thus we have to seek what justifies that establishment, how property serves wealth, and what are the positive and determinant reasons that have caused it.
First, let us recall the general character of the economic movement.
The first epoch aimed to inaugurate labor on the earth by the separation of industries, to bring an end to the inhospitable character of nature, to pull man out of his original poverty, and to convert his inert faculties into positive and active faculties, which will be for him so many instruments of happiness. As in the creation of the universe the infinite force was divided, so, in order to create society, the providential genius divided labor. By that division, equality beginning to manifest itself, no longer as identity in plurality, but as equivalence in variety, the social organism is constituted in principle, the germ has received the vivifying principle, and the collective man comes into existence.
But the division of labor supposes some generalized functions and some divided functions: from the inequality of conditions among the workers, raising some up and bringing others low; and from the first epoch, industrial antagonism replaces primitive community.
All the subsequent evolutions tend at once, on the one hand to bring about the equilibrium of the faculties, and on the other always to develop industry and goodwill. We have seen how, on the contrary, the providential effort led always to an equal and divergent progress of poverty and wealth, of incapacity and science. In the second epoch, appears the selfish and injurious division, capital and the salariat; in the third, the evil is increased by commercial war; in the fourth, it is concentrated and generalized by monopoly; in the fifth, it receives the consecration of the State. International commerce and credit come in their turn to give a new development to the antagonism. Later, the fiction of the productivity of capital becoming, by the power of opinion, nearly a reality, a new peril threatens society, the negation of labor itself by the overflow of capital. It is in this moment, and from this extreme situation, that property rises theoretically: and such is the transition that we must understand well.
Up to the present, if one set aside the ulterior aim of economic evolution, and were to consider it only in itself, all that society does, it does alternately for and against monopoly. Monopoly has been the pivot around which the various economic elements move and circulate. However, despite the necessity of its existence, despite the efforts without number that it has made for its development, despite the authority of the universal consent that admits it, monopoly is still only provisional; it is supposed, as Kant said, to endure only as long as the occupant knows how to exploit and defend it. This is why sometimes it ends by right at death, as in the permanent, but non-venal duties (fonctions); sometimes it is reduced to a limited time, as in patents; sometimes it is lost by non-exercise, which has given rise to the theories of prescription, such as annual possession, still in use among the Arabs. At other times, monopoly is revocable at the will of the sovereign, as in the permission to build on a military field, etc. Thus monopoly is only a form without reality; the monopoly pertains to the man, but it does not include the materials: it is properly the exclusive privilege to produce and sell; it is still not the alienation of the instruments of labor, the alienation of the land. Monopoly is a type of tenant farming which only interests the man through the consideration of profit. The monopolist holds to no industry, to no instrument of labor, to no residence: he is cosmopolitan and omni-functional; it matter little to him, provided that he gains; his soul is not chained to a point on the horizon, to a particle of matter. His existence remains vague, as long as society, which has conferred on him the monopoly as a means of fortune, does not make that monopoly a necessity for his life.
Now, monopoly, so precarious by itself, exposed to all the incursions, all the trials of competition, tormented by the State, pressured by credit, not sticking at all in the heart of the monopolist; monopoly tends incessantly, under the action of agiotage, to objectify itself; so that humanity, delivered constantly to the financial storm by the general disengagement of capital, is at risk of detaching itself from even labor and to retrogress in its march.
Indeed, what was monopoly before the establishment of credit, before the reign of the bank? A privilege of gain, not a right of sovereignty; a privilege on the product, much more than a privilege on the instrument. The monopolist remained a foreigner on the land that he inhabited, but that he did not really possess; he could very well multiply his exploitations, enlarge his manufactures, join lands together: he was always a steward, rather than a master; he did not imprint his character on these things; they were not made in his image; he did not love them for themselves, but only for the values that it should render to him; in a word, he did not want monopoly as an end, but as a means.
After the development of institutions of credit, the condition of monopoly is still worse.
The producers, that it is a question of associating, have become totally incapable of association; they have lost the taste and the spirit of labor: they are gamblers. To the fanaticism for competition, they have joined the frenzies of roulette. The bankocracy has changed their character and their ideas. Once they lived together as masters and waged workers, vassals and suzerains: now they are no longer known as anything but borrowers and usurers, winners and losers. Labor has disappeared at the breath of credit; real value vanishes before fictive value, production before agiotage. Earth, capital, talent, labor even, if we somewhere still encounter labor, serves as a stake. One no longer concerns oneself with privileges, monopolies, public functions, industry; one no longer asks labor for wealth, one awaits a roll of the dice. Credit, the theory said, needs a fixed basis; and this is exactly what credit has put in motion. It rests, it added, only on some mortgages, and it makes those mortgages run. It seeks guaranties; and despite the theory that wants to see guarantees only in realities, the pledge of credit is always the man, since it is the man who puts the pledge to work, and without the man the pledge would be absolutely ineffective and null, it happens that the man no longer holds to the realities, with the guarantee of the man the pledge disappears, and credit remains that which it had vainly boasted not to be, a fiction.
Credit, in a word, by dint of releasing capital, has finishing by releasing man himself from society and from nature. In that universal idealism, man no longer keeps to the soil; he is suspended in the air by an invisible power. The land is covered with people, some basking in opulence, the others hideous from poverty, and it is possessed by no one. It no longer has anything but masters who despise it, and some serfs who hate it: for they no not cultivate it for themselves, but for a holder of coupons that no one knows, that they never see, who will perhaps pass on that land without considering it, without doubting that it is his. The holder of the land, that is the possessor of the rent coupons, resembles the merchant of bric-à-brac: he has in his portfolio some smallholdings, some pastures, some rich harvests, some excellent vineyards; what does it matter to him! He is ready to give it all up for ten cents of increase: in the evening he will part with his goods, as in the morning he had received them, without love and without regret.
Thus, by way of the fiction of the productivity of capital, credit has arrived at the fiction of wealth. The land is no longer the workshop of the human race; it is a bank, and if it was possible that this bank would not ceaselessly make new victims, forced to ask again from labor the income that it has lost gambling, and by that to sustain the reality of capital,—if it was possible that the bankruptcy would not come now and again to interrupt that infernal orgy, the value of the security decreasing always while the fiction would multiply its paper,—real wealth would become null, and registered wealth would increase to infinity.
But society cannot retreat: it must thus redeem monopoly or risk perishing, to save the human intelligence ready to sink itself in an ideal pleasure; it must, in a word, consolidate, and establish monopoly. Monopoly was, so to speak, a bachelor: We desire, says society, that it be married. It was the courtier of the land, the exploiter of capital: I want it to become its lord and spouse. Monopoly stopped at the individual, from now on it will extend to the race. By it the human race only had some heroes and barons; in the future, it will have dynasties. Monopoly familialized, man will become attached to his land, to his industry, as he is to his wife and to his children, and man and nature will be united in an eternal affection.
The condition that credit had made to society, was indeed the most detestable that one could imagine, where man could abuse the most and possess the least. Now, in the view of Providence, in the destinies of humanity and of the globe, man should be animated by a spirit of conservation and love for the instrument of his works, an instrument represented in general by the land. For man it is not only a question of exploiting the land, but of cultivating it, improving and loving it: now, how could society fulfill this aim other than by changing monopoly into property, cohabitation into marriage, propriamque dicabo, opposing to the fiction that exhausts and soils, the reality which fortifies and ennobles?
The revolution which is prepared in monopoly has thus above all in view the monopoly of the land: for it is to this example, it is on the model of property in land that all properties are constituted. From the conditional, temporary and lifelong, appropriation would thus become perpetual, transmissible and absolute.
And in order to better defend the inviolability of property, goods would in the future be distinguished as moveable and immoveable, and laws would be made to regulate the transmission, alienation and expropriation of both.
In summary: the constitution of mortgages by domain, that is by the most intimate union of man to the land; the constitution of the family by the perpetuity and transmissibility of monopoly; finally the constitution of rent, as the principle of equality between fortunes: such are the motives which, in the collective reason, have determined the establishment of property.
1° Credit demands real guarantees, all the economists are in agreement on this point. From that comes the necessity, in order to organize credit, of forming the mortgage.
But the real guarantee is null, if it is not at the same time personal; I believe I have sufficiently explained this. From this arises the further necessity, in order to develop credit, of changing monopoly into property. In the order of economic evolutions, property is born from credit, although it is its prior condition; as the mortgage comes after the loan, although it is the prior condition of the loan. This is what M. Augier seems to me to have meant, when, in the conclusion, sadly too brief, of his book, he expresses himself in these terms:
“There is no mortgage without free property; necessarily no real credit without property... The people laboring for credit [en travail de crédit] suffer various trials in the formation of their mortgage, and of the type of revenue which must constitute its basis...”
Indeed, until the moment when the privileged, by forming a loan, comes to burden his concern, one can only see in him the boss of laborers under his orders, the manager of a company, who acts as much in the name of his collaborators as in his own, in their interest, as much as for his fortune. Monopoly is pledged to his person with privilege on the interests of capital and earnings, but without guarantee of perpetuity and transmissibility; and under the condition of always actively and personally taking part in the concern. For him the right in the thing does not exist in its fullness: the head of an establishment could not risk and endanger raw materials still marked with a certain character of community, without being guilty, at least in his conscience; and because he still only enjoys a privilege of exploitation, there is no property. The monopolist finally was a sort of representative: the necessity of credit made him king:
Could it be, indeed, that by engaging [pawning?] the instruments of production, the privileged only negotiated in the capacity of foreman, plenipotentiary of a small republic? Certainly not. A similar condition, imposed on the lender, would have been a decrease of his benefits, since it would subordinate him to his subordinates; that would have been a weakening of the social pact, a devolution in its second phase.
Thus, because society, forced by credit, has recognized in the monopolist the right to loan on the mortgage of is monopoly without taking account of his partners in labor, it has made him proprietor. Property is the postulate of credit, as credit had been the postulate of commerce, and monopoly the postulate of competition. In practice, all these things are inseparable and simultaneous; but in the theory they are distinct and consecutive; and property is no more monopoly than the machine is the division of labor, even though monopoly is almost always and almost necessarily accompanied by property, as division almost always and almost necessarily supposes the use of machines.
Some grave consequences should result from this arrangement, as much for society as for the individual.
