System of Economical Contradictions (Radical Review)
This is the translation as it appeared in The Radical Review:
SYSTEM OF ECONOMICAL CONTRADICTIONS
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MISERY.
By P. J. PROUDHON.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY THE EDITOR.
BEFORE entering upon the subject-matter of these new memoirs, I must explain an hypothesis which will undoubtedly seem strange, but in the absence of which it is impossible for me to proceed intelligibly: I mean the hypothesis of a God.
To suppose God, it will be said, is to deny him. Why do you not affirm him ?
Is it my fault if belief in Divinity has become a suspected opinion; if the bare suspicion of a Supreme Being is already noted as evidence of a weak mind; and if, of all philosophical Utopias, this is the only one which the world no longer tolerates ? Is it my fault if hypocrisy and imbecility everywhere hide behind this holy formula ?
Let a public teacher suppose the existence, in the universe, of an unknown force governing suns and atoms, and keeping the whole machine in motion. With him this supposition, wholly gratuitous, is perfectly natural; it is received, encouraged: witness attraction—an hypothesis which will never be verified, and which, nevertheless, is the glory of its originator. But when, to explain the course of human events, I suppose, with all imaginable caution, the intervention of a God, I am sure to shock scientific gravity and offend critical ears: to so wonderful an extent has our piety discredited Providence, so many tricks have been played by means of this dogma or fiction by charlatans of every stamp ! I have seen the theists of my time, and blasphemy has played over my lips ; I have studied the belief of the people,— this people that Brydaine called the best friend of God,—and have shuddered at the negation which was about to escape me. Tormented by conflicting feelings, I appealed to reason; and it is reason which, amid so many dogmatic contradictions, now forces the hypothesis upon me. A priori dogmatism, applying itself to God, has proved fruitless: who knows whither the hypothesis, in its turn, will lead us?
I will explain therefore how, studying in the silence of my heart, and far from every human consideration, the mystery of social revolutions, God, the great unknown, has become for me an hypothesis,—I mean a necessary dialectical tool.
If I follow the God-idea through its successive transformations, I find that this idea is preeminently social: I mean by this that it is much more a collective act of faith than an individual conception. Now, how and under what circumstances is this act of faith produced ? This point it is important to determine.
From the moral and intellectual point of view, society, or the collective man, is especially distinguished from the individual by spontaneity of action,—in other words, instinct. While the individual obeys, or imagines he obeys, only those motives of which he is fully conscious, and upon which he can at will decline or consent to act; while, in a word, he thinks himself free, and all the freer when he knows that he is possessed of keener reasoning faculties and larger information,—society is governed by impulses which, at first blush, exhibit no deliberation and design, but which gradually seem to be directed by a superior power, existing outside of society, and pushing it with irresistible might toward an unknown goal. The establishment of monarchies and republics, caste-distinctions, judicial institutions, etc., are so many manifestations of this social spontaneity, to note the effects of which is much easier than to point out its principle and show its cause. The whole effort, even of those who, following Bossuet, Vico, Herder, Hegel, have applied themselves to the philosophy of history, has been hitherto to establish the presence of a providential destiny presiding over all the movements of man. And I observe, in this connection, that society never fails to evoke its genius previous to action: as if it wished the powers above to ordain what its own spontaneity has already resolved on. Lots, oracles, sacrifices, popular acclamation, public prayers, are the commonest forms of these tardy deliberations of society.
This mysterious faculty, wholly intuitive, and, so to speak, super-social, scarcely or not at all perceptible in persons, but which hovers over humanity like an inspiring genius, is the primordial fact of all psychology.
Now, unlike other species of animals, which, like him, are governed at the same time by individual desires and collective impulses, man has the privilege of perceiving and designating to his own mind the instinct or fatum which leads him; we shall see later that he has also the power of foreseeing and even influencing its decrees. And the first act of man, filled and carried away with enthusiasm (of the divine breath), is to adore the invisible Providence on which he feels that he depends, and which he calls God,—that is, Life, Being, Spirit, or, simpler still, Me; for all these words, in the ancient tongues, are synonyms and homophones.
"I am Me" God said to Abraham, "and I covenant with Thee.". . . . And to Moses: "I am the Being. Thoushalt say unto the children of Israel, ' The Being hath sent me unto you.' " These two words, the Being and Me, have in the original language—the most religious that men have ever spoken—the same characteristic. ' Elsewhere, when Ie-hovah, actipg as law-giver through the instrumentality of Moses, attests his eternity and swears by his own essence, he uses, as a form of oath, // or else, with redoubled force, /, the Being. Thus the God of the Hebrews is the most personal and wilful of all the gods, and none express better than he the intuition of humanity.
1 Ie-hovah, and in composition lah, the being; loo, ioupiter, same meaning; ha-iah, Heb., he was; ei, Gr., he is, ei-nai, to be; an-i, Heb., and in conjugation th-i, me; e-go, io, ich, i, m-i, m-e, t-ibi, t-e, and all the personal pronouns in which the vowels i, e, ei, oi, denote personality in general, and the consonants noi«,i or /, serve to indicate the number of the person. For the rest, let who will dispute over these analogies ; I have no objections : at this depth, the science of the philologist is but cloud and mystery. The important point to which I wish to call attention is that the phonetic relation of names seems to correspond to the metaphysical relation of ideas.
God appeared to man, then, as a me, as a pure and permanent essence, placing himself before him as a monarch before his servant, and expressing himself now through the mouth of poets, legislators, and soothsayers, musa, nomos, numen; now through the popular voice, vox populi vox Dei. This may serve, among other things, to explain the existence of true and false oracles ; why individuals secluded from birth do not attain of themselves to the idea of God, while they eagerly grasp it as soon as it is presented to them by the collective mind; why, finally, stationary races, like the Chinese, end by losing it.1 In the first place, as to oracles, it is clear that all their accuracy depends upon the universal conscience which inspires them ; and, as to the idea of God, it is easily seen why isolation and statu quo are alike fatal to it . On the one hand, absence of communication keeps the mind absorbed in animal self-contemplation ; on the other, absence of motion, gradually changing social life into mechanical routine, finally eliminates the idea of will and providence. Strange fact! religion, which perishes through progress, perishes also through quiescence.
Notice further that, in attributing to the vague and (so to speak) objectified consciousness of a universal reason rne first revelation of Divinity, we assume absolutely nothing concerning even the reality or non-reality of God. In fact, admitting that God is nothing more than collective instinct or universal reason, we have still to learn what this universal reason is in itself. For, as we shall show directly, universal reason is not given in individual reason ; in other words, the knowledge of social laws, or the theory of collective ideas, though deduced from the fundamental concepts of pure reason, is nevertheless wholly empirical, and never would have been discovered a priori by means of deduction, induction, or synthesis. Whence it follows that universal reason, which we regard as the origin of these laws ; universal reason, which exists, reasons, labors, in a separate sphere and as a reality distinct from pure reason, just as the planetary system, though created according to the laws of mathematics, is a reality distinct from mathematics, whose existence could not have been deduced from mathematics alone : it follows, I say, that universal reason is, in modern languages, exactly what the ancients called God. The name is changed : what do we know of the thing ?
1 The Chinese have preserved in their traditions the remembrance of a religion which had ceased to exist among them five or six centuries before our era. (See Pauthier, " China," Paris, Didot.) More surprising still is it that this singular people, in losing its primitive faith, seems to have understood that divinity is simplv the collective me of humanity: so that, more than two thousand years ago, China had reached, in its commonly-accepted belief, the latest results of the philosophy of the Occident. "What Heaven sees and understands," it is written in the Shu-king, "is only that which the people see and understand. What the people deem worthy of reward and punishment is that which Heaven wishes to punish and reward. There is an intimate communication between Heaven and the people : let those who govern the people, therefore, be watchful and cautious." Confucius expressed the same idea in another manner: " Gain the affection of the people, and you gain empire. Lose the affection of the people, and you lose empire." There, then, general reason was regarded as queen of the world, a distinction which elsewhere has been bestowed upon revelations. The Tao-tc-king is still more explicit. In this work, which is but an outline criticism of pure reason, the philosopher Lao-tse^ continually identifies, under the name of Tao, universal reason and the infinite being; and all the obscurity of the book of Lao-tse consists, in my opinion, of this constant identification of principles which our religious and metaphysical habits have so widely separated.
Let us now trace the evolution of the Divine idea.
The Supreme Being once posited by a primary mystical judgment, man immediately generalizes the subject by another mysticism,—analogy. God, so to speak, is as yet but a point: directly he shall fill the world.
As, in sensing his social me, man saluted his Author, so, in finding evidence of design and intention in animals, plants, springs, meteors, and the whole universe, he attributes to each special object, and then to the whole, a soul, spirit, or genius presiding over it; pursuing this inductive process of apotheosis from the highest summit of Nature, which is society, down to the humblest forms of life, to inanimate and inorganic matter. From his collective me, taken as the superior pole of creation, to the last atom of matter, man extends, then, the idea of God, —that is, the idea of personality and intelligence,—just as God himself extended heaven, as the book of Genesis tells us; that is, created space and time, the conditions of all things.
Thus, without a God or master-builder, the universe and man would not exist: such is the social profession of faith. But also without man God would not be thought, or—to clear the interval—God would be nothing. If humanity needs an author, God and the gods equally need a revealer; theogony, the history of heaven, hell, and their inhabitants,—those dreams of the human mind,—is the counterpart of the universe, which certain philosophers have called in return the dream of God. And how magnificent this theological creation, the work of society! The creation of the dhniourgos was obliterated; what we call the Omnipotent was conquered; and for centuries the enchanted imagination of mortals was turned away from the spectacle of Nature by the contemplation of Olympian marvels.
Let us descend from this fanciful region: pitiless reason knocks at the door; her terrible questions demand a reply.
"What is God?" she asks; "where is he? what is his extent ? what are his wishes ? what his powers ? what his promises?"—and here, in the light of analysis, all the divinities of heaven, earth, and hell are reduced to an incorporeal, insensible, immovable, incomprehensible, undefinable I-know-not-what; in short, to a negation of all the attributes of existence. In fact, whether man attributes to each object a special spirit or genius, or conceives the universe as governed by a single power, he in either case but Supposes an unconditioned, that is, an impossible, entity, that he may deduce therefrom an explanation of such phenomena as he deems inconceivable on any other hypothesis. The mystery of God and reason ! In order to render the, object of his idolatry more and more rational, the believer despoils him successively of all the qualities which would make him real; and, after marvellous displays of logic and genius, the attributes of the Being par excellence are found to be the same as those of nihility. This evolution is inevitable and fatal: atheism is at the bottom of all theodicy.
Let us try to understand this progress.
God, creator of all things, is himself no sooner created by the conscience,—in other words, no sooner have we lifted God from the idea of the social me to the idea of the cosmic me,—than immediately our reflection begins to demolish him under the pretext of perfecting him. To perfect the idea of God, to purify the theological dogma, was the second hallucination of the human race.
The spirit of analysis, that untiring Satan who continually questions and denies, must sooner or later look for proof of religious dogmas. Now, whether the philosopher determine the idea of God, or declare it indeterminable; whether he approach it with his reason, or retreat from it,—I say that this idea receives a blow; and, as it is impossible for speculation to halt, the idea of God must at last disappear. Then the atheistic movement is the second act of the theologic drama; and this second act follows from the first, as effect from cause. " The heavens declare the glory of God," says the Psalmist. Let us add, And their testimony dethrones him.
Indeed, in proportion as man observes phenomena, he thinks that he perceives, between Nature and God, intermediaries; such as relations of number, form, and succession ; organic laws, evolutions, analogies,—forming an unmistakable series of manifestations which invariably produce or give rise to each other. He even observes that, in the development of this society of which he is a part, private wills and associative deliberations have some influence; and he says to himself that the Great Spirit does not act upon the world directly and by himself, or arbitrarily and at the dictation of a capricious will, but mediately, by perceptible means or organs, and by virtue of laws. And, retracing in his mind the chain of effects and causes, he places clear at the extremity, as a balance, God.
A poet has said,—
Par dela tons Us cieux. Ie Dieu des cicux rhide.
Thus, at the first step in the theory, the Supreme Being is reduced to the function of a motive power, a mainspring, a cornerstone, or, if a still more trivial comparison may be allowed me, a constitutional sovereign, reigning but not governing, swearing to obey the law and appointing ministers to execute it. But, under the influence of the mirage which fascinates him, the theist sees, in this ridiculous system, only a new proof of the sublimity of his idol; who, in his opinion, uses his creatures as instruments of his power, and causes the wisdom of human beings to redound to his glory.
Soon, not content with limiting the power of the Eternal, man, increasingly deicidal in his tendencies, insists on sharing it .
If I am a spirit, a sentient me giving voice to ideas, continues the theist, I consequently am a part of absolute existence; I am free, creative, immortal, equal with God. Cogito, ergo sum,—I think, therefore I am immortal: that is the corollary, the translation of Ego sum qui sum: philosophy is in accord with the Bible. The existence of God and the immortality of the soul are posited by the conscience in the same judgment: there, man speaks in the name of the universe, to whose bosom he transports his me; here, he speaks in his own name, without perceiving that, in this going and coming, he only repeats himself. The immortality of the soul, a true division of divinity, which, at the time of its first promulgation, arriving after a long interval, seemed a heresy to those faithful to the old dogma, has been none the less considered the complement of divine majesty, necessarily postulated by eternal*goodness and justice. Unless the soul is immortal, God is incomprehensible, say the theists; resembling in this the political theorists who regard sovereign representation and perpetual tenure of office as essential conditions of monarchy. But the inconsistency of the ideas is as glaring as the parity of the doctrines is exact: consequently the dogma of immortality soon became the stumbling-block of philosophical theologians, who, ever since the days of Pythagoras and Orpheus, have been making futile attempts to harmonize divine attributes with human liberty, and reason with faith. A subject of triumph for the impious! . . . . But the illusion could not yield so soon: the dogma of immortality, for the very reason that it was a limitation of the uncreated Being, was a step in advance. Now, though the human mind deceives itself by a partial acquisition of the truth, it never retreats, and this perseverance in progress is proof of its infallibility. Of this we shall soon see fresh evidence.