First, by changing an insecure title into a perpetual right, society has had to count, and has indeed counted, on the part of the proprietor, on a more serious and more moral attachment to his industry, on a more profound and better reasoned love of well-being, as a result, on a less fierce pursuit of gain, on deeper sentiments of humanity, on a poetry of the natal place, a cult of patrimony, which, extending to the lowliest laborers, rallied all the generations and formed the homeland. The homeland has its origin in property: also the consistent communists, by destroying property, and labor with all their strength, as the economists attempt, by free commerce, to destroy the differences of races, languages and climates: they both want no more nationalities, no more homeland. It is thus that the exclusive sects, despite their hostility and hatred, at base are always in agreement: the antagonism of opinions is only a comedy.
Thus I say that by insuring the monopoly in perpetuity to the proprietor, society worked at the same time for the security of the proletarian: by making of capital the very substance of the possessor, it resolved that all those who would labor with it and for it, it would regard, no longer as its partners, but as its children. Children! It is the name that in the popular language the chief gives to those that he commands. In the primitive languages, it was the common name of each people: Children of Israel, children of Mesraïm, children of Assur. The proprietor, acting as a prudent administrator, found himself thus administering for the good of all: private interest was confused with social interest. To be frank, society, by ordaining property, thought to organize, to ennoble the patriarchate. It was not until inheritance, which, modified by the faculty to sell and exchange, made a new guarantee of stability: so the hereditary monarchy, the highest expression of the right of property, excluding the struggles of elections, raised an internal barrier to civil war, and personified the people to all others.
From the side of the individual, the amelioration was no less sensible.
Through property, man takes absolute possession of his domain, and declares himself master of the land. As we have seen in the theory of certainty, from the depths of consciousness, the self soars and embraces the world; and in that communion of man and nature, in that species of alienation of itself, his personality, far from weakening, doubles in energy. No one is stronger in character, more provident, more persistent than the proprietor. Like love, which one could define as an emission of the soul, which is increased by possession, and which, the more that it pours out, the more it abounds: just so, property adds to the human being, elevates it in strength and dignity. Rich man, noble, baron, proprietor, lord or sire, all these names are synonyms. In property, as in love, to possess and to be possessed, the active and the passive, always express only the same thing; one is possible only by the other, and it is only by that reciprocity that man, hitherto held by a unilateral obligation, now tethered by the synallagmatic contract that he has just made with nature, feels all that he is and what he is worth, and enjoys the fullness of existence. And such is the revolution that property works in the heart of man, that far from materializing his affections, it spiritualizes them: it is thus that he learns to distinguish the naked property of usufruct; the eminent, transcendental domain of simple possession; and that distinction to which monopoly cannot attain is one more step towards the liberation of the species and towards association, which consists in the union of wills and the agreement of principles, rather than in a puny community of goods, which oppresses at once the soul and the body.
The test of property is made: it would be necessary to refute history in order to deny it. We would say, in speaking of credit, that the French Revolution had been only a riot for the agrarian law: now, what is the agrarian law at base, if not a collation of property? By making the people proprietor, instead and in place of two castes that had become disgraceful and powerless, the nation was given some immense resources, which has permitted it in turn to meet the expenses of its victories and pay the costs of its reverses. Today, it is still property which sustains the moral of our society, and puts up a barrier to the incessant dissolution of agiotage. The trader, the industrialist, the capitalist even, always have property in view: it is in property that all aspire to rest from the fatigues of competition and monopoly...
2° But it is above all in the family that the profound sense of property is discovered. The family and property advance side by side, supported by one another, having each other only for significance and of value only by the relation that unites them.
With property, the role of woman begins. The household, that ideal thing, that one strives in vain to render ridiculous: the household is the kingdom of the woman, the monument of the family. Take away the household, take away that cornerstone, center of attraction for the spouses, there will remain couples, but there are no longer families. See, in the great cities, the working classes fall little by little, through the instability of residence, the futility of the household and the lack of property, into cohabitation and villainy! Beings who possess nothing, who hold onto nothing and live from day to day, being able to guarantee nothing, no longer have any need to marry: better not to commit than to commit with nothing. Thus the working class is given over to infamy: it is this that was expressed in the Middle Ages the right of the seigneur, and among the Romans the interdiction of marriage to the proletarians.
Now, what is the household in relation to the surrounding society, if not all at once the rudiment and the fortress of property? The household is the first thing that the young girl dreams of: those who speak so much of attraction and who want to abolish the household, must explain well this depravity of the instinct of the sex. For me, the more I think about it, the less I can account, outside of the family and the household, for the destiny of woman. Concubine or housewife (housewife, I say, and not servant), I see no middle ground: what is then so humiliating about this alternative? In what way is the role of the woman, charged with the conduct of the household, of all that is related to consumption and saving, inferior to that of the man, whose proper function is the command of the workshop, that is, the government of production and exchange?
Man and woman are both necessary as the two constitutive principles of labor: marriage, in its indissoluble duality, is the incarnation of the economic dualism, which is expressed, as we know, by the general terms of consumption and production. It is with this in view that the aptitudes of sexes have been ruled, labor by the one, spending for the other; and misfortune to every union in which one of the two parties fails to do their duty! The happiness that was promised to the couple will change to grief and bitterness: but they will blame themselves!...
If only women existed, they would live together like a like a flock of turtle doves; if there were only men, they would have no reason to raise themselves above monopoly and renounce agiotage: one would see them all, masters or valets, at the gaming table or bent under the yoke. But man was created male and female: from that the necessity of the household and of property. Let the two sexes be united: with that mystic union, the most astonishing of all human institutions, is born, by an inconceivable prodigy, property, the division of the common patrimony into individual sovereignties.
The household, is then for every woman, the most desirable of goods in the economic order; property, the workshop, labor on his own account are, along with the woman, what every man wishes for most. Love and marriage, labor and household, property and domesticity, let the reader, in favor of sense, deigns here to fill in to the letter: all these terms are equivalents, all these ideas name one another, and create for the future authors of the family a long prospect of happiness, as they reveal to the philosopher all one system.
On all this, the human race is unanimous; less however socialism, which alone, in the vagueness of its ideas, protests against the unanimity of the human race. Socialism wants to abolish the household, because it is too costly; the family, because it did wrong to the homeland; property, because it is prejudicial to the State. Socialism wants to change the role of woman; from queen, as society has established her, it wants to make a priestess of Cotytto. I will not enter into a direct discussion of socialist ideas in that regard. Socialism, on marriage as on association, has no ideas; and all its critique resolves into a very explicit admission of ignorance, a type of argumentation without authority and without impact.
Isn’t it obvious, indeed, that if the socialists believed it possible, with the aid of known means, to give ease and even luxury to each household, they would not rise up against the household? That if they could bring the civic sentiments into agreement with the domestic affections, they would not condemn the family? That if they had the secret to render wealth, not only common, which is nothing, but universal, which is another thing entirely, they would leave the citizens to live individually as well as in common, and would not weary the public with their quarrels? In the opinion of the socialists, marriage, the family, and property, are things which contribute powerfully to happiness; the only reproach that they have to make, is that THEY DO NOT KNOW how to harmonize these things with the general good. Is this, I ask, serious reasoning? As if they could conclude from their individual ignorance against the subsequent development of human institutions! As if the aim of the legislator was not to realize for each, not to abolish, marriage, the family, and property!
In order not to extend myself too much, I will content myself with treating the question in one of its principal aspects, heredity. We will thus generalize, Ab uno disce omnes, as the poet says.
Inheritance is the hope of the household, the buttress of the family, the last reason for property. Without heredity, property is only a word; the role of woman becomes an enigma. What is the good, in the common workshop, of male workers and female workers? Why this distinction of sexes, that Plato, correcting nature, tried to make disappear in his republic? How are we to make sense of this duplicity of human being, image of the economic duality, veritable superfetation outside of the household and family?... Without heredity, not only are there no more husbands and wives, there are no more ancestors or descendants. What am I saying? There are not even relatives, since, despite the sublime metaphor of the citizen fraternity, it is clear that if everyone is my brother, I have no brother any longer. It is thus that man, isolated in the midst of his companions, will feel the weight of his sad individuality, and that society, deprived of ligaments and viscera by the dissolution of families and the confusion of workshops, will crumble into dust like a desiccated mummy...
But socialism has good courage, it is not astonished by so little. M. Louis Blanc, semi-socialist, who wants the family without heredity, as pure socialism wants humanity without the homeland and without the family, exclaims in his Organization of Labor: “The family comes from God; heredity comes from men!” This does not prove definitively that the family is better, nor heredity worse. But everyone knows the style of M. Blanc. His perpetual publicity in favor of the Divinity is only a poetic superlative, as in the Hebraic language one calls the fine wheat bread the bread of the gods. This, for the rest, is what M. Blanc clearly gives us to understand:
“The family is like God, holy and immortal; heredity is destined to follow the same slope as the societies that are transformed, and as the men who die.”
Comparison, antithesis, well-turned phrase, elegance of expression, nothing is lacking, apart from the idea which, I am sorry for M. Blanc, is just the opposite of common sense. It is because men die and societies are transformed that inheritance is necessary; it is because the family must never perish, that to the movement that incessantly carries away the generations it is necessary to oppose a principle of immortality which sustains them. What would the family become, if it was unceasingly divided by death, if each morning it had to reconstitute itself, because there was nothing to reattach the father to the children? I see what shocks you in heredity: heredity, according to you, is only good to maintain inequality. But inequality does not come from heredity; it results from economic conflicts. Heredity takes things as it finds them: create equality, and heredity will render equality to you.
Saint-Simonism had seen the connectedness of heredity and the family; it proscribed them both. The progressive democracy, which dares not avow itself as socialist, or communist, has thought to show proof of genius by separating heredity from the family, the means from the end, and casting itself into an eclecticism as puerile as that of the government that it mocks. It is curious to see M. Blanc strut about such a lovely discovery.
“One had said with the Saint-Simonians: Without heredity, no family. They would respond: Well! Let us destroy the family and heredity. The Saint-Simonians and their adversaries were equally mistaken in opposite senses. The truth is that the family is a natural fact which, in whatever hypothesis you choose, cannot be destroyed; while heredity is a social convention, that the progress of society can make disappear.”
They are mistaken, who see in the family and in the heredity which protects it an obstacle to association, and who imagine that a social convention, as spontaneous, as universal as inheritance, is not a natural fact. The democrats, great speakers about divine things, great amateurs of the Requiem, do not appear to doubt that what comes from human consciousness is as natural cohabitation and generation; nature, for them, it is matter. To believe them; humanity, by obeying the spontaneity of its inclinations, has deviated from nature; it is necessary to lead it back. And comment to do that? By natural facts? No, the democrats do not prick themselves to be so consistent; but by CONVENTIONS! For what is more conventional than the system of mortmain, that the democrats speak of substituting for inheritance?