In making himself like God, man made God like himself: this correlation, which for many centuries had been execrated, was the secret spring which determined the new myth. In the days of the patriarchs God made an alliance with man; now, to strengthen the compact, God is to become a man. He will take on our flesh, our form, our passions, our joys, and our sorrows; will be born of woman, and die as we do. Then, after this humiliation of the infinite, man will still pretend that he has elevated the ideal of his God in making, by a logical conversion, him whom he had always called creator, a saviour, a redeemer. Humanity does not yet say, I am God: such a usurpation would shock its piety; it says, God is in me, Immanuel, nobiscum Deus. And, at the moment when philosophy with pride, and universal conscience with fright, shouted with unanimous voice, The gods are departing! excedere deos! a period of eighteen centuries of fervent adoration and superhuman faith was inaugurated.
But the fatal end approaches. The royalty which suffers itself to be limited will end by the rule of demagogues; the divinity which is denned dissolves in a pandemonium. Christolatry is the last term of this long evolution of human thought. The angels, saints, and virgins reign in heaven with God, says the catechism; and demons and" reprobates live in the hells of eternal punishment. Ultramundane society has its left and its right: it is time for the equation to be completed ; for this mystical hierarchy to descend upon earth and appear in its real character.
When Milton represents the first woman admiring herself in a fountain, and lovingly extending her arms toward her own image as if to embrace it, he paints, feature for feature, the human race.—This God whom you worship, O man! this God whom you have made good, just, omnipotent, omniscient, immortal, and holy, is yourself: this ideal of perfection is your image, purified in the shining mirror of your conscience. God, Nature, and man are three aspects of one and the same being; man is God himself arriving at self-consciousness through a thousand evolutions. In Jesus Christ man recognized himself as God; and Christianity is in reality the religion of God-man. There is no other God than he who in the beginning said, Me ; there is no other God than Thee.
Such are the last conclusions of philosophy, which dies in unveiling religion's mystery and its own.
It seems, then, that all is ended; it seems that, with the cessation of the worship and mystification of humanity by itself, the theological problem is for ever put aside. The gods have gone: there is nothing left for man but to grow weary and die in his egoism. What frightful solitude extends around me, and forces its way to the bottom of my soul! My exaltation resembles annihilation; and, since I made myself a God, I seem but a shadow. It is possible that I am still a me, but it is very difficult to regard myself as the absolute; and, if I am not the absolute, I am only half of an idea.
Some ironical thinker, I know not who, has said: " A little philosophy leads away from religion, and much philosophy leads back to it." This proposition is humiliatingly true.
Every science develops in three successive periods, which may be called—comparing them with the grand periods of civilization—the religious period, the sophistical period, the scientific period.1 Thus, alchemy represents the religious period of the science afterwards called chemistry, whose definitive plan is not yet discovered; likewise astrology was the religious period of another science, since established,—astronomy.
Now, after being laughed at for sixty years about the philosopher's stone, chemists, governed by experience, no longer dare to deny the transmutability of bodies; while astronomers are led by the structure of the world to suspect also an organism of the world; that is, something precisely like astrology. Are we not justified in saying, in imitation of the philosopher just quoted, that, if a little chemistry leads away from the philosopher's stone, much chemistry leads back to it; and similarly, that, if a little astronomy makes us laugh at astrologers, much astronomy will make us believe in them ?2
' See, among others, Auguste Comte, " Course of Positive Philosophy," and P. J. Proudhon, " Creation of Order in Humanity."
a I do not mean to affirm here in a positive manner the transmutability of bodies, or to point it out as a subject for investigation; still less do I pretend to say what ought to be the opinion of savants upon this point. I wish only to call attention to the species of scepticism generated in every uninformed mind by the most general conclusions of chemical philosophy, or, better, by the irreconcilable hypotheses which serve as the basis of its theories. Chemistry is truly the despair of reason: on all sides it mingles with the fanciful; and the more knowledge of it we gain by experience, the more it envelops itself in impenetrable mysteries. This thought was recently suggested to me by reading M. Liebig's " Letters on Chemistry" (Paris, Masgana, 1845, translation of Bertet-Dupiney andDubreuil-HeMion).
Thus M. Liebig, after having banished from science hypothetical causes and all the entities admitted by the ancients,—such as the creative power of matter, the horror of a vacuum, the esprit recteur, etc. (p. 22),—admits immediately, as necessary to the comprehension of chemical phenomena, a series of entities no less obscure,—vital force, chemical force, electric force, the force of attraction, etc . (pp. 146, 149). One might call it a realization of the properties of bodies, in imitation of the psychologists' re
I certainly have less inclination to the marvellous than many atheists, but I cannot help thinking that the stories of miracles,
alization of the faculties of the soul under the names liberty, imagination, memory, etc. Why not keep to the elements ? Why, if the atoms have weight of their own, as M. Liebig appears to believe, may they not also have electricity and life of their own? Curious thing I the phenomena of matter, like those of mind, become intelligible only by supposing them to be produced by unintelligible forces and governed by contradictory laws: such is the inference to be drawn from every page of M. Liebig's book.
Matter, according to M. Liebig, is essentially inert and entirely destitute of spontaneous activity (p. 148): why, then, do the atoms have weight ? Is not the weight inherent in atoms the real, eternal, and spontaneous motion of matter ? And that which we chance to regard as rest,—may it not be equilibrium rather ? Why, then, suppose now an inertia which definitions contradict, now an external potentiality which nothing proves ?
Atoms having weight, M. Liebig infers that they are indivisible (p. 58). What logic I Weight is only force, that is, a thing hidden from the senses, whose phenomena alone are perceptible,—a thing, consequently, to which the idea of division and indivision is inapplicable; and from the presence of this force, from the hypothesis of an indeterminate and immaterial entity, is inferred an indivisible material existence I
For the rest, M. Liebig confesses that it is impossible for the mind to conceive of particles absolutely indivisible; he recognizes, further, that the fact of this indivisibility is not proved; but he adds that science cannot dispense with this hypothesis: so that, by the confession of its teachers, chemistry has for its point of departure a fiction as repugnant to the mind as it is foreign to experience. What irony I
Atoms are unequal in weight, says M. Liebig, because unequal in volume : nevertheless, it is impossible to demonstrate that chemical equivalents express the relative weight of atoms, or, in other words, that what the calculation of atomic equivalents leads us to regard as an atom is not composed of several atoms. This is tantamount to saying that more matter weighs more than less matter; and, since weight is the essence of materiality, we may logically conclude that, weight being universally identical with itself, there is also an identity in matter; that the differences of simple bodies are due solely, either to different methods of atomic association, or to different degrees of molecular condensation, and that, in reality, atoms are transmutable: which M. Liebig does not admit.
" We have," he says, " no reason for believing that one element is convertible into another element" (p. 135). What do you know about it ? The reasons for believing in such a conversion can very well exist and at the same time escape your attention; and it is not certain that your intelligence in this respect has risen to the level of your experience. But, admitting the negative argument of M. Liebig, what follows ? That, with about fifty-six exceptions, irreducible as yet, all matter is in a condition of perpetual metamorphosis. Now, it is a law of our reason to suppose in Nature unity of substance as well as unity of force and system; moreover, the series of chemical compounds and simple substances themselves leads us irresistibly to this conclusion. Why, then, refuse to follow to the end the road opened by science, and to admit an hypothesis which is the inevitable result of experience itself?
M. Liebig not only denies the transmutability of elements, but rejects the spontaneous formation of germs. Now, if we reject the spontaneous formation of germs, we are forced to admit their eternity; and as, on the other hand, geology proves that the globe has not been inhabited always, we must admit also that, at a given moment, the eternal germs of animals and plants were born, without father or mother, over the whole face of the earth. Thus, the denial of spontaneous generation leads back to the hypothesis of spontaneity : what is there in much-derided metaphysics more contradictory ?
Let it not be thought, however, that I deny the value and certainty of chemical theories, or that the atomic theory seems to me absurd, or that I share the Epicurean opinion as to spontaneous generation. Once more, all that I wish to point out is that, from the point of view of principles, chemistry needs to exercise extreme tolerance, since its own existence depends on a certain number of fictions, contrary to reason and experience, and destructive of each other.
prophecies, charms, etc., are but distorted accounts of the extraordinary effects produced by certain latent forces, or, as was formerly said, by occult powers. Our science is still so brutal and unfair; our professors exhibit so much impertinence with so little knowledge ; they deny so impudently facts which embarrass them, in order to protect the opinions which they champion, —that I distrust strong minds equally with superstitious ones. Yes, I am convinced of it; our gross rationalism is the inauguration of a period which, thanks to science, will become truly prodigious; the universe, to my eyes, is only a laboratory of
magic, from which any thing may be expected This
said, I return to my subject.
They would be deceived, then, who should imagine, after my rapid survey of religious progress, that metaphysics has uttered its last word upon the double enigma expressed in these four words,—the existence of God, the immortality of the soul. Here, as elsewhere, the most advanced and best established conclusions, those which seem to have settled for ever the theological question, lead us back to primeval mysticism, and involve the new data of an inevitable philosophy. The criticism of religious opinions makes us smile to-day both at ourselves and at religions ; and yet the rhumi of this criticism is but a reproduction of the problem. The human race, at the present moment, is on the eve of recognizing and affirming something equivalent to the old notion of Divinity; and this, not by a spontaneous movement as before, but through reflection and by means of irresistible logic. I will try, in a few words, to make myself understood.
If there is a point on which philosophers, in spite of themselves, have finally succeeded in agreeing, it is without doubt the distinction between intelligence and necessity, the subject of thought and its object, the me and the not-me; in ordinary terms, spirit and matter. I know well that all these terms express nothing that is real and true ; that each of them designates only a section, of the absolute, which alone is true and real; and that, taken separately, they involve, all alike, a contradiction. But it is no less certain also that the absolute is completely inaccessible to us ; that we know it only by its opposite extremes, which alone fall within the limits of our experience ; and that, if unity only can win our faith, duality is the first condition of science.
Thus, who thinks, and what is thought ? What is a soul ? what is a body? I defy any one to escape this dualism. It is with essences as with ideas : the former are seen separated in Nature, as the latter in the understanding ; and just as the ideas of God and immortality, in spite of their identity, are posited successively and contradictorily in philosophy, so, in spite of their fusion in the absolute, the me and the not-me posit themselves separately and contradictorily in Nature, and we have beings who think, at the same time with others which do not think.
Now, whoever has taken pains to reflect knows to-day that such a distinction, wholly realized though it be, is the most unintelligible, most contradictory, most absurd thing which reason can possibly meet. Being is- no more conceivable without the properties of spirit than without the properties of matter: so that if you deny spirit, because, included in none of the categories of time, space, motion, solidity, etc., it seems deprived of all the attributes which constitute reality, I in my turn will deny matter, which, presenting nothing appreciable but its inertia, nothing intelligible but its forms, manifests itself nowhere as cause (voluntary and free), and disappears from view entirely as substance ; and we arrive at pure idealism, that is, nihility. But nihility is inconsistent with the existence of living, reasoning—I know not what to call them—uniting in themselves, in a state of commenced synthesis or imminent dissolution, all the antagonistic attributes of being. We are compelled, then, to end in a dualism whose terms we know perfectly well to be false, but which, being for us the condition of the truth, forces itself irresistibly upon us; we are compelled, in short, to commence, like Descartes and the human race, with the me; that is, with spirit.
But, since religions and philosophies, dissolved by analysis, have disappeared in the theory of the absolute, we know no better than before what spirit is, and in this differ from the ancients only in the wealth of language with which we adorn the darkness that envelops us. With this exception, however; that while, to the ancients, order revealed intelligence outside of the world, to the people of to-day it seems to reveal it rather within the world. Now, whether we place it within or without, from the moment we affirm it on the ground of order, we must admit it wherever order is manifested, or deny it altogether. There is no more reason for attributing intelligence to the head which produced the "Iliad" than to a mass of matter which crystallizes in octahedrons; and, reciprocally, it is as absurd to refer the system of the world to physical laws, leaving out an ordaining Me, as to attribute the victory of Marengo to strategic combinations, leaving out the first consul. The only distinction that can be made is that, in the latter case, the thinking Me is located in the brain of a Bonaparte, while, in the case of the universe, the Me has no special location, but extends everywhere. "
The materialists think that they have easily disposed of their opponents by saying that man, having likened the universe to his body, finishes the comparison by presuming the existence in the universe of 'a soul similar to that which he supposes to be the principle of his own life and thought; that thus all the arguments in support of the existence of God are reducible to an analogy all the more false because the term of comparison is itself hypothetical.
It is certainly not my intention to defend the old syllogism: Every arrangement implies an ordaining intelligence; there is wonderful order in the world; then the world is the work of an intelligence. This syllogism, discussed so widely since the days of Job and Moses, very far from being a solution, is but the statement of the problem which it assumes to solve. We know perfectly well what order is, but we are absolutely ignorant of the meaning of the words Soul, Spirit, Intelligence: how, then, can we logically reason from the presence of the one to the existence of the other? I reject, then, even when advanced by the most thoroughly informed, the pretended proof of the existence of God drawn from the presence of order in the world; I see in it at most only an equation offered to philosophy. Between the conception of order and the affirmation of spirit there is a deep gulf of metaphysics to be filled up; I am unwilling, I repeat, to take the problem for the demonstration.
But this is not the point which we are now considering. I have tried to show that the human mind was inevitably and irresistibly led to the distinction of being into me and notme, spirit and matter, soul and body. Now, who does not see that the objection of the materialists proves the very thing it is intended to deny ? Man distinguishing within himself a spiritual principle and a material principle,—what is this but Nature herself, proclaiming by turns her double essence, and bearing testimony to her own laws ? And notice the inconsistency of materialism : it denies, and has to deny, that man is free; now, the less liberty man has, the more weight is to be attached to his words, and the greater their claim to be regarded as the expression of truth. When I hear this machine say to me, " I am soul and I am body," though such a revelation astonishes and confounds me, it is invested in my eyes with an authority incomparably greater than that of the materialist who, correcting conscience and Nature, undertakes to make them say, " I am matter and only matter, and intelligence is but the material faculty of knowing."
What would become of this assertion, if, assuming in my turn the offensive, I should demonstrate that belief in the existence of bodies, or, in other words, in the reality of a purely corporeal nature, is untenable ? Matter, they say, is impenetrable.—Impenetrable by what ? I ask. Itself, undoubtedly ; for they would not dare to say spirit, since they would therein admit what they wish to set aside. Whereupon I raise this double question: What do you know about it, and what does it signify ?
I. Impenetrability, which is pretended to be the definition of matter, is only an hypothesis of careless naturalists, a gross conclusion deduced from a superficial judgment. Experience shows that matter possesses infinite divisibility, infinite expansibility, porosity without assignable limits, and permeability by heat, electricity, and magnetism, together with a power of retaining them indefinitely; affinities, reciprocal influences, and transformations without number: qualities, all of them, hardly compatible with the assumption of an impenetrable aliquid. Elasticity, which, better than any other property of matter, could lead, through the idea of spring or resistance, to that of impenetrability, is subject to the control of a thousand circumstances, and depends entirely on molecular attraction: now, what is more irreconcilable with impenetrability than this attraction ? Finally, there is a science which might be defined with exactness as the science of the penetrability of matter: I mean chemistry. In fact, how does what is called chemical composition differ from penetration ?1 . . . In short, we know matter only through its forms; of its substance we know nothing. How, then, is it possible to affirm the reality of an invisible, impalpable, incoercible being, ever changing, ever vanishing, impenetrable to thought alone, to which it exhibits only its disguises ? Materialist! I permit you to testify to the reality of your sensations; as to what occasions them, all that you can say involves this reciprocity : something (which you call matter) is the occasion of sensations which are felt by another something (which I call spirit).
2. But what, then, is the source of this supposition that matter is impenetrable, which external observation does not justify and which is not true; and what is its meaning ?
Here appears the triumph of dualism. Matter is pronounced impenetrable, not, as the materialists and the vulgar fancy, by the testimony of the senses, but by the conscience. The me, an incomprehensible nature, feeling itself free, distinct, and permanent, and meeting outside of itself another nature equally incomprehensible, but also distinct and permanent in spite of its metamorphoses, declares, on the strength of the sensations and ideas which this essence suggests to it, that the not-me is extended and impenetrable. Impenetrability is a figurative term, an image by which thought, a division of the absolute, pictures to itself material reality, another division of the absolute; but this impenetrability, without which matter disappears, is, in the
1 Chemists distinguish between mixture and composition, just as logicians distinguish between the association of ideas and their synthesis. It is true, nevertheless, that, according to the chemists, composition may be after all but a mixture, or rather an aggregation of atoms, no longer fortuitous, but systematic, the atoms forming different compounds by varying their arrangement. But still this is only an hypothesis, wholly gratuitous; an hypothesis which explains nothing, and has not even the merit of being logical. Why does a purely numerical or geometrical difference in the composition and form of atoms give rise to physiological properties so different ? If atoms are indivisible and impenetrable, why does not their association, confined to mechanical effects, leave them unchanged in essence ? Where is the relation between the cause supposed and the effect obtained ?
We must distrust our intellectual vision: it is with chemical theories as with psychological systems. The mind, in order to account for phenomena, works with atoms, which it does not and can never see, as with the me, which it does not perceive : it applies its categories to ever)' thing; that is, it distinguishes, individualizes, concretes, numbers, compares, things which, material or immaterial, are thoroughly identical and indistinguishable. Matter, as well as spirit, plays, as we view it, all sorts of parts ; and, as there is nothing arbitrary in its metamorphoses, we build upon them these psychologic and atomic theories, true in so far as they faithfully represent, in terms agreed upon, the series of phenomena, but radically false as soon as they pretend to realize their abstractions and are accepted literally.
last analysis, only a spontaneous judgment of inward sensation, a metaphysical a priori, an unverified hypothesis of spirit.
Thus, whether philosophy, after having overthrown theological dogmatism, spiritualizes matter or materializes thought, idealizes being or realizes ideas; or whether, identifying substance and cause, it everywhere substitutes Force, phrases, all, which explain and signify nothing,—it always leads us back to this everlasting dualism, and, in summoning us to believe in ourselves, compels us to believe in God, if not in spirits. It is true that, making spirit a part of Nature, in distinction from the ancients, who separated it, philosophy has been led to this famous conclusion, which sums up nearly all the fruit of its researches: In man spirit knows itself, while everywhere else it seems not to know itself.—" That which is awake in man, which dreams in the animal, and sleeps in the stone," said a philosopher.
Philosophy, then, in its last hour, knows no more than at its birth.: as if it had appeared in the world only to verify the words of Socrates, it says to us, wrapping itself solemnly around with its funeral pall, " I know only that I know nothing." What do I say? Philosophy knows to-day that all its judgments rest on two equally false, equally impossible, and yet equally necessary and inevitable hypotheses,—matter and spirit. So that, while in former times religious intolerance and philosophic disputes, spreading darkness everywhere, excused doubt and tempted to libidinous indifference, the triumph of negation on all points no longer permits even this doubt; thought, freed from every barrier, but conquered by its own successes, is forced to affirm what seems to it clearly contradictory and absurd. The savages say that the world is a great fetich watched over by a great manitou. For thirty centuries the poets, legislators, and sages of civilization, handing down from age to age the philosophic lamp, have written nothing more sublime than this profession of faith. And here, at the end of this long conspiracy against God, which has called itself philosophy, emancipated reason concludes with savage reason, The universe is a not-me, objectified by a me.
Humanity, then, inevitably supposes the existence of God: and if, during the long period which closes with our time, it has believed in the reality of its hypothesis; if it has worshipped the inconceivable object; if, after being apprehended in this act of faith, it persists knowingly, but no longer voluntarily, in this opinion of a sovereign being which it knows to be only a personification of its own thought; if it is on the point of again beginning its magic invocations,—we must believe that so astonishing an hallucination conceals some mystery, which deserves to be fathomed.
I say hallucination and mystery, but without intending to deny thereby the superhuman content of the God-idea, and without admitting the necessity of a new symbolism,—I mean a new religion. For if it is indisputable that humanity, in affirming God,— or all that is included in the word me or spirit,—only affirms itself, it is equally undeniable that it affirms itself as something other than its own conception of itself, as all mythologies and theologies show. And since, moreover, this affirmation is incontestable, it depends, without doubt, upon hidden relations, which ought, if possible, to be determined scientifically.
In other words, atheism, sometimes called humanism, true in its critical and negative features, would be, if it stopped at man in his natural condition, if it discarded as an erroneous judgment this first affirmation of humanity, that it is the daughter, emanation, image, reflection, or voice of God,—humanism, I say, if it thus denied its past, would be but one contradiction more. We are forced, then, to undertake the criticism of humanism; that is, to ascertain whether humanity, considered as a whole and throughout all its periods of development, satisfies the Divine idea, after eliminating from the latter the exaggerated and fanciful attributes of God; whether it satisfies the perfection of being; whether it satisfies itself. We are forced, in short, to inquire whether humanity tends toward God, according to the ancient dogma, or is itself becoming God, as modern philosophers claim. Perhaps we shall find in the end that the two systems, despite their seeming opposition, are both true and essentially identical: in that case, the infallibility of human reason, in its collective manifestations as well as its studied speculations, would be decisively confirmed.—In a word, until we have verified to man the hypothesis of God, there is nothing definitive in the atheistic negation.
It is, then, a scientific, that is, an empirical demonstration of the idea of God, that we need: now, such a demonstration has never been attempted. Theology dogmatizing on the authority of its myths, philosophy speculating by the aid of categories, God has existed as a transcendental conception, incognizable by the reason, and the hypothesis always subsists.
It subsists, I say, this hypothesis, more tenacious, more pitiless than ever. We have reached one of those prophetic epochs when society, scornful of the past and doubtful of the future, now distractedly clings to the present, leaving a few solitary thinkers to establish the new faith; now cries to God from the depths of its enjoyments and asks for a sign of salvation, or seeks in the spectacle of its revolutions, as in the entrails of a victim, the secret of its destiny.
Why need I insist further ? The hypothesis of God is allowable, for it forces itself upon every man in spite of himself: no one, then, can take exception to it. He who believes can do no less than grant me the supposition that God exists; he who denies is forced to grant it to me also, since he entertained it before me, every negation implying a previous affirmation; as for him who is in doubt, he needs but to reflect a moment to understand that his doubt necessarily supposes an unknown something, which, sooner or later, he will call God.
But if I possess, through the fact of my thought, the right to suppose God, I must abandon the right to affirm him. In other words, if my hypothesis is irresistible, that, for the present, is all that I can pretend. For to affirm is to determine; now every determination, to be true, must be reached empirically. In fact, whoever says determination, says relation, conditionality, experience. Since, then, the determination of the idea of God must result from an empirical demonstration, we must abstain from every thing which, in the search for this great unknown, not being established by experience, goes beyond the hypothesis, under penalty of relapsing into the contradictions of theology, and consequently arousing anew atheistic dissent.
It remains for me to tell why, in a work on political economy, I have felt it necessary to start with the fundamental hypothesis of all philosophy.
And first, I need the hypothesis of God to establish the authority of social science.—When the astronomer, to explain the system of the world, judging solely from appearance, supposes, with the vulgar, the sky arched, the earth flat, the sun much like a football, describing a curve in the air from east to west, he supposes the infallibility of the senses, reserving the right to rectify subsequently, after further observation, the data with which he is obliged to start. Astronomic philosophy, in fact, could not admit d priori that the senses deceive us, and that we do not see what we do see: admitting such a principle, what would become of the certainty of astronomy ? But the evidence of the senses being able, in certain cases, to rectify and' complete itself, the authority of the senses remains unshaken, and astronomy is possible.
So social philosophy does not admit d priori that humanity can err or be deceived in its actions: if it should, what would become of the authority of the human race, that is, the authority of reason, synonymous at bottom with the sovereignty of the people ? But it thinks that human judgments, always true at the time they are pronounced, can successively complete and throw light on each other, in proportion to the acquisition of ideas, in such a way as to maintain continual harmony between universal reason and individual speculation, and indefinitely extend the sphere of certainty: which is always an affirmation of the authority of human judgments.
Now, the first judgment of the reason, the preamble of every political constitution seeking a sanction and a principle, is necessarily this: There is a God; which means that society is governed with design, premeditation, intelligence. This judgment, which excludes chance, is, then, the foundation of the possibility of a social science; and every historical and positive study of social facts, undertaken with a view to amelioration and progress, must suppose, with the people, the existence of God, reserving the right to account for this judgment at a later period.
Thus the history of society is to us but a long determination of the idea of God, a progressive revelation of the destiny of man. And while ancient wisdom made all depend on the arbitrary and fanciful notion of Divinity, oppressing reason and conscience, and arresting progress through fear of an invisible master, the new philosophy, reversing the method, trampling on the authority of God as well as that of man, and accepting no other yoke than that of fact and evidence, makes all converge toward the theological hypothesis, as toward the last of its problems.
Humanitarian atheism is, therefore, the last step in the moral and intellectual enfranchisement of man, consequently the last phase of philosophy, serving as a pathway to the scientific reconstruction and verification of all the demolished dogmas.
I need the hypothesis of God, not only, as I have just said, to give a meaning to history, but also to legitimate the reforms to be effected, in the name of science, in the State.
Whether we consider Divinity as outside of society, whose movements it governs from on high (a wholly gratuitous and probably illusory opinion) ; or whether we deem it immanent in society and identical with that impersonal and unconscious reason which, acting instinctively, makes civilization advance (although impersonality and ignorance of self are contrary to the idea of intelligence); or whether, finally, all that is accomplished in society results from the relation of its elements (a system whose whole merit consists in changing an active into a passive, in making intelligence necessity, or, which amounts to the same thing, in taking law for cause),—it always follows that the manifestations of social activity, necessarily appearing to us either as indications of the will of the Supreme Being, or as a sort of language typical of general and impersonal reason, or, finally, as landmarks of necessity, are absolute authority for us. Being connected in time as well as in spirit, the facts accomplished determine and legitimate the facts to be accomplished ; science and destiny are in accord ; every thing which happens resulting from reason, and, reciprocally, reason judging only from experience of that which happens, science has a right to participate in government, and that which establishes its competency as a counsellor justifies its intervention as a sovereign.
Science, expressed, recognized, and accepted by the voice of all as divine, is queen of the world. Thus, thanks to the hypothesis of God, all conservative or retrogressive opposition, every dilatory plea offered by theology, tradition, or selfishness, finds itself peremptorily and irrevocably set aside.
I need the hypothesis of God to show'the tie which unites civilization with Nature.
In fact, this astonishing hypothesis, by which man is assimilated to the absolute, implying identity of the laws of Nature and the laws of reason, enables us to see in human industry the complement of creative action, unites man with the globe which he inhabits, and, in the cultivation of the domain in which Providence has placed us, which thus becomes in part our work, gives us a conception of the principle and end of all things. If, then, humanity is not God, it is a continuation of God; or, if a different phraseology be preferred, that which humanity does today by design is the same thing that it began by instinct, and which Nature seems to accomplish by necessity. In all these cases, and whichever opinion we may choose, one thing remains certain : the unity of action and law. Intelligent beings, actors in an intelligently-devised fable, we may fearlessly reason from ourselves to the universe and the eternal; and, when we shall have completed the organization of labor, may say with pride, The creation is explained.
Thus philosophy's field of exploration is fixed; tradition is the starting-point of all speculation as to the future; utopia is for ever exploded; the study of the me, transferred from the individual conscience to the manifestations of the social will, acquires the character of objectivity of which it has been hitherto deprived ; and, history becoming psychology, theology anthropology, the natural sciences metaphysics, the theory of the reason is deduced no longer from the vacuum of the intellect, but from the innumerable forms of a Nature abundantly and directly observable.
I need the hypothesis of God to prove my good-will towards a multitude of sects, whose opinions I do not share, but whose malice I fear:—theists; I know one who, in the cause of God, would be ready to draw sword, and, like Robespierre, use the guillotine until the last atheist should be destroyed, not dreaming that that atheist would be himself;—mystics, whose party, largely made up of students and women marching under the banner of MM. Lamennais, Quinet, Leroux, and others, has taken for a motto, " Like master, like man;" like God, like people; and, to regulate the wages of the workingman, begins by restoring religion ;—spiritualists, who, should I overlook the rights of spirit, would accuse me of establishing the worship of matter, against which I protest with all the strength of my soul; —sensualists and materialists, to whom the divine dogma is the symbol of constraint and the principle of enslavement of the passions, outside of which, they say, there is for man neither pleasure, nor virtue, nor genius;—eclectics and sceptics, sellers and publishers of all the old philosophies, but not philosophers themselves, united in one vast brotherhood, with approbation and privilege, against whoever thinks, believes, or affirms without their permission ;—conservatives finally, retrogressives, egotists, and hypocrites, preaching the love of God by hatred of their neighbor, attributing to liberty the world's misfortunes since the deluge, and scandalizing reason by their foolishness.