“Can one render good account of the causes which have up to now made us regard as absolutely connected the question of the family and that of heredity? No one doubts that in the present social order, heredity is inseparable from the family. And the reason for it is precisely in the vices of that social order that we combat. For, let a young man leave his family in order to enter into the world; if he presents himself without fortune and without any other recommendation than his merit, a thousand dangers await him: at each step he will find obstacles; his life will wear itself away at the heart of a perpetual and terrible struggle, in which he will perhaps triumph, but in which he courts great risk of succumbing. There is what paternal love is expected to anticipate...”
Well! if paternal love ceases to provide for that, who will provide it for him? It is, say the democrats, that invisible, impalpable, immortal, all-powerful, all-good, all-wise being, which sees all, which does all, which responds for all; it is the STATE!
“Change the milieu where we live; make it so that each individual who presents himself to the society in order to serve it is certain to find there the free use of his faculties and the means to enter into participation in collective labor; the paternal foresight is, in this case, replaced by social foresight. And this is what must be: for the child, the protection of the family; the protection of society for the man.”
Yes, change..., make it so that..., replace the paternal foresight by the social foresight! If I had not read you, I would expect the work from you. What a misfortune that you could not as well replace the labor of individuals by the labor of the State! What a calamity that the state cannot, in the place of the individuals, marry, have children, nourish and provide for them! But what am I saying? Are not free labor and the production of children by couples natural things, and heredity a thing of convention!
But what will you respond to this father who says to you: When I make my testament, I do not make it only for those whom I establish as my heirs, I also do it for myself. The act of my last will is an act by which I continue to enjoy my goods after I have ceased to live, a way of remaining in the society that I leave, a prolongation of my being among men. It is the link of solidarity that unites me with my children, which renders between us common affections and obligations. You boast to me of your foresight, in exchange for which you demand of me my good. I count more on myself than on an authorized representative. You have taken many cares to think of all and in due course: besides, I do not know you. Who then are you, you who call yourself the State? Who has seen you? Where do you dwell? What guarantees are yours? Ah! You resemble the gods of your priests, you promise the heavens, on the condition that one gives you the earth. Show yourself then finally, show yourself once in your wisdom and your sovereign power!...
The abolition of heredity proceeds, like all the republican reveries, from that absurd ideology which consists in replacing everywhere the free action of man by the force of initiative of power, the real being by a being of reason, life and liberty by a chimera the sad influence of which has been the cause of nearly all the social calamities.
“The abuse of these collateral successions is universally recognized, continues M. Blanc; these successions will be abolished, and the values which compose them communal properties.”
But, in order to abolish the collateral successions, it is necessary to begin by abolishing property: without that I challenge you to touch the collateral successions. Do you defend the fidéi-commis, lost funds, repurchase agreements, endowments? What! I would have the ability to leave my goods to everyone, that is to the State, and I would not be able to give it to someone! I would be permitted to work, to make savings, to form capital, to acquire properties, to enjoy them exclusively of any other; and when it is a question of disposing of them, to increase my well-being by making an adopted family in the place of a natural family that I do not have, I will be master of nothing! What then is the use of being a proprietor? Are you a communist? Dare to say it; don’t pussyfoot; weary us no more with your fictions of divinity, republic, and government, great words which are only some chevilles in your poetic prose, and bait for imbeciles.
“The poor man today who has nothing to leave to his children, does that poor man have a family? If so, the family, in the tainted environment where we are, can then exist up to a certain point without inheritance. If he does not have one, then justify your institutions. And hasten...; the family would not be a privilege...”
Declamation! Heredity exists in the family of the poor as in that of the rich: that holy and inalienable right, the proletarian has absolutely conquered in our great revolution, and has opposed it as an insurmountable barrier to the depredations of the nobility. So in the past the plebeian of Rome was freed from the tyranny of the patrician by obtaining the jus connubii, the right of the family, reserved for a long period to the nobles alone. What the poor lacks, is not longer heredity, it is inheritance. Instead of abolishing heredity, thinking rather to put an end to escheat. For, it is you yourself who said it: The family would not be a privilege. And is it for this that the right of the family is universal, nor common; that heredity is necessary to it, and consequently inheritance. To proscribe heredity because it is not yet effective for everyone, is to reason in a materialist and counter-revolutionary manner; it is as if one condemned France to each only potatoes and drink water, from compassion for unfortunate Ireland.
“Bring the family to heredity: soon you will see an abyss open up between the social and domestic interests…”
But, once more, where does this antagonism come from? Is it from heredity in itself, or from the inequality of inheritances?—With heredity, you say, inheritance cannot last long, let alone become a reality for everyone.—Who has said this to you? How do you know if heredity, like property, monopoly and competition, could not be turned by labor against capital, after having served capital against labor for so long? But you have so little knowledge of the economic contradictions that the idea would not come to you to make them, by opposing them to one another, results opposed to those that they give today: far from there, all your ideology tends only to efface les. To erase from the principles of society from social science, to cut the civilizing organs from civilization, such is your philosophy! The democrats will not look so closely; the socialists will be delighted with the concessions that you have made to them; the patriotic press will celebrate your eloquence, and all will be for the best in the wisest of all possible democracies.
The lukewarm socialists attack the right of succession, because they do not know how to make of it a means to preserve equality; the Fourierists and Saint-Simonians attack the family, because their systems are incompatible with private industry, domestic life and free exchange; the communists attack property, because they don’t know how property will cease to be abusive through the mutuality of services. Confession of ignorance! It is the argument of all these supposedly reformist sects, an argument which carries its own refutation, and is alone enough to disgust us with the humanitarian preaching.
3° Credit guaranteed, the family constituted, the right of succession accorded to all, it remains then to distribute property, in order that each could, in his turn, become head of family, and that no one would be destitute of inheritance. But how shall we divide the land? How delimit the lots? How shall we maintain the equality of inheritances? Will the land be enough for so many patrimonies? Or will it be put aside for the cultivator, and the industrial, the unproductive, the trader, etc., will be excluded from property! How will we make the transformations, compensations, and liquidations? How will labor be regulated? How will we divide the fruits, etc.? On will see that all the economic questions are reproduced in property.
And it is to all these questions, so frightening by their number, their depth, their difficulties, their immense detail, that society responds by this single word, rent.
In order to leave no doubt in the mind of the reader, I will proceed for rent as I have in the first volume for taxation. I will show that the organic idea contained in the constitution of the rent, develops in three consecutive moments, of which the last, necessarily linked to the two others, resolves itself in an operation of leveling.
And first, what is the rent?
Rent, we said in Chapter VI, has the greatest affinity with interest. However, it differs from it essentially, in that interest affects only the capital born of labor and accumulated by saving, while rent pertains to the earth, universal material of labor, primordial substratum of all value.
It is proper for capital to only render interest in time sufficient to reconstitute it with profit; the decreasing progression of interest, apart from any theoretical demonstration, sufficiently attests to it. Thus, when capital is rare, when mortgages are without value and without guarantee, interest is perpetual, and sometimes reaching an exorbitant rate. To the degree that capital is abundant, interest diminished; but as it can never disappear, as the loan for money could only become a simple exchange in which all the risks will be for the capitalists and the profits for the borrowers, interest, reaching a certain rate, ceases to decrease and is transformed. From the perpetual income that it was, it becomes repayment with premium and by annuities, and it is that that interest returns to the role that theory has assigned it.
Thus if the capital or object loaned is consumed or perishes by the use that one makes of it, as happens with wheat, wine, money, etc., the interest will end with the last annuity; if on the contrary the capital does not perish, the interest will be perpetual.
Rent is the interest paid for a capital that never perishes, namely, the earth. And as this capital is susceptible of no augmentation with regard to material, but only to an indefinite improvement with regard to use, it happens that, while the interest or profit from the loan (mutuum) tends to diminish constantly with the abundance of capital, rent tends to increase always with the perfection of industry, from which results improvements in the use of the earth. From this it follows, in the last analysis, that interest is measured by the importance of the capital, while, relative to the earth, property is assessed by rent.
Such is, in its essence, rent: it is a question of studying it in its aims and its motives.
At the point of departure of the institution, rent is the fee of property: it is the emolument paid to the proprietor for the administration that his new right confers on him. I will not come back to what I said in the first number of this section, regarding the necessity in which society has found itself, in the interest of labor and credit, of changing the condition of the privileged. I am content to recall that in the seventh epoch of the economic evolution, fiction having made reality fade away, human greed in danger of losing itself in the void, it had become necessary to reconnect man more strongly to nature: now, rent has been the price of this new contract. Without it property would be only a nominal title, a purely honorific distinction: now, the sovereign reason which leads civilization to make not use of that spirit of self-esteem; it pays, acquits its promises, not with words, but with reality. In the forecasts of destiny, the proprietor fulfills the most important function of the social organism: he is a source of action around which gravitate, gather and take shelter those that he calls to give value to his property, and who, from insolents and jealous wage-workers, must become its children.
For the rest, it is necessary to say, even if we displease, one generally creates grand illusions about the happiness and the security of the rentiers, comparative to the well-being enjoyed by the laboring classes. The worker at 30 sous per day, who sees pass the carriage of the proprietor rich with 100,000 pounds of rent, cannot stop himself from believing that such a man is one hundred times happier than him. One perceives in the rent only a means to live without work and to procure all the enjoyments, and one applauds the morals of the great who make it a form of social duty to spend all their income. From this come, for the man of the people, a principle of jealousy and hatred as unjust as immoral, and an active cause of depravation and discouragement.
However, for whoever looks at things from on high and in their inflexible truth, the rentier, in a society on the way to organization, is nothing other than the guardian of social economies, the guardian of the capital formed by the rent. According to the theory that all labor must leave after it an excess, destined, in part to increase the well-being of the producer, in part to improve the productive funds, capital can be defined as an extension by labor of the domain that nature has given us. The exploitable earth is contained within narrow limits; the entire globe already only appears to us as a cage where we are held, without knowing why; a certain quantity of provisions and materials are given to us, by means of which we can improve, extend, heat and clean our cramped habitation. Every formation of capital is equivalent thus for us to the conquest of a terrain; now, the proprietor, an expedition leader, is the first who profits from the adventure. As a result, and despite the immense losses of capital which occur by lack of foresight, the cowardice or corruption of the partners, it is thus that things happen in society society: the great majority of the rent is employed in new operations. France is going to spend two billions on canals and railroads: it is as if it added to its territory half of a department. Where does this marvelous extension come from? From the collective savings, from rent.