Is it possible, however, that they will attack an hypothesis which, far from blaspheming the revered phantoms of faith, aspires only to exhibit them in broad daylight; which, instead of rejecting traditional dogmas and the prejudices of conscience, asks only to verify them ; which, while defending itself against exclusive opinions, takes for an axiom the infallibility of reason, and, thanks to this fruitful principle, will doubtless never decide against any of the antagonistic sects ? Is it possible that the religious and political conservatives will charge me with disturbing the order of society, when I start with the hypothesis of a sovereign intelligence, the source of every thought of order ; that the semi-Christian democrats will curse me as an enemy of God, and consequently a traitor to the republic, when I am seeking for the meaning and content of the idea of God; and that the tradesmen of the university will impute to me the impiety of demonstrating the non-value of their philosophical products, when I am especially maintaining that philosophy should be studied in its' object,—that is, in the manifestations of society and Nature ? . . . .
I need the hypothesis of God to justify my style.
In my ignorance of every thing regarding God, the world, the soul, and destiny; forced to proceed like the materialist,—that is, by observation and experience,—and to conclude in the language of the believer, because there is no other; not knowing whether my formulas, theological in spite of me, would be taken literally or figuratively; in this perpetual contemplation of God, man, and things, obliged to submit to the synonymy of all the terms included in the three categories of thought, speech, and action, but wishing to affirm nothing on either one side or the other,— rigorous logic demanded that I should suppose, no more, no less, this unknown that is called God. We are full of Divinity, "jfovis omnia plena ; our monuments, our traditions, our laws, our ideas, our languages, and our sciences, all are infected by this indelible superstition outside of which we can neither speak nor act, and without which we do not even think.
Finally, I need the hypothesis of God to explain the publication of these new memoirs.
Our society feels itself big with events, and is anxious about the future: how account for these vague presentiments by the sole aid of a universal reason, immanent if you will, and permanent, but impersonal, and therefore dumb, or by the idea of necessity, if it implies that necessity is self-conscious, and consequently has presentiments ? There remains then, once more, an agent or nightmare which weighs upon society, and gives it visions.
Now, when society prophesies, it puts questions in the mouths of some, and answers in the mouths of others. And wise, then, he who can listen and understand; for God himself has spoken, quia locutus est Deus.
The Academy of Moral and Political Sciences has proposed the following question :—
"To determine the general facts which govern the relations of profits to wages, and to explain their respective oscillations."
A few years ago the same Academy asked, "What are the causes of misery?" The nineteenth century has, in fact, but one idea,—equality and reform. But the wind bloweth where it listeth: many began to reflect upon the question, no one answered it. The college of aruspices has, therefore, renewed its " question, but in more significant terms. It wishes to know whether order prevails in the workshop; whether wages are equitable ; whether liberty and privilege compensate each other justly; whether the idea of value, which controls all the facts of exchange, is, in the forms in which the economists have represented it, sufficiently exact; whether credit protects labor;
whether circulation is regular; whether the burdens of society weigh equally on all, etc.
And, indeed, insufficiency of income being the immediate cause of misery, it is fitting that we should know why, misfortune and malevolence aside, the workingman's income is insufficient. It is still the same question of inequality of fortunes, which has made such a stir for a century past, and which, by a strange fatality, continually reappears in academic programmes, as if there lay the real difficulty of modern times.
Equality, then,—its principle, its means, its obstacles, its theory, the motives of its postponement, the cause of social and providential iniquities,—these the world has got to learn, in spite of the sneers of incredulity.
I know well that the views of the Academy are not thus profound, and that it equals a council of the Church in its horror of novelties ; but the more it turns towards the past, the more it reflects the future, and the more, consequently, must we believe in its inspiration: for the true prophets are those who do not understand their utterances. Listen further.
"What," the Academy has asked, "are the most useful applications of the principle of voluntary and private association that we can make for the alleviation of misery?"
" To expound the theory and principles of the contract of insurance, to give its history, and to deduce from its rationale and the facts the developments of which this contract is capable, and the various useful applications possible in the present state of commercial and industrial progress."
Publicists admit that insurance, a rudimentary form of commercial solidarity, is an association in things, societas in re; that is, a society whose conditions, founded on purely economical relations, escape man's arbitrary dictation. So that a philosophy of insurance or mutual guarantee of security, which shall be deduced from the general theory of real (in re) societies, will contain the formula of universal association, in which no member of the Academy believes. And when, uniting subject and object in the same point of view, the Academy demands, by the side of a theory of association of interests, a theory of voluntary association, it reveals to us the most perfect form of society, and thereby affirms all that is most at variance with its convictions. Liberty, equality, solidarity, association! By what inconceivable blunder has so eminently conservative a body offered to the citizens this new programme of the rights of man ? It was in this way that Caiaphas prophesied redemption by disowning Jesus Christ.
Upon the first of these questions, forty-five memoirs were addressed to the Academy within two years,—a proof that the subject was marvellously well suited to the state of the public mind. But among so many competitors no one having been deemed worthy of the prize, the Academy has withdrawn the question ; alleging as a reason the incapacity of the competitors, but in reality because, the failure of the contest being the sole object that the Academy had in view, it behooved it to declare, without further delay, that the hopes of the friends of association were groundless.
Thus, then, the gentlemen of the Academy disavow, in their session-chamber, their announcements from the tripod! There is nothing in such a contradiction astonishing to me; and may God preserve me from calling it a crime! The ancients believed that revolutions announced their advent by dreadful signs, and that among other prodigies animals spoke. This was a figure, descriptive of those unexpected ideas and strange words which circulate suddenly among the masses at critical moments, and which seem to be entirely without human antecedent, so far removed are they from the sphere of ordinary judgment. At the time in which we live, such a thing could not fail to occur. After having, by a prophetic instinct and a mechanical spontaneity, pecudesque locutce, proclaimed association, the gentlemen of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences have returned to their ordinary prudence; and with them custom has conquered inspiration. Let us learn, then, how to distinguish heavenly counsel from the interested judgments of men, and hold it for certain that, in the discourse of sages, that is the most trustworthy to which they have given the least reflection.
Nevertheless the Academy, in breaking so rudely with its intuitions, seems to have felt some remorse. In place of a theory of association in which, after reflection, it no longer believes, it asks for a "Critical examination of Pestalozzi's system of instruction and education, considered mainly in its relation to the well-being and morality of the poor classes." Who knows ? perchance the relation between profits and wages, association, the organization of labor indeed, are to be found at the bottom of a system of instruction. Is not man's life a perpetual apprenticeship ? Are not philosophy and religion humanity's education ? To organize instruction, then, would be to organize industry and fix the theory of society: the Academy, in its lucid moments, always returns to that.
"What influence," the Academy again asks, "do progress and a desire for material comfort have upon a nation's morality ?"
Taken in its most obvious sense, this new question of the Academy is commonplace, and fit at best to exercise a rhetorician's skill. But the Academy, which must continue till the end in its ignorance of the revolutionary significance of its oracles, has drawn aside the curtain in its commentary. What, then, so profound has it discovered in this Epicurean thesis ?
"The desire for luxury and its enjoyments," it tells us; "the singular love of it felt by the majority; the tendency of hearts and minds to occupy themselves with it exclusively; the agreement of individuals And The State in making it the motive and the end of all their projects, all their efforts, and all their sacrifices,—engender general or individual feelings which, beneficent or injurious, become principles of action more potent, perhaps, than any which have heretofore governed men."
Never had moralists a more favorable opportunity to assail the sensualism of the century, the venality of consciences, and the corruption instituted by the government: instead of that, what does the Academy of Moral Sciences do ? With the most automatic calmness, it establishes a series in which luxury, so long proscribed by the stoics and ascetics,—those masters of holiness,—must appear in its turn as a principle of conduct as legitimate, as pure, and as grand as all those formerly invoked by religion and philosophy. Determine, it tells us, the motives of action (undoubtedly now old and worn-out) of which Luxury is historically the providential successor, and, from the results of the former, calculate the effects of the latter. Prove, in short, that Aristippus was only in advance of his century, and that his system of morality must have its day, as well as that of Zeno and A Kempis.
We are dealing, then, with a society which no longer wishes to be poor; which mocks at every thing that was once dear and sacred to it,—liberty, religion, and glory,—so long as it has not wealth ; which, to obtain it, submits to all outrages, and becomes an accomplice in all sorts of cowardly actions : and this burning thirst for pleasure, this irresistible desire to arrive at luxury,—a symptom of a new period in civilization,—is the supreme commandment by virtue of which we are to labor for the abolition of poverty: thus saith the Academy. What becomes, then, of the doctrine of expiation and abstinence, the morality of sacrifice, resignation, and happy moderation ? What distrust of the compensation promised in the other life, and what a contradiction of the Gospel! But, above all, what a justification of a government which has adopted as its system the golden key! Why have religious men, Christians, Senecas, given utterance in concert to so many immoral maxims ?
The Academy, completing its thought, will reply to us:—
"Show how the progress of criminal justice, in the prosecution and punishment of attacks upon persons and property, follows and marks the ages of civilization from the savage condition up to that of the best-governed nations."
Is it possible that the criminal lawyers in the Academy of Moral Sciences foresaw the conclusion of their premises ? The fact whose history is now to be studied, and which the Academy describes by the words "progress of criminal justice," is simply the gradual mitigation which manifests itself, both in the forms of criminal examinations and in the penalties inflicted, in proportion as civilization increases in liberty, light, and wealth. So that, the principle of repressive institutions being the direct opposite of all those on which the welfare of society depends, there is a constant elimination of all parts of the penal system as well as all judicial paraphernalia, and the final inference from this movement is that the guarantee of order lies neither in fear nor punishment; consequently, neither in hell nor religion.
What a subversion of received ideas! What a denial of all that it is the business of the Academy of Moral Sciences to defend ! But, if the guarantee of order no longer lies in the fear of a punishment to be suffered, either in this life or in another, where then are to be found the guarantees protective of persons and property ? Or rather, without repressive institutions, what becomes of property? And without property, what becomes of the family ?
The Academy, which knows nothing of all these things, replies without agitation:—
" Review the various phases of the organization of the family upon the soil of France from ancient times down to our day."
Which means : Determine, by the previous progress of family organization, the conditions of the existence of the family in a state of equality of fortunes, voluntary and free association, universal solidarity, material comfort and luxury, and public order without prisons, courts, police, or hangmen.
There will be astonishment, perhaps, at finding that the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, after having, like the boldest innovators, called in question all the principles of social order, — religion, family, property, justice, — has not also proposed this problem : What is the best form of government ? In fact, government is for society the source of all initiative, every guarantee, every reform. It would be, then, interesting to know whether the government, as constituted by the Charter, is adequate to the practical solution of the Academy's questions.
But it would be a misconception of the oracles to imagine that they proceed by induction and analysis; and precisely because the political problem was a condition or corollary of the demonstrations asked for, the Academy could not offer it for competition. Such a conclusion would have opened its eyes, and, without waiting for the memoirs of the competitors, it would have hastened to suppress its entire programme. The Academy has approached the question from above. It has said:—
The works of God are beautiful in their own essence, justificata in semet ipsa; they are true, in a word, because they are his. The thoughts of man resemble dense vapors pierced by long and narrow flashes. What, then, is the truth in relation to us, and what is the character of certainty ?
As if the Academy had said to us: You shall verify the hypothesis of your existence, the hypothesis of the Academy which interrogates you, the hypotheses of time, space, motion, thought, and the laws of thought. Then you may verify the hypothesis of pauperism, the hypothesis of inequality of conditions, the hypothesis of universal association, the hypothesis of happiness, the hypotheses of monarchy and republicanism, the hypothesis of Providence! . . . . A complete criticism of God and humanity. I point to the programme of the honorable society: it is not I who have fixed the conditions of my task, it is the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. Now, how can I satisfy these conditions, if I am not myself endowed with infallibility; in a word, if I am not God or divine? The Academy admits, then, that divinity and humanity are identical, or at least correlative; but the question now is in what consists this correlation: such is the meaning of the problem of certainty, such is the object of social philosophy.
Thus, then, in the name of the society that God inspires, an Academy questions.
In the name of the same society, I am one of the prophets who attempt to answer. The task is an immense one, and I do not promise to accomplish it: I will go as far as God shall give me strength. But, whatever I may say, it does not come from me: the thought which inspires my pen is not personal, and nothing that I write can be attributed to me. I shall give the facts as I have seen them ; I shall judge them by what I shall have said ; I shall call every thing by its strongest name, and no one will take offence. I shall inquire freely, and by the rules of divination which I have learned, into the meaning of the divine purpose which is now expressing itself through the eloquent lips of sages and the inarticulate wailings of the people: and, though I should deny all the prerogatives guaranteed by our Constitution, I shall not be factious. I shall point my finger whither an invisible influence is pushing us ; and neither my action nor my words shall be irritating. I shall stir up the cloud, and, though I should cause it to launch the thunderbolt, I should be innocent. In this solemn investigation to which the Academy invites me, I have more than the right to tell the truth,—I have, the right to say what I think: may my thought, my words, and the truth be but one and the same thing!
And you, reader,—for without a reader there is no writer,— you are half of my work. Without you, I am only sounding brass ; with the aid of your attention, I will speak marvels. Do you see this passing whirlwind called Society, from which burst forth, with startling brilliancy, lightnings, thunders, and voices ? I wish to cause you to place your finger on the hidden springs which move it; but to that end you must reduce yourself at my command to a state of pure intelligence. The eyes of love and pleasure are powerless to recognize beauty in a skeleton, harmony in naked viscera, life in dark and coagulated blood: consequently the secrets of the social organism are a sealed letter to the man whose brain is beclouded by passion and prejudice. Such sublimities are unattainable except by cold and silent contemplation. Suffer me, then, before revealing to your eyes the leaves of the book of life, to prepare your soul by this sceptical purification which the great teachers of the people,—Socrates, Jesus Christ, St. Paul, St. R£mi, Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Kant, etc.,—have always claimed of their disciples.
Whoever you may be, clad in the rags of misery or decked in the sumptuous vestments of luxury, I restore you to that state of luminous nudity which neither the fumes of wealth nor the poisons of envious poverty dim. How persuade the rich that the difference of conditions arises from an error in the accounts; and how can the poor, in their beggary, conceive that the proprietor possesses in good faith ? To investigate the sufferings of the laborer is to the idler the most intolerable of amusements; just as to do justice to the fortunate is to the miserable the bitterest of draughts.
You occupy a high position : I strip you of it;' there you are, free. There is too much optimism beneath this official costume, too much subordination, too much idleness. Science demands an insurrection of thought: now, the thought of an official is his salary.
Your mistress, beautiful, passionate, artistic, is, I like to believe, possessed only by you. That is, your soul, your spirit, your conscience, have passed into the most charming object of luxury that nature and art have produced for the eternal torment of fascinated mortals. I separate you from this divine half of yourself: at the present day it is too much to wish for justice and at the same time to love a woman. To think with grandeur and clearness, man must remove the lining of his nature and hold to his masculine hypostasis. Besides, in the state in which I have put you, your lover would no longer know you : remember the wife of Job.
What is your religion ? . . . . Forget your faith, and, through wisdom, become an atheist.—What I you say; an atheist in spite of our hypothesis! —No, but because of our hypothesis. One's thought must have been raised above divine things for a long time to be entitled to suppose a personality beyond man, a life beyond this life. For the rest, have no fears for your salvation. God is not angry with those who are led by reason to deny him, any more than he is anxious for those who are led by faith to worship him; and, in the state of your conscience, the surest course for you is to think nothing about him. Do you not see that it is with religion as with governments, the most perfect of which would be the denial of all ? Then let no political or religious fancy hold your soul captive; in this way only can you now keep from being either a dupe or a renegade. Ah ! said I in the days of my enthusiastic youth, shall I not hear the tolling for the second vespers of the republic, and our priests, dressed in white tunics, singing after the Doric fashion the returning hymn : Change, 6 Dieu, notre servitude, comme le vent du disert en un souffle rafratchissant! . . . . But I have despaired of republicans, and no longer know either religion or priests.
I should like also, in order to thoroughly secure your judgment, dear reader, to render your soul insensible to pity, superior to virtue, indifferent to happiness. But that would be too much to expect of a neophyte. Remember only, and never forget, that pity, happiness, and virtue, like country, religion, and love, are masks. . . .
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MISERY.
By P. J. PROUDHON.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY THE EDiTOR.
OF THE ECONOMIC SCIENCE.
§1.—Opposition between Fact and Right in social economy. AFFIRM the Reality of an economic science.
This proposition, which few economists now dare to question, is the boldest, perhaps, that a philosopher ever maintained; and the inquiries to follow will prove, I hope, that its demonstration will one day be deemed the greatest effort of the human mind.
I affirm, on the other hand, the absolute certainty as well as the progressive nature of economic science, of all the sciences in my opinion the most comprehensive, the purest, the best supported by facts: a new proposition, which alters this science into logic or metaphysics in concreto, and radically changes the basis of ancient philosophy. In other words, economic science is to me the objective form and realization of metaphysics ; it is metaphysics in action, metaphysics projected on the vanishing plane of time; and whoever studies the laws of labor and exchange is truly and specially a metaphysician.
After what I have said in the introduction, there is nothing in this which should surprise any one. The labor of man continues the work of God, who, in creating all beings, did but externally realize the eternal laws of reason. Economic science is, then, necessarily and at once a theory of ideas, a natural theology, and a psychology. This general outline alone would have sufficed to explain why, having to treat of economic matters, I was obliged previously to suppose the existence of God, and by what title, I, a simple economist, aspire to solve the problem of certainty.
But I hasten to say that I do not regard as a science the incoherent ensemble of theories to which the name political economy has been officially given for almost a hundred years, and which, in spite of the etymology of the name, is after all but the code, or immemorial routine, of property. These theories offer us only the rudiments, or first section, of economic science; and that is why, like property, they are all contradictory of each other, and half the time inapplicable. The proof of this assertion, which is, in one sense, a denial of political economy as handed down to us by Adam Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, and J. B. Say, and as we have known it for half a century, will be especially developed in this treatise.
The inadequacy of political economy has at all times impressed thoughtful minds, who, too fond of their dreams for practical investigation, and confining themselves to the estimation of apparent results, have constituted from the beginning a party of opposition to the statu quo, and have devoted themselves to persevering and systematic ridicule of civilization and its customs. Property, on the other hand, the basis of all social institutions, has never lacked zealous defenders, who, proud to be called practical, have exchanged blow for blow with the traducers of political economy, and have labored with a courageous and often skilful hand to strengthen the edifice which general prejudice and individual liberty have erected in concert. The controversy between conservatives and reformers, still pending, finds its counterpart, in the history of philosophy, in the quarrel between realists and nominalists; it is almost useless to add that, on both sides, right and wrong are equal, and that the rivalry, narrowness, and intolerance of opinions have been the sole cause of the misunderstanding.
Thus two powers are contending for the government of the world, and cursing each other with the fervor of two hostile religions: political economy, or tradition; and socialism, or Utopia.
What is, then, in more explicit terms, political economy ? What is socialism ?
Political economy is a collection of the observations thus far made in regard to the phenomena of the production and distribution of wealth; that is, in regard to the most common, most spontaneous, and therefore most genuine, forms of labor and exchange.
The economists have classified these observations as far as they were able; they have described the phenomena, and ascertained their contingencies and relations ; they have observed in them, in many cases, a quality of necessity which has given them the name of laws ; and this ensemble of information, gathered from the simplest manifestations of society, constitutes political economy.
Political economy is, therefore, the natural history of the most apparent and most universally accredited customs, traditions, practices, and methods of humanity in all that concerns the production and distribution of wealth. By this title, political economy considers itself legitimate in fact and in right: in fact, because the phenomena which it studies are constant, spontaneous, and universal; in right, because these phenomena rest on the authority of the human race, the strongest authority possible. Consequently, political economy calls itself a science; that is, a rational and systematic knowledge of regular and necessary facts.
Socialism, which, like the god Vishnu, ever dying and ever returning to life, has experienced within a score of years its tenthousandth incarnation in the persons of five or six revelators,— socialism affirms the irregularity of the present constitution of society, and, consequently, of all its previous forms. It asserts, and proves, that the order of civilization is artificial, contradictory, inadequate; that it engenders oppression, misery, and crime; it denounces, not to say calumniates, the whole past of social life, and pushes on with all its might to a reformation of morals and institutions.
Socialism concludes by declaring political economy a false and sophistical hypothesis, devised to enable the few to exploit the many; and, applying the maxim A fructibus cognoscetis, it ends with a demonstration of the impotence and emptiness of political economy by the list of human calamities for which it makes it responsible.
But if political economy is false, jurisprudence, which in all countries is the science of law and custom, is false also; since, founded on the distinction of thine and mine, it supposes the legitimacy of the facts described and classified by political economy. The theories of public and international law, with all the varieties of representative government, are also false, since they rest on the principle of individual appropriation and the absolute sovereignty of wills.
All these consequences socialism accepts. To it, political economy, regarded by many as the.physiology of wealth, is but the organization of robbery and poverty; just as jurisprudence, honored by legists with the name of written reason, is, in its eyes, but a compilation of the rubrics of legal and official spoliation,—in a word, of property. Considered in their. relations, these two pretended sciences, political economy and law, form, in the opinion of socialism, the complete theory of iniquity and discord. Passing then from negation to affirmation, socialism opposes the principle of property with that of association, and makes vigorous efforts to reconstruct social economy from top to bottom ; that is, to establish a new code, a new political system, with institutions and morals diametrically opposed to the ancient forms.
Thus the line of demarcation between socialism and political economy is fixed, and the hostility flagrant.
Political economy tends toward the glorification of selfishness; socialism favors the exaltation of communism.
The economists, saving a few violations of their principles, for which they deem it their duty to blame governments, are optimists with regard to accomplished facts; the socialists with regard to facts to be accomplished.
The first affirm that that which ought to be is; the second, that that which ought to be is not. Consequently, while the first are defenders of religion, authority, and the other principles contemporary with, and conservative of, property,—although their criticism, based solely on reason, deals frequent blows at their own prejudices,—the second reject authority and faith, and appeal exclusively to science,—although a certain religiosity, utterly illiberal, and an unscientific disdain for facts, are always the most obvious characteristics of their doctrines.
For the rest, neither party ever ceases to accuse the other of incapacity and sterility.
The socialists ask their opponents to account for the inequality of conditions, for those commercial debaucheries in which monopoly and competition, in monstrous union, perpetually give birth to luxury and misery; they reproach economic theories, always modeled after the past, with leaving the future hopeless ; in short, they point to the regime of property as a horrible hallucination, against which humanity has protested and struggled for four thousand years.
The economists, on their side, defy socialists to produce a system in which property, competition, and political organization can be dispensed with; they prove, with documents in hand, that all reformatory projects have ever been nothing but rhapsodies of fragments borrowed from the very system that socialism sneers at,—plagiarisms, in a word, of political economy, outside of which socialism is incapable of conceiving and formulating an idea.
Every day sees the proofs in this grave suit accumulating, and the question becoming confused.
While society has traveled and stumbled, suffered and thrived, in pursuing the economic routine, the socialists, since Pythagoras, Orpheus, and the unfathomable Hermes, have labored to establish their dogma in opposition to political economy. A few attempts at association in accordance with their views have even been made here and there : but as yet these exceptional undertakings, lost in the ocean of property, have been without result; and, as if destiny had resolved to exhaust the economic hypothesis before attacking the socialistic utopia, the reformatory party is obliged to content itself with pocketing the sarcasms of its adversaries while waiting for its own turn to come.
This, then, is the state of the cause: socialism incessantly denounces the crimes of civilization, verifies daily the powerlessness of political economy to satisfy the harmonic attractions of man, and presents petition after petition ; political economy fills its brief with socialistic systems, all of which, one after another, pass away and die, despised by common sense. The persistence of evil nourishes the complaint of the one, while the constant succession of reformatory checks feeds the malicious irony of the other. When will judgment be given ? The tribunal is deserted ; meanwhile, political economy improves its opportunities, and, without furnishing bail, continues to lord it over the world; possideo quia possideo.
If we descend from the sphere of ideas to the realities of the world, the antagonism will appear still more grave and threatening.
When, in these recent years, socialism, instigated by prolonged convulsions, made its fantastic appearance in our midst, men whom all controversy had found until then indifferent and lukewarm went back in fright to monarchical and religious ideas; democracy, which was charged with being developed at last to its ultimate, was cursed and driven back. This accusation of the conservatives against the democrats was a libel. Democracy is by nature as hostile to the socialistic idea as incapable of filling the place of royalty, against which it is its destiny endlessly to conspire. This soon became evident, and we are witnesses of it daily in the professions of Christian and proprietary faith by democratic publicists, whose abandonment by the people began at that moment.
On the other hand, philosophy proves no less distinct from socialism, no less hostile to it, than politics and religion.
For just as in politics the principle of democracy is the sovereignty of numbers, and that of monarchy the sovereignty of the prince; just as likewise in affairs of conscience religion is nothing but submission to a mystical being, called God, and to the priests who represent him; just as finally in the economic world property—that is, exclusive control by the individual of the instruments of labor—is the point of departure of every theory,—so philosophy, in basing itself upon the a priori assumptions of reason, is inevitably led to attribute to the me alone the generation and autocracy of ideas, and to deny the metaphysical value of experience; that is, universally to substitute, for the objective law, absolutism, despotism.
Now a doctrine which, springing up suddenly in the heart of society, without antecedents and without ancestors, rejected from every department of conscience and society the arbitrary principle, in order to substitute as sole truth the relation t>f facts ; which broke with tradition, and consented to make use of the past only as a point from which to launch forth into the future,—such a doctrine could not fail to stir up against it the established Authorities ; and we can see to-day how, in spite of their internal discords, the said Authorities, which are but one, combine to fight the monster that is ready to swallow them.
To the workingmen who complain of the insufficiency of wages and the uncertainty of labor, political economy opposes the liberty of commerce; to the citizens who are seeking for the conditions of liberty and order, the ideologists respond with representative systems ; to the tender souls who, having lost their ancient faith, ask the reason and end of their existence, religion proposes the unfathomable secrets of Providence, and philosophy holds doubt in reserve. Subterfuges always; complete ideas, in which heart and mind find rest, never! Socialism cries that it is time to set sail for the mainland, and to enter port: but, say the anti-socialists, there is no port; humanity sails onward in God's care, under the command of priests, philosophers, orators, economists, and our circumnavigation is eternal.
Thus society finds itself, at its origin, divided into two great parties: the one traditional and essentially hierarchical, which, according to the object it is considering, calls itself by turns royalty or democracy, philosophy or religion, in short, property; the other socialism, which, coming to life at every crisis of civilization, proclaims itself preeminently anarchical and atheistic; that is, rebellious against all authority, human and divine.
Now modern civilization has demonstrated that in a conflict
of this nature the truth is found, not in the exclusion of one of
the opposites, but wholly and solely in the reconciliation of the
two; it is, I say, a fact of science that every antagonism, whether
in Nature or in ideas, is resolvable in a more general fact or in a
complex formula, which harmonizes the opposing factors by absorbing them, so to speak, in each other. Can we not, then, men of common sense, while awaiting the solution which the future will undoubtedly bring forth, prepare ourselves for this great transition by an analysis of the struggling powers, as well as their positive and negative qualities ? Such a work, performed with accuracy and conscientiousness, even though it should not lead us directly to the solution, would have at least the inestimable advantage of revealing to us the conditions of the problem, and thereby putting us on our guard against every form of utopia.
What is there, then, in political economy that is necessary and true; whither does it tend ; what are its powers ; what are its wishes ? It is this which I propose to determine in this work. What is the value of socialism ? The same investigation will answer this question also.
For since, after all, socialism and political economy pursue the same end,—namely, liberty, order, and well-being among men,—it is evident that the conditions to be fulfilled—in other words, the difficulties to be overcome—to attain this end, are also the same for both, and that it remains only to examine the methods attempted or proposed by either party. But since, moreover, it has been given thus far to political economy alone to translate its ideas into acts, while socialism has scarcely done more than indulge in perpetual satire, it is no less clear that, in judging the works of economy according to their merit, we at - the same time shall reduce to its just value the invective of the socialists: so that our criticism, though apparently special, will lead to absolute and definitive conclusions.