It serves nothing to cite examples of colossal fortunes the revenues of which are consumed unproductively by the owners, and which moreover are wiped out by the mass of average fortunes: these examples, the scandal of which appalls labor and makes indigence murmur, but of which the punishment rarely keeps people waiting, confirms the theory. The proprietor who, mistaken about his mission, lives only to destroy without taking any part in the management of his goods, is not slow to repent of his indolence; as he puts nothing away in savings, soon he borrows, he gets himself into debt, he loses property, and falls in his turn into poverty. Outraged Providence avenges itself in the end in a cruel manner. I have seen fortunes made and others undone: and I have always observed that it is a labor almost as difficult, to preserve property as to acquire it; that this preservation involves abstinence and economy, and that at the end of the day the lot of the proprietor, good administrator and wise steward, is hardly above that of the labor who, to equality of income, joins the same spirit of foresight and order. Complete consumption of the rent, and preservation of property are mutually exclusive: in order to conserve, the proprietor is forced to save, to capitalize and to extend himself, that is, to always furnish more space and latitude to labor, in other words, to yield to him in capital what he receives in products. In the estimations of the legislator, the proprietor is not more worthy of envy than of pity; and the man who knows how to make himself useful, who understands that labor is an integral part of our well-being and that all abusive and disorderly consumption trails pain and regrets in its wake, who sees property, passing from hand to hand, fulfill its law without regard for the proprietor, whom it kills as soon as he is unfaithful to it; that man, I say, if he considers in itself only the consumer and aspires only to justice, neither denies nor regrets property.
It is the misuse of the rent which, much more than the barbarians, a brought down Roman society and depopulated Italy. It is this abuse which has prepared in the Middle Ages the dispossession of the nobility, of which credit was then the instrument. It is still the same lack of knowledge of property which works every day so much ruin and incessantly transport property from one to the other. Thus, from the first moment of its evolution, the theory of rent acquired a mathematically ineluctable certitude: the law is imperious, misfortune to those who cannot recognize it! Rent, like heredity, is founded on reason and right: it is not a privilege that it is necessary to consider destroying, it is a function that it is a question of rendering universal. The abuse of consumption for which one reproaches it, and of which it is only the means, cannot be attributed to it: they come from the free will of man, and fall under the blame of the moralist; social economy has nothing to occupy it. The disorder here accuses man: the institution is irreproachable.
Let us touch on the second aspect of the question.
If rent is the fee of property, it is an exaction on the culture; for by conferring a remuneration without labor, it infringes on all the principles of social economy regarding production, division and exchange. The origin of rent, as of property, is, so to speak, extra-economic: it rests in some considerations of psychology and morals, which only hold very far from the production of wealth, which even reverses the theory of wealth; it is a bridge built to another world in support of the proprietor, and on which the settler is forbidden to follow. The proprietor is a demi-god; the settler is always only a man.
It is there, in that logical opposition, as we will demonstrate below, that we find the true abuse, the contradiction inherent in property. But, as we have learned, that contradiction is the sign of an imminent reconciliation; and it is this that we are going to prove by anticipating history by an era or two, and making known immediately the subsequent purpose of rent.
Since, in the adjudication made to the proprietor by society of a perpetual income, the interest of the master is opposed to that of the farmer, just as exchange value is opposed to use value, it follows that the rent to pay to the proprietor is established by a series of oscillations, which must all resolve themselves in a formula of equilibrium. What is it then, from the higher point of view of the institution, that the farmer owes to the proprietor? What must be the share of the rent? For it already appears that the problem of rent is always only, in a new form, the problem of value.
The theory of Ricardo responds to that question.
At the beginning of society, when men, new on the earth, had before them only the immensity of the forests, when the earth was vast, and industry was just being born, rent was necessarily null.
The earth, not yet shaped by labor, was an object of utility; it was not a value for exchange. It was common, not social. Little by little, the multiplication of families and the progress of agriculture made the price of the earth felt. Labor came to give the soil its value: from this was born rent. The more, with the same quantity of services, a field could bring forth fruits, the more it was valued: besides, the tendency of the proprietors was always to allocate to themselves the totality of the products of the soil, minus the wage of the farmer, which is to say, minus the costs of production.
Thus property comes behind labor in order to take from it al that which, in the product, exceeds the real costs. The proprietor fulfilling a mystic duty and representing the community vis-à-vis the tenant, the farmer is no more, in the expectations of Providence, than an accountable laborer, who must give an account to society of all that he collects in addition to his legitimate wage; and the systems of tenant farming and sharecropping, livestock leases, emphyteutic leases, etc., are the oscillating forms of the contract which is then made, in the name of society, between the proprietor and the farmer. The rent, like all values, is subject to supply and demand; but, like all values, rent also has its exact measure, which is expressed to the profit of the proprietor and to the detriment of the laborer, by the totality of the product, setting aside the costs of production.
By essence and aim, rent is thus an instrument of distributive justice, one of the thousand means that the economic genius puts to work in order to arrive at equality. It is an immense cadastre executed contradictorily by the proprietors and farmers, without possible collusion, in a higher interest, of which the definitive result must be to equal the possession of the land between the exploiters of the soil and the industrialists. Rent, in short, is that agrarian law so much desired, which must render all laborers, all men, equal possessors of the land and its fruits. It is no less necessary that the magic of property extract from the tenant farmer the excess of product the he cannot stop regarding as is own, and of which he believes himself exclusively the author. Rent, or rather property, has broken the agricultural egoism and created a solidarity that no power, no division of the land would have been able to give rise to. Through property, equality between all men becomes absolutely possible; the rent operating between individuals like duties between nations, all the causes, all the pretexts for inequality disappear, and society no longer awaits anything but the lever which must give the impetus to that movement. How will the authentic proprietor succeed the mythological proprietor? How, by destroying property, would men all become proprietors? Such is from now on the question to resolve, but that question is insoluble without rent.
For the social genius does not proceed in the manner of the ideologues or by fruitless abstractions; it does not worry about dynastic interests, nor the reason of the State, nor electoral rights, nor representative theories, nor humanitarian or patriotic sentiments. It always personifies or realizes its ideas: its system is developed in a series of incarnations and facts, and in order to constitute society, it always addresses itself to the individual. After the grand epoch of credit, it was necessary to reconnect man to the land: the social genius instituted property. It was then a question of carrying out the cadastre of the globe: instead of publishing to the sound of trumpets a collective project, it put the individual interests into conflict, and from the war of the sharecropper and the rentier results for society the most impartial arbitration. At present, the moral effect of property obtained, it remains to make the distribution of the rent. Keep yourself from convening primary assemblies, from calling your orators and tribunes, from strengthening your police, and, by that dictatorial apparatus, from shocking the world. A simple mutuality of exchange, aided by some bank combinations, will suffice... For the greatest effects the simplest means: this is the supreme law of society and nature.
Property is monopoly raised to its second power; it is, like monopoly, a spontaneous, necessary, universal fact. But property is favored by opinion, while monopoly is regarded with contempt: we can judge, by this new example, that as society is established by struggle, so science is only advanced when pushed by controversy. It is thus that competition has been by turns glorified and scoffed at; that taxation, recognized as necessary by the economists, nonetheless displeases the economists; that the loan at interest has been successively condemned and applauded; that the balance of trade, machines, the division of labor, have excited by turns the public approbation and malediction. Property is sacred, monopoly is blasted: when will we come to the end of our prejudices and our foolishness?
§ III. — How property is corrupted.
By means of property, society has realized a thought that is useful, laudable, and even inevitable: I am going to prove that by obeying an invincible necessity, it has cast itself into an impossible hypothesis. I believe that I have not forgotten or diminished any of the motives which have presided over the establishment of property; I even dare say that I have given these motives a unity and an obviousness unknown until this moment. Let the reader fill in, moreover, what I may have accidentally omitted: I accept in advance all his reasons, and propose nothing to contradict him. But let him then tell me, with this hand on his conscience, what he finds to reply to the cross-check that I am going to make.
Doubtless the collective reason, obeying the order of destiny that prescribed it, by a series of providential institutions, to consolidate monopoly, has done its duty: its conduct is irreproachable, and I do not blame it. It is the triumph of humanity to know how to recognize what is inevitable, as the greatest effort of its virtue is to know how to submit to it. If then the collective reason, in instituting property, has followed its orders, it has earned no blame: its responsibility is covered.
But that property, that society, forced and constrained, if I dare put it thus, has unearthed, who guarantees that it will last? Not society, which has conceived it from on high, and has not been able to add to it, subtract from it, or modify it in any way. In conferring property on man, it has left to it its qualities and its defects; it has taken no precaution against its constitutive vices, or against the superior forces which could destroy it. If property in itself is corruptible, society knows nothing of it, and can do nothing about it. If property is exposed to the attacks of a more powerful principle, society can do nothing more. How, indeed, will society cure the vice proper to property, since property the daughter of destiny? And how will it protect it against a higher idea, when it only subsists by means of property, and conceives of nothing above property?
Here then is the proprietary theory.
Property is of necessity providential; the collective reason has received it from God and given it to man. But if not property is corruptible by nature, or assailable by force majeure, society is irresponsible; and whoever, armed with that force, will present themselves to combat property, society owes them submission and obeisance.
Thus it is a question of knowing, first, if property is in itself a corruptible thing, which gives rise to destruction; in second place, if there exists somewhere, in the economic arsenal, an instrument which can defeat it.
I will treat the first question in this section; we will seek later to discover what the enemy is which threatens to devour property.
Property is the right to use and abuse, in a word, DESPOTISM. Not that the despot is presumed ever to have the intention of destroying the thing: that is not what must be understood by the right to use and abuse. Destruction for its own sake is not assumed on the part of the proprietor; one always supposes some use that he will make of his goods, and that there is for him a motive convenience and utility. By abuse, the legislator has meant that the proprietor has the right to be mistaken in the use of his goods, without ever being subject to investigated for that poor use, without being responsible to anyone for his error. The proprietor is always supposed to act in his own best interest; and it is in order to allow him more liberty in the pursuit of that interest, that society has conferred on him the right of use and abuse of his monopoly. Up to this point, then, the domain of property is irreprehensible.
But let us recall that this domain has not been conceded solely in respect for the individual: there exist, in the account of the motives for the concession, some entirely social considerations; the contract is synallagmatic between society and man. That is so true, so admitted even by the proprietors, that every time someone comes to attack their privilege, it is in the name, and only in the name, of society that they defend it.
Now, does the proprietary despotism give satisfaction to society? For if it was otherwise, reciprocity being illusory, the pact would be null, and sooner or later either property or society will perish. I reiterate then my question. Does the proprietary despotism fulfill its obligation toward society? Is the proprietary despotism a prudent administrator? Is it, in its essence, just, social, humane? There is the question.