This it is necessary to make clearer by a few examples, before entering fully upon the examination of political economy.
§2.—Inadequacy of theories and criticisms.
We will record first an important observation: the contending parties agree in acknowledging a common authority, whose support each claims,—Science. r
Plato, a utopian, organized his ideal republic in the name of science, which, through modesty and euphemism, he called philosophy. Aristotle, a practical man, refuted the Platonic utopia in the name of the same philosophy. Thus the social war has continued since Plato and Aristotle. The modern socialists refer all things to science one and indivisible, but without power to agree either as to its content, its limits, or its method; the economists, on their side, affirm that social science in no wise differs from political economy.
It is our first business, then, to ascertain what a science of society must be.
Science, in general, is the logically arranged and systematic knowledge of that which is.
Applying this idea to society, we will say: Social science is the logically arranged and systematic knowledge, not of that which society has been, nor of that which it will be, but of that which it is in its whole life; that is, in the sum total of its successive manifestations: for there alone can it have reason and system. Social science must include human order, not alone in such or such a period of duration, nor in a few of its elements; but in all its principles and in the totality of its existence: as if social evolution, spread throughout time and space, should find itself suddenly gathered and fixed in a picture which, exhibiting the series of the ages and the sequence of phenomena, revealed their connection and unity. Such must be the science of every living and progressive reality; such social science indisputably is.
It may be, then, that political economy, in spite of its individualistic tendency and its exclusive affirmations, is a constituent part of social science, in which the phenomena that it describes are like the starting-points of a vast triangulation and the elements of an organic and complex whole. From this point of view, the progress of humanity, proceeding from the simple to the complex, would be entirely in harmony with the progress of science ; and the conflicting and so often desolating facts, which are to-day the basis and object of political economy, would have to be considered by us as so many special hypotheses, successively realized by humanity in view of a superior hypothesis, whose realization would solve all difficulties, and satisfy socialism without destroying political economy. For, as I said in my introduction, in no case can we admit that humanity, however it expresses itself, is mistaken.
Let us now make this clearer by facts.
The question now most disputed is unquestionably that of the organization of labor.
As John the Baptist preached in the desert, Repent ye, so the socialists go about proclaiming everywhere this novelty old as the world, Organize labor, though never able to tell what, in their opinion, this organization should be. However that may be, the economists have seen that this socialistic clamor was damaging their theories: it was, indeed, a rebuke to them for ignoring that which they ought first to recognize,—labor. They have replied, therefore, to the attack of their adversaries, first by maintaining that labor is organized, that there is no other organization of labor than liberty to produce and exchange, either on one's own personal account, or in association with others,—in which case the course to be pursued has been prescribed by the civil and commercial codes. Then, as this argument served only to make them the laughing-stock of their antagonists, they assumed the offensive; and, showing that the socialists understood nothing at all themselves of this organization that they held up as a scarecrow, they ended by saying that it was but a new socialistic chimera, a word without sense,—an absurdity. The latest writings of the economists are full of these pitiless conclusions.
Nevertheless, it is certain that the phrase organization of labor contains as clear and rational a meaning as these that follow: organization of the workshop, organization of the army, organization of police, organization of charity, organization of war. In this respect, the argument of the economists is deplorably irrational. No less certain is it that the organization of labor cannot be a utopia and chimera; for at the moment that labor, the supreme condition of civilization, begins to exist, it follows that it is already submitted to an organization, such as it is, which satisfies the economists, but which the socialists think detestable.
There remains, then, relatively to the proposal to organize labor formulated by socialism, this objection,—that labor is organized. Now this is utterly untenable, since it is notorious that in labor, supply, demand, division, quantity, proportion, price, and security, nothing, absolutely nothing is regulated; on the contrary, every thing is given up to the caprices of free-will; that is, to chance.
As for us, guided by the idea that we have formed of social science, we shall affirm, against the socialists and against the economists, not that labor must be organized, nor that it is organized, but that it is being organized.
Labor, we say, is being organized: that is, the process of organization has been going on from the beginning of the world, and will continue till the end. Political economy teaches us the primary elements of this organization ; but socialism is right in asserting that, in its present form, the organization is inadequate and transitory; and the whole mission of science is continually to ascertain, in view of the results obtained and the phenomena in course of development, what innovations can be immediately effected.
Socialism and political economy, then, while waging a burlesque war, pursue in reality the same idea,—the organization of labor.
But both are guilty of disloyalty to science and of mutual calumny, when on the one hand political economy, mistaking for science its scraps of theory, denies the possibility of further progress ; and when socialism, abandoning tradition, aims at reestablishing society on undiscoverable bases.
Thus socialism is nothing but a profound criticism and continual development of political economy; and, to apply here the celebrated aphorism of the school, Nihil est in intellectu, quod non prius fuerit in sensu, there is nothing in the socialistic hypotheses which is not duplicated in economic practice. On the other hand, political economy is but an impertinent rhapsody, so long as it affirms as absolutely valid the facts collected by Adam Smith and J. B. Say.
Another question, no less disputed than the preceding one, is that of usury, or lending at interest.
Usury, or in other words the price of use, is the emolument, of whatever nature, which the proprietor derives from the loan of his property. Quidquid sorti accrescit usura est, say the theologians. Usury, the foundation of credit, was one of the first of the means which social spontaneity employed in its work of organization, and whose analysis discloses the profound laws of civilization. The ancient philosophers and the Fathers of the Church, who must be regarded here as the representatives of socialism in the early centuries of the Christian era, by a singular fallacy,—which arose however from the paucity of economic knowledge in their day,—allowed farm-rent and condemned interest on money, because, as they believed, money was unproductive. They distinguished consequently between the loan of things which are consumed by use—among which they included money—and the loan of things which, without being consumed, yield a product to the user.
The economists had no difficulty in showing, by generalizing the idea of rent, that in the economy of society the action of capital, or its productivity, was the same whether it was consumed in wages or retained the character of an instrument; that, consequently, it was necessary either to prohibit the rent of land or to allow interest on money, since both were by the same title payment for privilege, indemnity for loan. It required more than fifteen centuries to get this idea accepted, and to reassure the consciences that had been terrified by the anathemas pronounced by Catholicism against usury. But finally the weight of evidence and the general desire favored the usurers : they won the battle against socialism ; and from this legitimation of usury society gained some immense and unquestionable advantages. Under these circumstances socialism, which had tried to generalize the law enacted by Moses for the Israelites alone, Nonfceneraberis proximo tuo, sed alieno, was beaten by an idea which it had accepted from the economic routine,—namely, farm-rent,— elevated into the theory of the productivity of capital.
But the economists in their turn were less fortunate, when they were afterwards called upon to justify farm-rent in itself, and to establish this theory of the product of capital. It may be said that, on this point, they have lost all the advantage they had at first gained against socialism.
Undoubtedly—and I am the first to recognize it—the rent of land, like that of money and all personal and real property, is a spontaneous and universal fact, which has its source in the depths of our nature, and which soon becomes, by its natural development, one of the most potent means of organization. I shall prove even that interest on capital is but the materialization of the aphorism, All labor should leave an excess. But in the face of this theory, or rather this fiction, of the productivity of capital, arises another thesis no less certain, which in these latter days has struck the ablest economists : it is that all value is born of labor, and is composed essentially of wages ; in other words, that no wealth has its origin in privilege, or acquires any value except through work; and that, consequently, labor alone is the source of revenue among men. How, then, reconcile the theory of farm-rent or productivity of capital,—a theory confirmed by universal custom, which conservative political economy is forced to accept but cannot justify,—with this other theory which shows that value is normally composed of wages, and which inevitably ends, as we shall demonstrate, in an equality in society between net product and raw product ?
The socialists have not wasted the opportunity. Starting with the principle that labor is the source of all income, they began to call the holders of capital to account for their farm-rents and emoluments; and, as the economists won the first victory by generalizing under a common expression farm-rent and usury, so the socialists have taken their revenge by causing the seignorial rights of capital to vanish before the still more general principle of labor. Property has been demolished from top to bottom: the economists could only keep silent; but, powerless to arrest itself in this new descent, socialism has slipped clear to the farthest boundaries of communistic utopia, and, for want of a practical solution, society is reduced to a position where it can neither justify its tradition, nor commit itself to experiments in which the least mistake would drive it backward several thousand years.
In such a situation what is the mandate of science ?
Certainly not to halt in an arbitrary, inconceivable, and impossibley«.yte milieu; it is to generalize further, and discover a third principle, a fact, a superior law, which shall explain the fiction of capital and the myth of property, and reconcile them with the theory which makes labor the origin of all wealth. This is what socialism, if it wishes to proceed logically, must undertake. In fact, the theory of the real productivity of labor, and that of the fictitious productivity of capital, are both essentially economical: socialism has endeavored only to show the contradiction between them, without regard to experience or logic; for it appears to be as destitute of the one as of the other. Now in law, the litigant who accepts the authority of a title in one particular must accept it in all; it is not allowable to divide the documents and proofs. Had socialism the right to decline the authority of political economy in relation to usury, .when it appealed for support to this same authority in relation to the analysis of value ? By no means. All that socialism could demand in such a case was, either that political economy should be directed to reconcile its theories, or that it might be itself intrusted with this difficult task.
The more closely we examine these solemn discussions, the more clearly we see that the whole trouble is due to the fact that one of the parties does not wish to see, while the other refuses to advance.
It is a principle of our law that no one can be deprived of his property except for the sake of general utility, and in consideration of a fair indemnity payable in advance.
This principle is eminently an economic one; for, on the one hand, it assumes the right of eminent domain of the citizen expropriated, whose consent, according to the democratic spirit of the social compact, is necessarily presupposed. On the other hand, the indemnity, or the price of the article taken, is fixed, not by the intrinsic value of the article, but by the general law of commerce,—supply and demand ; in a word, by opinion. Expropriation in the name of society may be likened to a contract of convenience, agreed to by each with all; not only then must the price be paid, but the convenience also must be paid for; and it is thus, in reality, that the indemnity is estimated. If the Roman legists had seen this analogy, they undoubtedly would have hesitated less over the question of expropriation for the sake of public utility.
Such, then, is the sanction of the social right of expropriation: indemnity.
Now practically, not only is the principle of indemnity not applied in all cases where it ought to be, but it is impossible that it should be so applied. Thus, the law which established railways provided indemnity for the lands to be occupied by the rails; it did nothing for the multitude of industries dependent upon the previous method of conveyance, whose losses far exceeded the value of the lands whose owners received compensation. Similarly, when the question of indemnifying the manufacturers of beet-root sugar was under consideration, it occurred to no one that the State ought to indemnify also the large number of laborers and employees who earned their livelihood in the beet-root industry, and who were, perhaps, to be reduced to want. Nevertheless, it is certain, according to the idea of capital and the theory of production, that as the possessor of land, whose means of labor is taken from him by the railroad, has a right to be indemnified, so also the manufacturer, whose capital is rendered unproductive by the same railroad, is entitled to indemnification. Why, then, is he not indemnified ? Alas ! because to indemnify him is impossible. With such a system of justice and impartiality society would be, as a general thing, unable to act, and would return to the fixedness of Roman justice. There must be victims. The principle of indemnity is consequently abandoned; to one or more classes of citizens the State is inevitably bankrupt.
At this point the socialists appear. They charge that the sole object of political economy is to sacrifice the interests of the masses and create privileges ; then, finding in the law of expropriation the rudiment of an agrarian law, they suddenly advocate universal expropriation; that is, production and consumption in common.
But here socialism relapses from criticism into utopia, and its incapacity becomes freshly apparent in its contradictions. If the principle of expropriation for the sake of public utility, carried to its logical conclusion, leads to a complete reorganization of society, before commencing the work the character of this new organization must be understood ; now socialism, I repeat, has no science save a few bits of physiology and political economy. Further, it is necessary in accordance with the principle of indemnity, if not to compensate citizens, at least to guarantee to them the values which they part with ; it is necessary, in short, to insure them against loss. Now, outside of the public fortune, the management of which it demands, where will socialism find security for this same fortune ?
It is impossible, in sound and honest logic, to escape this circle. Consequently the communists, more open in their dealings than certain other sectarians of flowing and pacific ideas, decide the difficulty; and promise, the power once in their hands, to expropriate all and indemnify and guarantee none. At bottom, that would be neither unjust nor disloyal. Unfortunately, to burn is not to reply, as the interesting Desmoulins said to Robespierre ; and such a discussion ends always in fire and the guillotine. Here, as everywhere, two rights, equally sacred, stand in the presence of each other, the right of the citizen and the right of the State ; it is enough to say that there is a superior formula which reconciles the socialistic utopias and the mutilated theories of political economy, and that the problem is to discover it. In this emergency what are the contending parties doing ? Nothing. We might say rather that they raise questions only to get an opportunity to redress injuries. What do I say ? The questions are not even understood by them ; and, while the public is considering the sublime problems of society and human destiny, the professors of social science, orthodox and heretics, do not agree on principles. Witness the question which occasioned these inquiries, and which its authors certainly understand no better than its disparagers,—the relation of profits and wages.
What! an Academy of economists has offered for competition a question the terms of which it does not understand! How, then, could it have conceived the idea ?
Well! I know that my statement is astonishing and incredible ; but it is true. Like the theologians, who answer metaphysical problems only by myths and allegories, which always reproduce the problems but never solve them, the economists reply to the questions which they ask only by relating how they were led to ask them : should they conceive that it was possible to go further, they would cease to be economists.
For example, what is profit? That which remains for the manager after he has paid all the expenses. Now the expenses consist of the labor performed and the materials consumed; or, in fine, wages. What, then, is the wages of a workingman? The least that can be given him ; that is, we do not know. What should be the price of the merchandise put upon the market by the manager ? The highest that he can obtain; that is, again, we do not know. Political economy prohibits the supposition that the prices of merchandise and labor can be fixed, although it admits that they can be estimated; and that for the reason, say the economists, that estimation is essentially an arbitrary operation, which never can lead to sure and certain conclusions. How, then, shall we find the relation between two unknowns which, according to political economy, cannot be determined ? Thus political economy proposes insolvable problems ; and yet we shall soon see that it must propose them, and that our century must solve them. That is why I said that the Academy of Moral Sciences, in offering for competition the question of the relation of profits and wages, spoke unconsciously, spoke prophetically.