And this is what I respond without fear of refutation:
If it is indubitable, from the point of view of individual liberty, that the concession of property had been necessary; from the juridical point of view, the concession of property is radically null, because it implies on the part of the concessionaire certain obligations that it is optional for him to fulfill or not fulfill. Now, by virtue of the principle that every convention founded on the accomplishment of a non-obligatory condition does not compel, the tacit contract of property, passed between the privileged and the State, to the ends that we have previously established, is clearly illusory; it is annulled by the non-reciprocity, by the injury of one of the parties. And as, with regard to property, the accomplishment of the obligation cannot be due unless the concession itself is by that alone revoked, it follows that there is a contradiction in the definition and incoherence in the pact. Let the contracting parties, after that, persist in maintaining their treaty, the force of things is charged with proving to them that they do useless work: despite the fact that they have it, the inevitability of their antagonism restores discord between them.
All the economists indicate the disadvantages for agricultural production of the parceling of the territory. In agreement on this with the socialists, they would see with joy a joint exploitation which, operating on a large scale, applying the powerful processes of the art and making important economies on the material, would double, perhaps quadruple product. But the proprietor says, Veto, I do not want it. And as he is within his rights, as no one in the world knows the means of changing these rights other than by expropriation, and since expropriation is nothingness, the legislator, the economist and the proletarian recoil in fright before the unknown, and content themselves to expect nowhere near the harvests promised. The proprietor is, by character, envious of the public good: he could purge himself of this vice only by losing property.
Thus, property becomes an obstacle to labor and wealth, an obstacle to the social economy: these days, there is hardly anyone but the economists and the men of law that this astonishes. I seek a way to make it enter into their minds all at once, without commentary...
Isn’t it true that we are poor, each having only fifty-six and a half centimes to spend each day? — Yes, is the response of M. Chevalier.
Isn’t it true that a better agricultural system will save nine-tenths on the costs of material, and will give quadruple product? — Yes, is the response of M. Arthur Young.
Isn’t it true that there are in France six million proprietors, eleven million land assessments, and one hundred twenty-three millions plots of terrain? — Yes, is the response of M. Dunoyer.
Thus there are close to six millions of proprietors, eleven millions land assessments, and a hundred twenty-three million plots, but order does not reign in agriculture, and yet instead of fifty-six and a half centimes per head and per day, we should have 2 francs 25 centimes, which would make us all wealthy.
And why these hundred and forty millions of oppositions to the public wealth? Because cooperation in labor would destroy the spell of property; because apart from property our eyes have seen nothing, our ears have heard nothing, our heart has understood nothing; because, in the end, we are proprietors.
Let us suppose that the proprietor, by a chivalrous liberality, yields to the invitation of science, allows labor to improve and multiply its products. An immense good will result for the laborers and peasants, whose fatigues, reduced by half, will still find themselves, by the lowering of the price of goods, paid double.
But the proprietor: I would be pretty silly, he says, to abandon a profit so clear! Instead of a hundred days of labor, I would not have to pay more than fifty: it is not the proletarian who would profit, but me. — But then, observe, the proletarian will be still more miserable than before, since he will be idle once more. — That does not matter to me, replies the proprietor. I exercise my right. Let the others buy well, if they can, or let them go to other parts to seek their fortune, fussent-ils thousands and millions!
Every proprietor nourishes, in his heart of hearts, this homicidal thought. And as by competition, monopoly and credit, the invasion always grows, the laborers find themselves incessantly eliminated from the soil: property is the depopulation of the earth.
Thus then the rent of the proprietor, combined with the progress of industry, changes into an abyss the pit dug beneath the feet of the laborer by monopoly; the evil is aggravated by privilege. The rent of the proprietor is no longer the patrimony of the poor,—I mean that portion of the agricultural product which remains after the costs of culture have been paid off, and which must always serve as a new material for the use of labor, according to that fine theory which shows us accumulated capital as a land unceasingly offered to production, and which, the more one works it, the more it seems to extend. The rent has become for the proprietor the token of his lechery, the instrument of his solitary pleasures. And note that the proprietor who abuses, guilty before charity and morality, remains blameless before the law, unassailable in political economy. To eat up his income! What could be more beautiful, more noble, more legitimate? In the opinion of the common people as in that of the great, unproductive consumption is the virtue par excellence of the proprietor. Every trouble in society comes from this indelible selfishness.
In order to facilitate the exploitation of the soil, and put the different localities in relation, a route, a canal is necessary. Already the plan is made; one will sacrifice an edge on that side, a strip on the other; some hectares of poor terrain, and the way is open. But the proprietor cries out with his booming voice: I do not want it! And before this formidable veto, the would-be lender dares not go through with it. Still, in the end, the State has dared to reply: I want it! But what hesitations, what frights, what trouble, before taking that heroic resolution! What trade-offs! What trials! The people have paid dearly for this act of authority, by which the promoters were still more stunned than the proprietors. For it came to establish a precedent the consequences of which appeared incalculable!... One promised themselves that after having passed this Rubicon, the bridges were broken, and they would stay that way. To do violence to property, what could this portend! The shadow of Spartacus would have appeared less terrible.
In the depths of a naturally poor soil, chance, and then science, born of chance, discovers some treasure troves of fuel. It is a free gift of nature, deposited under the soil of the common habitation, of which each has a right to claim his share. But the proprietor arrives, the proprietor to whom the concession of the soil has been made solely with a view to cultivation. You shall not pass, he says; you will not violate my property! At this unexpected summons, great debate arises among the learned. Some say that the mine is not the same thing as the arable land, and must belong to the State; others maintain that the proprietor has the property above and below, cujus est soluw, ejus est usque ad inferos. For if the proprietor, a new Cerberus posted as the guard of dark kingdoms, can put a ban on entry, the right of the State is only a fiction. It would be necessary to return to expropriation, and where would that lead? The State gives in: “Let us affirm it boldly,” it says through the mouth of M. Dunoyer, supported by M. Troplong; “it is no more just and reasonable to say that the mines are the property of the nation, than it once was to claim that it was the property of the king. The mines are essentially part of the soil. It is with a perfect good sense that the common law has said that the property in what is above implies property in what is below. Where, indeed, would we make the separation?”
M. Dunoyer is troubled by very little. Who hesitates to separate the mine from the surface, just as we sometimes separate, in a succession, the ground floor from the first floor? That is what is done very well by the proprietors of the coal-mining fields in the department of the Loire, where the property in the depths has been nearly everywhere separated from the surface property, and transformed into a sort of circulating value like the actions of an anonymous society. Who still hesitates to regard the mine as a new earth which requires a chemin de défrichement (access road)?... But what! Napoleon, the inventor of the juste-milieu, the prince of the doctrinaires, had wanted it otherwise; the counsel of State, M. Troplong and M. Dunoyer applaud: there is nothing more to consider. A transaction has taken place under who-knows-what insignificant reservations; the proprietors have been rewarded by the imperial munificence: how have they acknowledged that favor?
I have already had more than one occasion to speak of the coalition of the mines of the Loire. I return to it for the last time. In that department, the richest in the kingdom in coal deposits, the exploitation was first conducted in the most expensive and most absurd manner. The interest of the mines, that of the consumers and of the proprietors, demanded that the extraction was made jointly: We do not want it, the proprietors have repeated for who knows how many years, and they have engaged in a horrible competition, of which the devastation of the mines has paid the first costs. Were they within their rights? So much so, that one will see the State find bad qu'ils en soient sortis.
Finally the proprietors, at least the majority, managed to get along: they associated. Doubtless they have given in to reason, to motives of conservation, of good order, of general as much as private interest. From then on, the consumers would have fuel at a good price, the miners a regular labor and guaranteed wages. What thunder of acclamations in the public! What praise in the academies! What decorations for that fine devotion! We will not inquire whether the gathering is consistent with the text and to the spirit of the law, which forbids the joining of the concessions; we will only see the advantage of the union, and we will have proven that the legislator has neither wanted, nor been able to want, anything but the well-being of the people: Salus populi suprema lex esta.
Deception! First, it is not reason that the proprietors followed in coming together: they submitted only to force. To the extent that competition ruins them, they range themselves on the side of the victor, and accelerate by their growing mass the rout of the dissidents. Then, the association constitutes itself in a collective monopoly: the price of the merchandise increases, so much for consumption; wages are reduced, so much for labor. Then, the public complains; the legislature thinks of intervening; the heavens threaten with a bolt of lightning; the prosecution invokes article 419 of the Penal Code which forbids the coalitions, but which permits every monopolist to combine, and stipulates no measure for the price of the merchandise; the administration appeals to the law of 1810 which, wishing to encourage exploitation, while dividing the concessions, is rather more favorable than opposed to unity; and the advocates prove by dissertations, writs and arguments, these that the coalition is within its rights, those that it is not. Meanwhile the consumer says: Is it just that I pay the costs of agiotage and of competition? Is it just that what has been given for nothing to the proprietor in my greatest interest comes back to me at such as expense? Let one establish a tariff! We do not want it, respond the proprietors. And I defy the State to defeat their resistance other than by an act of authority, which resolves nothing; or else by an indemnity, which is to abandon all.
Property is unsocial, not only in possession, but also in production. Absolute mistress of the instruments of labor, she renders only imperfect, fraudulent, detestable products. The consumer is no longer served, he is robbed of his money. — Shouldn’t you have known, one said to the rural proprietor, wait some days to gather these fruits, to reap this wheat, dry this hay; do not put water in this milk, rinse your barrels, care more for your harvests, bite off less and do better. You are overloaded: put back a part of your inheritance.—A fool! responds the proprietor with a mocking air. Twenty badly worked acres always render more than ten which take us so much time, and will double the costs. With your system, the earth will feed men once more: but what is it to me if there are more men? It is a question of my profit. As to the quality of my products, they will always be good enough for those who lack. You believe yourself skilled, my dear counselor, and you are only a child. What’s the use of being a proprietor, if one only sells what is worth carrying to market, and at a just price, at that?... I do not want it.
Well, you say, let the police do their duty!... The police! You forget that its action only begins when the evil is finished. The police, instead of watching over production, inspects the product: after having allowed the proprietor to cultivate, harvest, manufacture without conscience, it appears to lay hands on the green fruit, spill the terrines of watered milk, the casks of adulterated beer and wine, to throw the prohibited meats into the road: all to the applause of the economists and the populace, who want property to be respected, but will not put up with trade being free. Heh! Barbarians! It is the poverty of the consumer which provokes the flow of these impurities. Why, if you cannot stop the proprietor from acting badly, do you stop the poor from living badly? Isn’t it better if they have colic than if they die of hunger?
Say to that industrialist that it is a cowardly, immoral thing, to speculate on the distress of the poor, on the inexperience of children and of young girls: he simply will not understand you. Prove to him that by a reckless overproduction, by badly calculated enterprises, he compromises, along with his own fortune, the existence of his workers; that if his interests are not touched, those of so many families, grouped around him, merit consideration; that by the arbitrariness of his favors he creates around him discouragement, servility, hatred. The proprietor takes offense: Am I not the master? says he in parody of the legend; and because I am good to a few, do you claim to make of my kindness a right for all? Must I render account to those who should obey me? That home is mine; what I should do regarding the direction of my affairs, I alone am the judge of it. Are my workers my slaves? If my conditions offend them, and they find better, let them go! I will be the first to compliment them. Very excellent philanthropists, who then prevents you from laboring in the workshops? Act, give the example; instead of that delightful life that you lead by preaching virtue, set up a factory, put yourself to work. Let us see finally through you association on the earth! As for me, I reject with all my strength such a servitude. Associates! Rather the bankrupt, rather the dead!
Thus property separates man from man a hundred times more than monopoly did. The legislator, in an eminently social view, had believed to be able to give to possession some stronger guarantees: and he found that he had taken all hope from the laborer, by guaranteeing to the monopolist, in perpetuity, the daily fruit of his pillages. What great proprietor does not abuse the small with his power to restrain? What scientist, settled in dignity, does not withdrawn some lucre from his influence and his patronage? What philosopher, accredited in his counsels, does not find means, under pretext of translation, revision or commentary, to levy a tax on philosophy? What inspector of schools is not a merchant of primers? Is political economy pure of all commerce in actions, and religion of all simony? I have had the honor to be head of a printing-house, and I sold a dozen catechisms, five sheets in-12, for thirty sous. Since, the bishop of the place has been granted the monopoly on religious books, and the price of the catechism has increased from fifteen centimes to forty: monseigneur realizes each year, on this article alone, a net profit of 30,000 francs. Such a question has been put posed by the academy only in order give the occasion for a triumph to M. So-and-So; such a composition has obtained the prize only because it came from M. Such-and-Such, professing the right doctrines, that is to say practicing the art of toadying alongside MM. Such, Such, and Such. Titled science bars the road to common science; the oak compels the reed to bow to it; religion and morals are used by privilege, like plaster and coal; privilege reaches up to the price of virtue, and the crowns awarded at the Mazarin Theater, for the encouragement of the young and the progress of science, are no longer anything but the badges of academic feudalism.
And all these abuses of authority, these misappropriations, these base acts, come, not from illegal abuse, but from legal, very legal usage of property. Without doubt the functionary whose inspection is required for the free circulation of a merchandise, or the acceptance of provisions, does not have the right to traffic in that control. But isn’t that just what they try? A similar act would repulse the virtue of the agents of authority, would fall under the prosecution of the Penal Code, and I will not occupy myself with it. But we agree that those who approve, cannot approve of anything better than what he can do, since his approval is necessary only because of his ability. Now, it is not forbidden to the inspectors and regulators of authority to do by themselves what they are charged with approving in others, and even more so to take part and interest themselves in what must be submitted for their approval, and as in every sort of service, wages and profits are legitimate, it follows that the mission granted, for example, to the university and to the bishops, to approve or disapprove certain works, constitutes a monopoly for the profit of the bishops and academics. And if the law, contradicting itself, claims to stop it, the force of things, more powerful than the law, restores it constantly, and instead of a government, we no longer have anything but venality and fiction...
A poor worker having his wife in childbirth, the midwife, in despair, must ask assistance of a physician.—I must have 200 francs, says the doctor, I won’t budge.—My God! replies the worker, my household is not worth 200 francs; it will be necessary that my wife die, or else we will all go naked, the child, her and me!
That obstetrician, let God rejoice! was yet a worthy man, benevolent, melancholic and mild, member of several scientific and charitable societies: on his mantle, a bronze of Hippocrates, refusing the presents of Artaxerce. He was incapable of saddening a child, and would have sacrificed himself for his cat. His refusal did not come from hardness; that was tactical. For a physician who understands business, devotion has only a season: the clientele acquired, the reputation once made, he reserves himself for the wealthy, and, save for ceremonial occasions, he rejects the indiscreet. Where would we be, if it was necessary to heal the sick indiscriminately? Talent and reputation are precious properties, that one must make the most of, not squander.
The trait that I have just cited is one of the most benign; what horrors, if I should penetrate to the bottom of this medical matter! Let no one tell me that these are exceptions: I except everyone. I criticize property, not men. Property, in Vincent de Paul as in Harpagon, is always monstrous; and until the service of medicine is organized, it will be for the physician as for the scientist, for the advocate as for the artist: he will be a being degraded by his own title, by the title of proprietor.
This is what this judge did not understand, too good a man for his time, who, yielding to the indignation of his conscience, decided one day to express public criticism of the corporation council. It was something immoral, according to him, scandalous, that the ease with which these gentlemen welcome all sorts of causes. If this blame, starting so high, had been supported and commented on by the press, it was made perhaps for the legal profession. But the honorable company could not perish by the censure, any more than property can die from a diatribe, any more than the press can die of its own venom. Besides, isn't the judiciary solidary with the corporation counsel? Isn’t the one, like the other, established by and for property? What would Perrin-Dandin become, if he was forbidden to judge? And what would we argue about, without property? The Bar Association has therefore been raised; journalism, the pettifoggery of the pen, came to the rescue of the pettifoggery of speeches: the riot went rumbling and swelling until that imprudent magistrate, involuntary organ of the public conscience, had made an apology to sophistry, and retracted by the truth that had arisen spontaneously through him.
One day, a minister announces that he is going to reform the notary profession (notariat).—We do not want anyone to reform us, cry the lawyers. We are not the pettifoggers; speak to the advocates. The notary is, par excellence, a man upright and without reproach. Stranger to usury, guardian of deposits, faithful interpreter of the will of the dying, impartial arbitrator in all contracts, his study is the sanctuary of property. And it is by him that property will be violated! No, no...—and the government, in the person of its minister, has denied it to them.
You want, another says timidly, to reimburse the creditors to whom I pay 5 percent of interest, and replace them by others to whom I will only pay 4. — What are you thinking? shout the stockholders in dread. The interests of which you speak are RENTS; they have been constituted as RENTS; and when you propose to reduce them, it is as if you proposed an expropriation without indemnity. Expropriate, if you please; but there must be a law, plus the prior indemnity. What then! When it is known that money continually loses value; when 10,000 francs of rent today is worth no more than 8,000 at the time of the registration; when, by an irrefutable consequence, that would be to demand for the rentier, whose property diminishes every day, an increase in income, in order to preserve his rent, since that rent does not represent a metallic capital, but real estate, it is thus that one speaks of conversion! Conversion—that is bankruptcy! And the government, convinced, on the one hand, that it had the right, like every debtor, to liberate itself by repayment, but uncertain, on the other, of the nature of its debt and intimidated by the clamor of the proprietors, could only settle it.
Thus property becomes more antisocial to the extent that it is distributed on a greater number of heads. What seems necessary to soften, and to humanize property, collective privilege, is precisely what shows property in its hideousness: property divided, impersonal property, is the worst of properties. Who does not realize today that France is covered with great companies, more formidable, more eager for booty, than the famous bands with which the brave Duguesclin delivered France!...
Be careful not to take community of property for association. The individual proprietor can still show himself accessible to mercy, justice, and shame; le proprietor-corporation is heartless, without remorse. It is a fantastic, inflexible being, freed from every passion and all love, which moves in the circle of its ideas as the millstone in its revolutions crushes grain. It is not by becoming common that property can become social: one does not relieve rabies by biting everyone. Property will end by the transformation of its principle, not by an indefinite co-participation. And that is why the democracy, or system of universal property, that some men, as hard-nosed as they are blind, insist on preaching to the people, is powerless to create society.
Of all the forms of property, the most detestable is that which has talent for a pretext.
Prove to an artist, by the comparison of times and men, that the inequality of works of art, in the different centuries, above all stems from the oscillating movements of society, from the changing of beliefs and of the state of minds; that whatever a society is worth, so much is the worth of the artist; that between the artist and his contemporaries there exists a community of needs and ideas, from which results the system of their obligations and their relations, so that merit, like wages, can always be rigorously defined; that a time will come when the rules of taste, the laws of invention, composition and execution being discovered, art will lose its divinatory character and cease to be the privilege of a few exceptional natures: all of these ideas will appear excessively ridiculous to the artist.
Tell him: You have made a statue, and you propose that I buy it. Gladly. But this statue, in order to be truly a statue and for me to give the price for it, must meet certain conditions of poetry and formal beauty that I can recognize, although I have never seen a statue, and I am entirely incapable of making one. If these conditions are not met, whatever difficulties you have overcome, however superior to my profession seems your art, you have made a useless work. Your labor is WORTH nothing: it does not accomplish the goal, and only serves to excite my regrets by showing your weakness. For it is not a comparison between you and me that it is a question of establishing; it is a comparison between your labor and your ideal. Do you ask me, after this, what price you should claim if successful? I answer you that this price is necessarily commensurate with my faculties, and determined as aliquot part of my outlay. However, what proportion? Just the equivalent of what the statue has cost you.
If it was possible that the artist to whom one addressed such language would have sensed its strength and accuracy, it would be because reason had replaced imagination in him; he would begin to no longer be an artist.
What particularly shocks this class of men is that one dares to put a price on their talents. As they understand it, weights and measures are incompatible with the dignity of art: the mania for bargaining over everything is the sign of a decadent society, which will produce no more masterpieces, because one will not know how to recognize them. And this is what I want to enlighten the minds of men of art about, not with arguments and theories they could not follow, but with facts.
At the last exposition, 4,200 objects of art were sent by close to 1,800 artists. By taking at 300 francs, on average, the commercial value of each of these objects (statues, tableaux, portraits, gravures, etc.), one is certain not to remain too far below the truth. There is then a total value of 1,260,000 francs, the product of 1,800 artists. Supposing that the disbursement for marble, fabric, gilding, frame, models, studies, exercises, meditations, etc.., was 100 francs on average, and the labor at three months, there remains a net 840,000 francs, that is 466 fr. 65 c. per head per 90 days.