But it will be said, Is it not true that, if labor is in great demand and laborers are scarce, wages will rise, while profits on the other hand will decrease; that if, in the press of competition, there is an excess, of production, there will be a stoppage and forced sales, consequently no profit for the manager and a danger of idleness for the laborer; that then the latter will offer his labor at a reduced price; that, if a machine is invented, it will first extinguish the fires of its rivals; then, a monopoly established, and the laborer made dependent on the employer, profits and wages will be inversely proportional? Cannot all these causes, and others besides, be studied, ascertained, counterbalanced, etc.?
Oh, monographs, histories !—we have been saturated with them since the days of Adam Smith and J. B. Say, and they are scarcely more than variations of these authors' words. But it is not thus that the question should be understood, although the Academy has given it no other meaning. The relation of profits and wages should be considered in an absolute sense, and not from the inconclusive point of view of the accidents of commerce and the division of interests: two things which must ultimately receive their interpretation. Let me explain myself.
Considering producer and consumer as a single individual, whose recompense is naturally equal to his product; then dividing this product into two parts, one which rewards the producer for his outlay, another which represents his profit, according to the axiom that all labor should leave an excess,—we have to determine the relation of one of these parts to the other. This done, it will be easy to deduce the ratio of the fortunes of these two classes of men, employers and wage-laborers, as well as account for all commercial oscillations. This will be a series of corollaries to add to the demonstration.
Now, that such a relation may exist and be estimated, there must necessarily be a law, internal or external, which governs wages and prices; and since, in the present state of things, wages and prices vary and oscillate continually, we must ask what are the general facts, the causes, which make value vary and oscillate, and within what limits this oscillation takes place.
But this very question is contrary to the accepted principles: for whoever says oscillation necessarily supposes a mean direction toward which value's centre of gravity continually tends; and when the Academy asks that we determine the oscillations of profit and wages, it asks thereby that we determine value. Now that is precisely what the gentlenien of the Academy deny : they are unwilling to admit that, if value is variable, it is for that very reason determinable; that variability is the sign and condition of determinability. They pretend that value, ever varying, can never be determined. This is like maintaining that, given the number of oscillations of a pendulum per second, their amplitude, and the latitude and elevation of the spot where the experiment is performed, the length of the pendulum cannot be determined because the pendulum is in motion. Such is political economy's first article of faith.
As for socialism, it does not appear to have understood the question, or to be concerned about it. Among its many organs, some simply and merely put aside the problem by substituting division for distribution,—that is, by banishing number and measure from the social organism: others relieve themselves of the embarrassment by applying universal suffrage to the wages question. It is needless to say that these platitudes find dupes by thousands and hundreds of thousands.
The condemnation of political economy has been formulated by Malthus in this famous passage:—
" A man who is born into a world already occupied, his family unable to support him, and society not requiring his labor,—such a man, I say, has not the least right to claim any nourishment whatever: he is really one too many on the earth. At the great banquet of Nature there is no plate laid for him. Nature commands him to take himself away, and she will not be slow to put her order into execution.1
This then is the necessary, the fatal, conclusion of political economy,—a conclusion which I shall demonstrate by evidence hitherto unknown in this field of inquiry,—Death to him who does not possess!
In order better to grasp the thought of Malthus, let us translate it into philosophical propositions by stripping it of its rhetorical gloss:—
" Individual liberty, and property, which is its expression, are economical data; equality and solidarity are not.
" Under this system, each one by himself, each one for himself : labor, like all merchandise, is subject to fluctuation : hence the risks of the proletariat. «
" Whoever has neither income nor wages has no right to demand any thing of others: his misfortune falls on his own head; in the game of fortune, luck has been against him."
From the point of view of political economy these propositions are irrefutable; and Malthus, who has formulated them with such alarming exactness, is secure against all reproach. From the point of view of the conditions of social science, these same propositions are radically false, and even contradictory.
The error of Malthus, or rather of political economy, does not consist in saying that a man who has nothing to eat must die; or in maintaining that, under the system of individual appropriation, there is no course for him who has neither labor nor income but to withdraw from life by suicide, unless he prefers to be driven from it by starvation : such is, on the one hand, the law of our existence; such is, on the other, the consequence of property; and M. Rossi has taken altogether too much trouble to justify the good sense of Malthus on this point. I suspect, indeed, that M. Rossi, in making so lengthy and loving an apology for Malthus, intended to recommend political economy in the same way that his fellow-countryman Machiavel, in his book entitled "The Prince," recommended despotism to the admiration of the world. In pointing out misery as the necessary condition of industrial and commercial absolutism, M. Rossi seems to say to us: There is your law, your justice, your political economy; there is property.
1 The passage quoted may not be given in the exact words used by Malthus, it having reached its present shape through the medium of a French rendering.— Translator.
But Gallic simplicity does not understand artifice; and it would have been better to have said to France, in her immaculate tongue: The error of Malthus, the radical vice of political economy, consists, in general terms, in affirming as a definitive state a transitory condition,—namely, the division of society into patricians and proletaires; and, particularly, in saying that in an organized, and consequently solidaire, society, there may be some who possess, labor, and consume, while others have neither possession, nor labor, nor bread. Finally Malthus, or political economy, reasons erroneously when seeing in the faculty of indefinite reproduction—which the human race enjoys in neither greater nor less degree than all animal and vegetable species—a permanent danger of famine; whereas it is only necessary to show the necessity, and consequently the existence, of a law of equilibrium between population and production.
In short, the theory of Malthus—and herein lies the great merit of this writer, a merit which none of his colleagues has dreamed of attributing to him—is a reductio ad absurdum of all political economy.
As for socialism, that was summed up long since by Plato and Thomas More in a single word, Utopia,—that is, no-place, a chimera.
Nevertheless, for the honor of the human mind and that justice may be done to all, this must be said: neither could economic and legislative science have had any other beginning than they did have, nor can society remain in this original position.
Every science must first define its domain, produce and collect its materials: before system, facts; before the age of art, the age of learning. The economic science, subject like every other to the law of time and the conditions of experience, before seeking to ascertain how things ought to take place in society, had to tell us how things do take place; and all these processes which the authors speak of so pompously in their books as laws, principles, and theories, in spite of their incoherence and inconsistency, had to be gathered up with scrupulous diligence, and described with strict impartiality. The fulfilment of this task called for more genius perhaps, certainly for more self-sacrifice, than will be demanded by the future progress of the science.
If, then, social economy is even yet rather an aspiration towards the future than a knowledge of reality, it must be admitted that the elements of this study are all included in political economy; and I believe that I express the general sentiment in saying that this opinion has become that of the vast majority of minds. The present finds few defenders, it is true; but the disgust with utopia is no less universal: and every body understands that the truth lies in a formula which shall reconcile these two terms : Conservation and Motion.
Thus, thanks to Adam Smith, J. B. Say, Ricardo, and Malthus, as well as their rash opponents, the mysteries of fortune, atria Ditis, are uncovered ; the power of capital, the oppression of the laborer, the machinations of monopoly, illumined at all points, shun the public gaze. Concerning the facts observed and described by the economists, we reason and conjecture: abusive laws, iniquitous customs, respected so long as the obscurity which sustained their life lasted, with difficulty dragged to the daylight, are expiring beneath the general reprobation; it is suspected that the government of society must be learned no longer from an empty ideology, after the fashion of the Contrat social, but, as Montesquieu foresaw, from the relation of things; and already a Left of eminently socialistic tendencies, composed of savants, magistrates, legists, professors, and even capitalists and manufacturers,—all born representatives and defenders of privilege,—and of a million of adepts, is forming in the nation above and outside of parliamentary opinions, and seeking, by an analysis of economic facts, to capture the secrets of the, life of societies.
Let us represent political economy, then, as an immense plain, strewn with materials prepared for an edifice. The laborers await the signal, full of ardor, and burning to commence the work: but the architect has disappeared without leaving the plan. The economists have stored their memories with many things: unhappily they have not the shadow of an estimate. They know the origin and history of each piece; what it cost to make it; what wood makes the best joists, and what clay the best bricks; what has been expended in tools and carts ; how much the carpenters earned, and how much the stone-cutters: they do not know the destination and the place of any thing. The economists cannot deny that they have before them the fragments, scattered pell-mell, of a chef-d'wuvre, disjecti membra poetce; but it has been impossible for them as yet to recover the general design, and, whenever they have attempted any comparisons, they have met only with incoherence. Driven to despair at last by their fruitless combinations, they have erected as a dogma the architectural incongruity of the science, or, as they say, the inconveniences of its principles; in a word, they have denied the science.1
Thus the division of labor, without which production would" be almost nothing, is subject to a thousand inconveniences, the worst of which is the demoralization of the laborer; machinery causes, not only cheapness, but obstruction of the market and stoppage of business ; competition ends in oppression ; taxation, the material bond of society, is generally a scourge dreaded equally with fire and hail; credit is necessarily accompanied by bankruptcy ; property is a swarm of abuses ; commerce degenerates into a game of chance, in which it is sometimes allowable even to cheat: in short, disorder existing everywhere to an equal extent with order, and no one knowing how the latter is to banish the former, taxis ataxian diokein, the economists have decided that all is for the best, and regard every reformatory proposition as hostile to political economy.
The social edifice, then, has been abandoned; the crowd has burst into the wood-yard ; columns, capitals, and plinths, wood, stone, and metal, have been distributed in portions and drawn by lot: and, of all these materials collected for a magnificent temple, property, ignorant and barbarous, has built huts. The work before us, then, is not only to recover the plan of the edifice, but to dislodge the occupants, who maintain that their city is superb, and, at the very mention of restoration, appear in battle-array at their gates. Such confusion was not seen of old at Babel: happily we speak French, and are more courageous than the companions of Nimrod.
1 "The principle which governs the life of nations is not pure science: it is the total of the complex data which depend on the state of enlightenment, on needs and interests." Thus expressed itself, in December, 1844, one of the clearest minds that France contained, M. Leon Faucher. Explain, if you can, how a man of this stamp was led by his economic convictions to declare that the complex data of society are opposed to pure science.
But enough of allegory: the historical and descriptive method, successfully employed so long as the work was one of examination only, is henceforth useless : after thousands of monographs and tables, we are no further advanced than in the age of Xenophon and Hesiod. The Phenicians, the Greeks, the Italians, labored in their day as we do in ours : they invested their money, paid their laborers, extended their domains, made their expeditions and recoveries, kept their books, speculated, dabbled in stocks, and ruined themselves according to all the rules of economic art; knowing as well as ourselves how to gain monopolies and fleece the consumer and laborer. Of all this accounts are only too numerous; and, though we should rehearse for ever our statistics and our figures, we should always have before our eyes only chaos,—chaos constant and uniform.
It is thought, indeed, that from the era of mythology to the present year 57 of our great revolution, the general welfare has improved: Christianity has long been regarded as the chief cause of this amelioration, but now the economists claim all the honor for their own principles. For after all, they say, what has been the influence of Christianity upon society ? Thoroughly utopian at its birth, it has been able to maintain and extend itself only by gradually adopting all the economic categories,—labor, capital, farm-rent, usury, traffic, property; in short, by consecrating the Roman law, the highest expression of political economy.
Christianity, a stranger in its theological aspect to the theories of production and consumption, has been to European civilization what the trades-unions and free-masons were not long since to itinerant workmen,—a sort of insurance company and mutual aid society; in this respect, it owes nothing to political economy, and the good which it has done cannot be invoked by the latter in its own support. The effects of charity and self-sacrifice are outside of the domain of economy, which must bring about social happiness through justice and the organization of labor. For the rest, I am ready to admit the beneficial effects of the system of property; but I observe that these effects are entirely balanced by the misery which it is the nature of this system to produce: so that, as an illustrious minister recently confessed before the English Parliament, and as we shall soon show, the increase of misery in the present state of society is parallel and equal to the increase of wealth,—which completely annuls the merits of political economy.
Thus political economy is justified neither by its maxims nor by its works ; and, as for socialism, its whole value consists in having established this fact. We are forced, then, to resume the examination of political economy, since it alone contains, at least in part, the materials of social science; and to ascertain whether its theories do not conceal some error, the correction of which would reconcile fact and right, reveal the organic law of humanity, and give the positive conception of order.
SYSTEM OF ECONOMICAL CONTRADICTIONS
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MISERY.
By P. J. PROUDHON.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY THE EDITOR,
§1. — Opposition of value in Use and value in Exchange.
VALUE is the corner-stone of the economic edifice. The divine artist who has intrusted us with the continuation of his work has explained himself on this point to no one; but the few indications given may serve as a basis of conjecture. Value, in fact, presents two faces: one, which the economists call value in use, or intrinsic value; another, value in exchange, or of opinion. The effects which are produced by value under this double aspect, and which are very irregular so long as it is not established, — or, to use a more philosophical expression, so long as it is not constituted, — are changed totally by this constitution. Now, in what consists the correlation between useful value and value in exchange f What is meant by constituted value, and by what sudden change is this constitution effected ? To answer these questions is the object and end of political economy. I beg the reader to give his whole attention to what is to follow, this chapter being the only one in the work which will tax his patience. For my part, I will endeavor to be more and more simple and clear.
Every thing which can be of any service to me is of value to me, and the more abundant the useful thing is the richer I am : so far there is no difficulty. Milk and flesh, fruits and grains, wool, sugar, cotton, wine, metals, marble; in fact, land, water, air, fire, and sunlight,—are, relatively to me, values of use, values by nature and function. If all the things which serve to sustain my life were as abundant as certain of them are, light for instance, — in other words, if the quantity of every valuable thing was inexhaustible, — my welfare would be for ever assured: I should not have to labor; I should not even think. In such a state, things would always be useful, but it would be no longer true to say that they Are Valuable ; for value, as we shall soon see, indicates an essentially social relation; and it is solely through exchange, reverting as it were from society to Nature, that we have acquired the idea of utility. The whole development of civilization originates, then, in the necessity which the human race is under of continually causing the creation of new values ; just as the evils of society are primarily caused by the perpetual struggle which we maintain against our own inertia. Take away from man that desire which leads him to think and fits him for a life of contemplation, and the' lord of creation stands on a level with the highest of the beasts.