But if one reflects that the 4,200 articles sent to the exposition, and of which nearly half have been eliminated by the jury, form in the judgment of the authors themselves, the best and most beautiful of the artistic production during the year; that a great part of these products consists of portraits, of which the very gracious recompense greatly surpasses the current price for objects of art; that a considerable quantity of the values exhibited have remained unsold; that outside of that fair a crowd of fabricants work at prices much inferior to those on the price list of the exposition; that some analogous observations apply to music, to dance, and to all the categories of art: one will find that the average salary of the artist does not reach 1,200 francs, and that, for the artistic population as for the industrial, the level of well-being is expressed by the crushing formula of M. Chevalier, fifty-six centimes per day and per head.
And as poverty stands out more by contrast, and as the function of the artist is all for luxury, it has become a proverb that no poverty is equal to his: Si est dolor, sicut dolor meus!
And why is there this equality before the social economy of the labors of art and of industry? It is because apart from the proportionality of products, there is no wealth, and because art, sovereign expression of that wealth which is essentially equality and proportion, is for that reason the symbol of equality and of human fraternity. In vain pride revolts, and creates everywhere its distinctions and privileges: the proportion remains inflexible. The laborers remain solidary among themselves, and nature is charged with punishing their infractions. If society consumes five percent of its product in luxury goods, it will occupy in that production a twentieth of its laborers. The share of the artists, in the society, will then be necessarily equal to that of the manufacturers. As for individual division, society abandons it to the corporations: for the society which accomplishes everything through the individual, can do nothing for the individual without his consent. So when an artist takes for himself alone one hundred shares of the general remuneration, there are ninety-nine of his fellows who prostitute themselves for him or die penniless: this calculation is as certain, as tried and proven, as a liquidation of the stock market..
Let the artists know it then: it is not, as they say, the grocer who haggles, it is necessity itself which has fixed the price of things. If, in some eras, the products of art have been on the rise, as in the centuries of Leon X, the Roman emperors and Pericles, it was due to special causes, to a favoritism which has ceased to exist. It was gold or Christianity, the tribute of indulgences, which paid the Italian artists; it was the gold of the vanquished nations which, under the emperors, paid the Greek artists; it was the labor of the slaves which paid them under Pericles. Equality has come: do the liberal arts want to bring back slavery, and abdicate their name?
Talent is usually the attribute of a disgraced nature, in which the disharmony of aptitudes produces an extraordinary, monstrous specialty. A man having no hands writes with his stomach, there is the image of talent. Also, we are all born artists: our soul, like our face, always strays more or less from its ideal; our schools are orthopedic institutions where, by directing growth, one corrects the deformities of nature. That is why education tends more and more to universality, that is to say, to the equilibrium of talents and knowledges; why also the artist is only possible surrounded by a society in community of luxury with him. In matters of art, society does nearly everything: the artist is much more in the mind of the amateur than in the maimed being that excites his admiration.
Under the influence of property, the artist, depraved in his reason, dissolute in his morals, full of contempt for his colleagues whose publicity alone give him value, venal and without dignity, is the impure image of selfishness. For him, good morals are only a matter of convention, a matter of figures. The idea of the just and of the honest slides over his heart without taking root; and of all the classes of society, that of the artists is the poorest in strong souls and noble characters. If one ranked the social professions according to the influence that they have exercised on civilization by the energy of will, the greatness of feelings, the power of the passions, the enthusiasm for truth and justice, and set aside the value of the doctrines: the priests and philosophers would appear at the first rank; next the men of State and the captains; then the merchants, the industrialists and the laborers; finally, the scientists and artists. While the priest, in his poetic language, is regarded as the living temple of God, the philosopher speaks of himself in the same way: Act in such a way that each of the actions could serve as model and rule. But the artist remains indifferent to the meaning of his work; he does not seek to personify in it the type that he wants to render, he abstracts it; he uses the beautiful and the sublime, but he does not love them; he puts Christ on the canvas, but he does not carry him, like Saint Ignatius, in his chest.
The people, whose instincts are always so sure, preserve the memories of legislators and heroes; they trouble themselves little with the names of artists. For a long time even, in its rude innocence, it felt for them only repulsion and contempt, as if it had recognized in these illuminators of human life the instigators of its vices, the accomplices of its oppression. The philosopher has recorded in his books that mistrust of the people the for the arts of luxury; the legislator has denounced them to the magistrate; religion, obeying the same sentiment, has struck them with its anathemas. Art, that is to say luxury, pleasure, voluptuousness, is the works and pomps of Satan, which delivers the Christian to eternal damnation. And without wanting to incriminate a class of men that the general corruption has rendered as estimable as any other, and who after all make use of their rights, I dare say that the Christian myth is vindicated. More than ever, art is a perpetual outrage to public misery, a mask for debauchery. By property, that which is best in man shortly becomes that which is worst in him, corruptio optimi pessima.
Work, the economists repeat ceaselessly to the people; work, save, capitalize, become proprietors in your turn. As they said: Workers, you are the recruits of property. Each of you carries in his sack the switch which serves to correct you, and which can serve one day to correct the others. Raise yourself up to property by labor; and when you have the taste for human flesh, you will no longer want any other meat, and you will make up for your long abstinences.
To fall from the proletariat into property! From slavery into tyranny, which is to say, following Plato, always into slavery! What a perspective! And though it is inevitable, the condition of the slave is no more tenable. In order to advance, to free yourself from the salariat, it is necessary to become a capitalist, to become a tyrant! It is necessary; do you understand, proletarians? Property is not an optional thing for humanity, it is the absolute order of destiny. You will only be free after you are redeemed by the subjugation of your masters, from the servitude that they have made weigh on you.
One beautiful Sunday in summer, the people of the great cities leave their somber and damp residences, and go to seek the vigorous and pure air of the country. But what has happened! There is no more countryside! The land, divided in a thousand closed cells, traversed by long galleries, the land is no longer found; the sight of the fields exists for the people of the towns only in the theater and the museum: the birds alone contemplate the real landscape from high in the air. The proprietor, who pays very dearly for a lodge on this hacked-up earth, enjoys, selfish and solitary, some strip of turf that he calls his country: except for this corner, he is exiled from the soil like the poor. Some people can boast of never having seen the land of their birth! It is necessary to go far, into the wilderness, in order to find again that poor nature, that we violate in a brutal manner, instead of enjoying, as chaste spouses, its heavenly embraces.
Thus, property, which should make us free, makes us prisoners. What am I saying? It degrades us, by making us servants and tyrants to one another.
Does we know well what his is but the salariat? To work under such a master, jealous of his prejudices as much and more than of his command; whose dignity consists above all in wanting, sic volo, sic jubeo, and never explaining; that often one underrates, and for which one is mocked! Not to have any thought of his own, to study without ceasing the thought of others, to know of stimulus only the daily bread, and the fear of losing a job!
The wage-worker is a man to whom the proprietor who praises his services directs this discourse: What you have to do does not concern you at all: you do not have to control it, you do not answer for it. Every observation is forbidden to you; there is no profit for you to hope for save from your wage, no risk to run, no blame to fear.
Thus one says to the journalist: Lend us your columns, and even, if that suits you, your ministry. Here is what you have to say, and here is what you have to do. Whatever you think of our ideas, of our ends and of our means, always defend our party, emphasize our opinions. That cannot compromise you, and must not disturb you: the character of the journalist, it is anonymous. Here is, for your fee, ten thousand francs and a hundred subscriptions. What are you going to do? And the journalist, like the Jesuit, responds by sighing: I must live!
One says to the advocate: This matter presents some pros and cons; there is a party whose luck I have decided to try, and for this I have need of a man of your profession. If it is not you, it will be your colleague, your rival; and there are a thousand crowns for the advocate if I win my case, and five hundred francs if I lose it. And the advocate bows with respect, saying to his conscience, which murmurs: I must live!
One says to the priest: Here is some money for three hundred masses. You don’t have to worry yourself about the morality of the deceased: it is probable that he will never see God, being dead in hypocrisy, his hands full of the goods of other, and laden with the curses of the people. These are not your affairs: we pay, fire away! And the priest, raising his eyes to heaven, says: Amen, I must live.
One says to the purveyor of arms: We need thirty thousand rifles, ten thousand swords, a thousand quintals of shot, and a hundred barrels of powder. What we can do with it is not your concern; it is possible that all will pass to the enemy: but there will be two thousand francs of profit. That’s good, responds the purveyor: each to his craft, everyone must live!... Make the tour of society; and after having noticed the universal absolutism, you will have recognized the universal indignity. What immorality in this system of valetage! What stigma in this mechanization!
The more the man approaches the tomb, the more the proprietor shows himself irreconcilable. This is what Christianity has represented in its frightening myth of the final impenitence.
Say to this old man, libidinous or devout, that the governess that he intends benefit to the detriment of his closest relatives is unworthy of his cares; that the Church is wealthy enough, and that an honest man has no need of prayers; that his relation is poor, laborious, honest; that there are young men to establish, and young women to endow; that in leaving his fortune, to them his insures their gratitude, and does good for several generations; that it is the spirit of the law that the testaments serve the union and the prosperity of the families. I do not want it! the proprietor responds drily. And the scandal of the testaments surpasses the immorality of the fortunes. Now, try to modify that right to privilege and transmit, which is a dismemberment of the sovereign authority, and you fall back immediately into monopoly. You change property into usufruct, and the rent into a pension for life; you replace the despotism of the proprietor by the absolutism of the State, and then one of two things occurs: either, slipping back to feudal and inalienable property, you stop the circulation of capital and make society regress; or you fall into community, into nothingness
The proprietary contradiction does not end for man at the testament, it passes to the succession. The dead seize the living, says the law; thus the fatal influence of property passes from the testator to the heir.
The father of a family leaves on dying seven sons, raised by him in the ancient manor. How will the transmission of his goods take place? Two systems present themselves, tried by turns, corrected, modified, but always without success. The formidable enigma has yet to be resolved.
Under primogeniture, the property is assigned to the eldest: the six the six other brothers receive a trousseau, and are expelled from the paternal domain. The father dead, they are strangers on the land, without assets and without credit. From ease, they pass without transition to poverty: as children, they had in their father a nourisher: as brothers, they can see in their eldest brother only an enemy... Everything has been said against primogeniture: let us see the reverse of the system.
With equal division, all the children are called to the preservation of the patrimony, to the perpetuity of the family. But how can seven possess what only suffices for one? The licitation takes place, the inheriting family is dispossessed. It is a stranger who, by means of cash, finds himself the inheritor. Instead of the patrimony, each of the children receives some money, with ninety-nine chances against one of soon having nothing. As long as the father lived, there was a family; now, there is nothing more than some adventurers. Primogeniture insured at least the perpetuity of the name: that was for the old man a guarantee that the monument founded by his fathers and preserved by his hands will remain in his race. The equality of division has destroyed the temple of the family; there are no more household gods. With sedentary property, the civilized have found the secret of living as nomads: what then was the use of heredity?
Let us suppose that instead of selling the succession, the heirs divide it. The land is parceled out, truncated, cut up. One plants boundary posts, one digs moats, one builds barricades; one makes a seedbed of trials and hatreds. With property cut into pieces, the unity is disrupted: however you look at it, property leads to the negation of society, to the negation of its own ends.
Thus property, which should consummate the holy union of man and nature, leads only to an odious prostitution. The sultan uses and abuses his slave: the earth is for him an instrument of luxury... I find here more than a metaphor; I discover a profound analogy.
What is it that, in the relations of the sexes, distinguishes marriage from concubinage? Everyone senses the difference between these two things; few people would be in a state to render an account of it, so obscure has the question become by the license of the custom and insolence of the Romans.
Is it the progeny? One sees some illicit affairs produce as much and as well as the most fecund of legitimate unions. — Is it the duration? Quite a number of bachelors keep for eighteen years a mistress, who, first humiliated and shamed, subjugates in her turn and demeans her disgraceful lover. Moreover, the perpetuity of the marriage can very well change from obligatory to optional by means of divorce, without the marriage losing any of its character. Perpetuity is doubtless the wish of love and the hope of the family: but it is not at all essential to the marriage; it can always, without offending the sacrament, be, for certain causes, interrupted. — Is it, finally, the wedding ceremony, four words pronounced in front of a deputy and a priest? What virtue can such a formality have for love, steadfastness, devotion? Marat, like Jean-Jacques, had married his governess in the woods, with the sun as his witness. The holy man had contracted in very good faith, and did not doubt that his alliance was as decent and respectable as if it had been counter-signed by the municipal clerk. Marat, in the most important act of his life, had judged it proper to do without the intervention of the Republic: he put, in accordance with the ideas of M. Louis Blanc, the natural fact above the convention. Who then prevents us from all doing as Marat did? And what is meant by this word marriage?
What constitutes marriage is the fact that society is present there, not only at the instant of the promises, but as long as the cohabitation of the spouses lasts. Society, I say, alone receives for each of the espoused the oath of the other; it alone gives them their rights, since it alone can make these rights authentic; and while seeming only to impose some mutual duties on the contracting parties, actually specifies for itself. “We are united in God,” said Tobias to Sarah, “before we are between ourselves; the children of the saints cannot be joined in the manner of the beasts and barbarians.” In that union consecrated by the magistrate, visible organ of society, and in the presence of witnesses who represent it, the love is supposed free and reciprocal, and the posterity predicted as in the accidental unions; the perpetuity of the love is wished for, evoked, but not guaranteed; even voluptuousness is permitted: the only difference, but that difference is an abyss, is that in concubinage egoism alone presides over the union, while in marriage the intervention of society purifies that egoism.
And see the consequences. Society, which takes revenge on the adulterer and punishes the perjurer, does not receive the plaint of the man against his concubine: it thinks no more of such amours than it does of the couplings of dogs, foris canes et impudici! It turns away in disgust. Society rejects his widow and orphan, and does not allow them the succession; in its eyes the mother is a prostitute; the child is a bastard. It is as if it said to the one: You have given birth without me; you can defend yourself and provide for yourself without me. To the other: Your father has sired you for his pleasure; it does not please me to adopt you. That which does injury to marriage cannot claim the guarantee of marriage: such is the social law, a law that is rigorous, but just, which it is only for the socialist hypocrisy,—to those who want a love that is at once chaste and lewd,—to calumniate.
This feeling for social intervention in the most personal and most self-willed act of man, this indefinable respect for a present God, which increases love by rending it chaste, is for the spouses a source of mysterious affections, unknown apart from it. In marriage, man is the lover of all women, because in marriage alone he feels the true love, which unites him sympathetically to all of the sex; but he knows only his spouse, and by knowing only her, he loves more, because without that carnal exclusion, the marriage would disappear, and love with it. The platonic community, asked for increasingly by contemporary reformers, does not give love, it only shows its caput mortuum; because, in this communism of bodies and souls, love, not determining itself, remains in a state of abstraction and dream.
Marriage is the true community of loves and the type of all individual possession. In all his relations with persons and things, man truly contracts only with society, which is to say, at the end of the day, with himself, with the ideal and holy being which lives in him. Destroy that respect of the self, of society, that fear of God, as the Bible says, which is present in all our actions, in all our thoughts; and man, abusing his soul, his mind, his faculties, abusing nature, man, sullied and polluted, becomes, by an irresistible degradation, libertine, tyrant, scoundrel.
Now, just as by the mystical intervention of society, impure love becomes chaste love, so that wild fornication is transformed into a peaceful and holy marriage; just so, in the economic order and in the forecasts of society, property, the prostitution of capital, is only the first moment of a social and legitimate possession. Until then the proprietor abuses rather than enjoys; his happiness is a lewd dream: he embraces, but does not possess. Property is always that abominable droit du seigneur which in times past stirred up the outraged serf, and which the French Revolution was not able to abolish. Under the empire of that right, all the products of labor are filthy: competition is a mutual incitement to debauchery; the privileges accorded to talent are the wage of prostitution. In vain, by its police, the State would like to oblige fathers to recognize their children, and to sign for the shameful fruits of their works. The stain is indelible: the bastard, conceived in iniquity, heralds the turpitude of his creator. Commerce is no longer anything but a traffic in slaves destined, these to the pleasure of the rich, those to the cult of the Vénus populaire; and society is a vast system of procuring where each, discouraged from love, the honest man because his love is betrayed, the man of good fortunes because the variety of intrigues is for him an appurtenance of love, dashes and rolls in the orgy.
Abuse! Cry the jurists, perversity of man. It is not property that makes us envious and greedy, which makes our passions spring up, and arms with its sophisms our bad faith. It is our passions, our vices, on the contrary, which sully and corrupt property.
I would like it as well if one says to me that it is not concubinage that sullies man, but that it is man who, by his passions and vices, sullies and corrupts concubinage. But, doctors, the facts that I denounce, are they, or are they not, of the essence of property? Are they not, from the legal point of view, irreprehensible, placed in the shelter of every judiciary action? Can I remand to the judge, summon to appear before the tribunals this journalist who prostitutes his pen for money? That advocate, that priest, who sells to iniquity, the one his speech, the other his prayers? This doctor who allows the poor man to perish, if he does not submit in advance the fee demanded? This old satyr who deprives his children for a courtesan? Can I prevent a licitation that will abolish the memory of my forefathers, and render their posterity without ancestors, as if it was of incestuous or adulterine stock? Can I restrain the proprietor, without compensating him beyond what he possesses, that is without wrecking society, for heeding the needs of society?...
Property, you say, is innocent of the crime of the proprietor; property is good and useful in itself: it is our passions and our vices which deprave it.
Thus, in order to save property, you distinguish it from morals! Why not distinguish it right away from society? That was precisely the reasoning of the economists. Political economy, said M. Rossi, is in itself good and useful; but it is not moral: it proceeds, setting aside all morality; it is for us not to abuse its theories, to profit from its teachings, according to the higher laws of morality. As if he said: Political economy, the economy of society is not society; the economy of society proceeds without regard to any society; it is up to us not to abuse its theories, to profit from its teachings, according to the higher laws of society! What chaos!
I not only maintain with the economists that property is neither morals nor society; but more that it is by its principle directly contrary to morals and to society, just as political economy is anti-social, because its theories are diametrically opposed to the social interest.
According to the definition, property is the right of use and abuse, which is to say the absolute, irresponsible domain, of man over his person and his goods. If property ceased to be the right of abuse, it would cease to be property. I have taken my examples from the category of abusive acts permitted to the proprietor: what happens here that is not of an unimpeachable legality and propriety? Hasn’t the proprietor the right to give his goods to whomever seems good to him, to leave his neighbor to burn without crying fire, to oppose himself to the public good, to squander his patrimony, to exploit and fleece the worker, to produce badly and sell badly? Can the proprietor be judicially constrained to use his property well? Can he be disturbed in the abuse? What am I saying? Isn’t property, precisely because it is abusive, that which is most sacred for the legislator? Can one conceive of a property for which police would determine the use, and suppress the abuse? And is it not evident, finally, that if one wanted to introduce justice into property, one would destroy property; as the law, by introducing honesty into concubinage, has destroyed concubinage?
Thus, property, in principle and in essence, is immoral: that proposition is soon reached by critique. Consequently the Code, which, in determining the right of the proprietor, has not reserved those of morals, is a code of immorality; jurisprudence, that alleged science of right, which is nothing other than the collection of the proprietary rubrics, is immoral, and justice, is instituted in order protect the free and peaceful abuse of property; justice, which orders us to come to the aid against those who would oppose themselves to that abuse; which afflicts and marks with infamy whoever is so daring as to claim to mend the outrages of property, justice is infamous. If child, supplanted in the paternal affection by an unworthy mistress, should destroy the document which disinherits and dishonors him, he would respond before justice. Accused, convicted, condemned, he would go to the penal colony to make honorable amends to property, while the prostitute will be sent off in possession. Where then is the immorality here? Where is the infamy? Is it not on the side of justice? Let us continue to unwind this chain, and we will soon know the whole truth that we seek. Not only is justice, instituted to protect property, itself abusive, itself immoral, infamous; but the penal sanction is infamous, the police are infamous, the executioner and the gallows, infamous, and property, which embraces that whole series, property, from which this odious lineage come, property is infamous.
Judges armed to defend it, magistrates whose zeal is a permanent threat to those accused by it, I question you. What have you seen in property which has been able in this way to subjugate your conscience and corrupt your judgment? What principle, superior without doubt to property, more worthy of your respect than property, makes it so precious to you? When its works declare it infamous, how do you proclaim it holy and sacred? What consideration, what prejudice affects you?
Is it the majestic order of human societies, that you do not understand, but of which you suppose that property is the unshakeable foundation?—No, since property, as it is, is for you order itself; since first it is proven that property is by nature abusive, that is to say disorderly and anti-social.
Is it Necessity or Providence, the laws of which we do not understand, but the designs of which we adore? —No, since, according to the analysis, property being contradictory and corruptible, it is for that very reason a negation of Necessity, an injury to Providence.
Is it a superior philosophy considering human miseries from on high, and seeking by evil to obtain the good? — No, since philosophy is the agreement of reason and experience, and in the judgment of reason as in that of experience, property is condemned.
Would this not be religion? — Perhaps!....