But how does value in use become value in exchange ? For it should be noticed that the two kinds of value, although coexisting in thought (since the former becomes apparent only in the presence of the latter), nevertheless maintain a relation of succession : exchangeable value is a sort of reflex of useful value; just as the theologians teach that in the Trinity the Father, contemplating himself through all eternity, begets the Son. This generation of the idea of value has not been noted by the economists with sufficient care: it is important that we should tarry over it.
Since, then, of the objects which I need, a very large number exist in Nature only in moderate quantities, or even not at all, I am forced to assist in the production of that which I lack; and, as I cannot turn my hand to so many things, I propose to other men, my collaborators in various functions, to yield me a portion of their products in exchange for mine. I shall then always have in my possession more of my own special product than I consume ; just as my fellows will always have in their possession more of their respective products than they use. This tacit agreement is fulfilled by commerce. Here we may observe that the logical succession of the two kinds of value is even more apparent in history than in theory, men having spent thousands of years in disputing over natural wealth (this being what is called primitive communism) before their industry afforded opportunity for exchange.
Now, the capacity possessed by all products, whether natural or the result of labor, of serving to maintain man, is called distinctively value in use; their capacity of purchasing each other, value in exchange. At bottom this is the same thing, since the second case only adds to the first the idea of substitution, which may seem an idle subtlety: practically, the consequences are surprising, and beneficial or fatal by turns.
Consequently, the distinction established in value is based on facts, and is not at all arbitrary: it is for man, in submitting to this law, to use it to increase his welfare and liberty. Labor, as an author (M. Walras) has beautifully expressed it, is a war declared against the parsimony of Nature; by it wealth and society are simultaneously created. Not only does labor produce incomparably more wealth than Nature gives us, — for instance, it has been remarked that the shoemakers alone in France produce ten times more than the mines of Peru, Brazil, and Mexico combined,— but, labor infinitely extending and multiplying its rights by the changes which it makes in natural values, it gradually comes about that all wealth, in running the gauntlet of labor, falls wholly into the hands of him who creates it, and that nothing, or almost nothing, is left for the possessor of the original material.
Such, then, is the path of economic progress: at first, appropriation of the land and natural values; then, association and distribution through labor until complete equality is attained. Chasms are scattered along our road, the sword is suspended over our heads; but, to avert all dangers, we have reason, and reason is omnipotence.
It results from the relation of useful value to exchangeable value that if, by accident or from malice, exchange should be forbidden to a single producer, or if the utility of his product should suddenly cease, though his storehouses were full, he would possess nothing. The more sacrifices he had made and the more courage he had displayed in producing, the greater would be his misery. If the utility of the product, instead of wholly disappearing, should only diminish, — a thing which may happen in a hundred ways, — the laborer, instead of being struck down and ruined by a sudden catastrophe, would be impoverished only; obliged to give a large quantity of his own value for a small quantity of the values of others, his means of subsistence would be reduced by an amount equal to the deficit in his sale: which would lead by degrees from competency to want. If, finally, the utility of the product should increase, or else if its production should become less costly, the balance of exchange would turn to the advantage of the producer, whose condition would thus be raised from fatiguing mediocrity to idle opulence. This phenomenon of depreciation and enrichment is manifested under a thousand forms and by a thousand combinations; it is the essence of the passional and intriguing game of commerce and industry. And this is the lottery, full of traps, which the economists think ought to last for ever, and whose suppression the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences unwittingly demands, when, under the names of profit and wages, it asks us to reconcile value in use and value in exchange; that is, to find the method of rendering all useful values equally exchangeable, and, vice versa, all exchangeable values equally useful.
The economists have very clearly shown the double character of value, but what they have not made equally plain is its contradictory nature. Here begins our criticism.
Utility is the necessary condition of exchange; but take away exchange, and utility vanishes : these two things are indissolubly connected. Where, then, is the contradiction ?
Since all of us live only by labor and exchange, and grow richer as production and exchange increase, each of us produces as much useful value as possible, in order to increase by that amount his exchanges, and consequently his enjoyments. Well, the first effect, the inevitable effect, of the multiplication of values is to Lower them: the more abundant is an article of merchandise, the more it loses in exchange and depreciates commercially. Is it not true that there is a contradiction between the necessity of labor and its results.
I adjure the reader, before rushing ahead for the explanation, to arrest his attention upon the fact.
A peasant who has harvested twenty sacks of wheat, which he with his family proposes to consume, deems himself twice as rich as if he had harvested only ten; likewise a housewife who has spun fifty yards of linen believes that she is twice as rich as if she had spun but twenty-five. Relatively to the household, both are right; looked at in their external relations, they may be utterly mistaken. If the crop of wheat is double throughout the whole country, twenty sacks will sell for less than ten would have sold for if it had been but half as great; so, under similar circumstances, fifty yards of linen will be worth less than twentyfive : so that value decreases as the production of utility increases, and a producer may arrive at poverty by continually enriching himself. And this seems unalterable, inasmuch as there is no way of escape except all the products of industry become infinite in quantity, like air and light, which is absurd. God of my reason ! Jean Jacques would have said: it is not the economists who are irrational; it is political economy itself which is. false to its definitions : Mentita est iniquitas sibi.
In the preceding examples the useful value exceeds the exchangeable value : in other cases it is less. Then the same phenomenon is produced, but in the opposite direction : the balance is in favor of the producer, while the consumer suffers. This is notably the case in seasons of scarcity, when the high price of provisions is always more or less factitious. There are also professions whose whole art consists in giving to an article of minor usefulness, which could easily be dispensed with, an exaggerated value of opinion : such, in general, are the arts of luxury. Man, through his aesthetic passion, is eager for the trifles the possession of which would highly satisfy his vanity, his innate desire for luxury, and his more noble and more respectable love of the beautiful: upon this the dealers in this class of articles speculate. To tax fancy and elegance is no less odious or absurd than to tax circulation : but such a tax is collected by a few fashionable merchants, whom general infatuation protects, and whose whole merit generally consists in warping taste and generating fickleness. Hence no one complains ; and all the maledictions of opinion are reserved for the monopolists who, through genius, succeed in raising by a few cents the price of linen and bread.
It is little to have pointed out this astonishing contrast between useful value and exchangeable value, which the economists have been in the habit of regarding as very simple: it must be shown that this pretended simplicity conceals a profound mystery, which it is our duty to fathom.
I summon, therefore, every serious economist to tell me, otherwise than by transforming or repeating the question, for what reason value decreases in proportion as production augments, and reciprocally what causes this same value to increase in proportion as production diminishes. In technical terms, useful value and exchangeable value, necessary to each other, are inversely proportional to each other; I ask, then, why scarcity, instead of utility, is synonymous with dearness. For — mark it well — the price of merchandise is independent of the amount of labor expended in production ; and its greater or less cost does not serve at all to explain the variations in its price. Value is capricious, like liberty: it considers neither utility nor labor; on the contrary, it seems that, in the ordinary course of affairs, and exceptional derangements aside, the most useful objects are those which are sold at the lowest price ; in other words, that it is just that the men who perform the most attractive labor should be the best rewarded, while those whose tasks demand the most exertion are paid the least. So that, in following the principle to its ultimate consequences, we reach the most logical of conclusions : that things whose use is necessary and quantity infinite must be gratuitous, while those which are without utility and extremely scarce must bear an inestimable price. But, to complete the embarrassment, these extremes do not occur in practice: 011 the one hand, no human product can ever become infinite in quantity ; on the other, the rarest things must be in some degree useful, else they would not be susceptible of value. Useful value and exchangeable value remain, then, in inevitable attachment, although it is their nature continually to tend towards mutual exclusion.
I shall not fatigue the reader with a refutation of the logomachies which might be offered in explanation of this subject: of the contradiction inherent in the idea of value there is no assignable cause, no possible explanation. The fact of which I speak is one of those called primitive, — that is, one of those which may serve to explain others, but which in themselves, like the bodies called simple, are inexplicable. Such is the dualism of spirit and matter. Spirit and matter are two terms each of which, taken separately, indicates a special aspect of spirit, but corresponds to no reality. So, given man's needs of a great variety of products together with the obligation of procuring them by his labor, the opposition of useful value to exchangeable value necessarily results; and from this opposition a contradiction on the very threshold of political economy. No intelligence, no will, divine or human, can prevent it.
Therefore, instead of searching for a chimerical explanation, let us content ourselves with establishing the necessity of the contradiction.
Whatever the abundance of created values and the proportion in which they exchange for each other, in order that we may exchange our products, mine must suit you when you are the buyer, and I must be satisfied with yours when you are the seller. For no one has a right to impose his own merchandise upon another: the sole judge of utility, or in other words the want, is the buyer. Therefore, in the first case, you have the deciding power; in the second, I have it. Take away reciprocal liberty, and exchange is no longer the expression of industrial solidarity: it is robbery. Communism, by the way, will never surmount this difficulty.
But, where there is liberty, production is necessarily undetermined, either in quantity or in quality ; so that from the point of view of economic progress, as from that of the relation of consumers, valuation always is an arbitrary matter, and the price of merchandise will ever fluctuate. Suppose for a moment that all producers should sell at a fixed price : there would be some who, producing at less cost and in better quality, would get much, while others would get nothing. In every way equilibrium would be destroyed. Do you wish, in order to prevent business stagnation, to limit production strictly to the necessary amount ? That would be a violation of liberty : for, in depriving me of the power of choice, you condemn me to pay the highest price; you destroy competition, the sole guarantee of cheapness, and encourage smuggling. In this way, to avoid commercial absolutism, you would rush into administrative absolutism ; to create equality, you would destroy liberty, which is to deny equality itself. Would you group producers in a single workshop (supposing you to possess this secret) ? That again does not suffice : it would be necessary also to group consumers in a common household, whereby you would abandon the point. We are not to abolish the idea of value, which is as impossible as to abolish labor, but to determine it; we are not to kill individual liberty, but to socialize it. Now, it is proved that it is the free will of man that gives rise to the opposition between value in use and value in exchange : how reconcile this opposition while free will exists ? And how sacrifice the latter without sacrificing man ?
Then, from the very fact that I, as a free purchaser, am judge of my own wants, judge of the fitness of the object, judge of the price I wish to pay, and that you on the other hand, as a free producer, control the means of production, and consequently have the power to reduce your expenses, absolutism forces itself forward as an element of value, and causes it to oscillate between utility and opinion.
But this oscillation, clearly pointed out by the economists, is but the effect of a contradiction which, repeating itself on a vast scale, engenders the most unexpected phenomena. Three years of fertility, in certain provinces of Russia, are a public calamity, just as, in our vineyards, three years of abundance are a calamity to the wine-grower. I know well that the economists attribute this distress to a lack of markets; wherefore this question of markets is an important one with them. Unfortunately the theory of markets, like that of emigration with which they attempted to meet Malthus, is a begging of the question. The States having the largest market are as subject to over-production as the most isolated countries: where are high and low prices better known than in the stock-exchanges of Paris and London ?
From the oscillation of value and the irregular effects resulting therefrom the socialists and economists, each in their own way, have reasoned to opposite, but equally false, conclusions: the former have made it a text for the slander of political economy and its exclusion from social science ; the latter, for the denial of all possibility of reconciliation, and the affirmation of the incommensurability of values, and consequently the inequality of fortunes, as an absolute law of commerce.
I say that both parties are equally in error.
I. The contradictory idea of value, so clearly exhibited by the inevitable distinction between useful value and value in exchange does not arise from a false mental perception, or from a vicious terminology, or from any practical error; it lies deep in the nature of things, and forces itself upon the mind as a general form of thought, — that is, as a category. Now, as the idea of value is the point of departure of political economy, it follows that all the elements of the science — I use the word science in anticipation— are contradictory in themselves and opposed to each other: so truly is this the case that on every question the economist finds himself continually placed between an affirmation and a negation alike irrefutable. Antinomy, in fine, to use a word sanctioned by modern philosophy, is the essential characteristic of political economy; that is to say, it is at once its death-sentence and its justification.
Antinomy, literally counter-law, means opposition in principle or antagonism in relation, just as contradiction or antilogy indicates opposition or discrepancy in speech. Antinomy, — I ask pardon for entering into these scholastic details, comparatively unfamiliar as yet to most economists, — antinomy is the conception of a law with two faces, the one positive, the other negative. Such, for instance, is the law called attraction, by which the planets revolve around the sun, and which mathematicians have analyzed into centripetal force and centrifugal force. Such also is the problem of the infinite divisibility of matter, which, as Kant has shown, can be denied and affirmed successively by arguments equally plausible and irrefutable.
Antinomy simply expresses a fact, and forces itself imperatively on the mind; contradiction, properly speaking, is an absurdity. This distinction between antinomy (contra-lex} and contradiction (xontra-dictio) shows in what sense it can be said that, in a certain class of ideas and facts, the argument of contradiction has not the same value as in mathematics.
In mathematics it is a rule that, a proposition being proved false, its opposite is true, and vice versa. In fact, this is the principal method of mathematical demonstration. In social economy, it is not the same: thus we see, for example, that property being proved by its results to be false, the opposite formula, communism, is none the truer on this account, but is deniable at the same time and by the same title as property. Does it follow, as has been said with such ridiculous emphasis, that every truth, every idea, results from a contradiction, — that is, from a something which is affirmed and denied at the same moment and from the same point of view, — and that it may be necessary to abandon wholly the old-fashioned logic, which regards contradiction as the infallible sign of error ? This babble is worthy of sophists who, destitute of faith and honesty, endeavor to perpetuate scepticism in order to maintain their impertinent uselessness. Because antinomy, immediately it is misunderstood, leads inevitably to contradiction, these have been mistaken for each other, especially among the French, who like to judge every thing by its effects. But neither contradiction nor antinomy, which analysis discovers at the bottom of every simple idea, is the principle of truth. Contradiction is always synonymous with nullity ; as for antinomy, sometimes called by the same name, it is indeed the forerunner of truth, the material of which, so to speak, it supplies ; but it is not truth, and, considered in itself, it is the efficient cause of disorder, the characteristic form of delusion and evil.
An antinomy is made up of two terms, necessary to each other, but always opposed, and tending to mutual destruction. I hardly dare to add, as I must, that the first of these terms has received the name thesis, position, and the second the name anti-thesis, counter-position. This method of thought is now so well-known that it will soon figure, I hope, in the text-books of the primary schools. We shall see directly how from the combination of these two zeros unity springs forth, or the idea which dispels the antinomy.
Thus, in value, there is nothing useful that cannot be exchanged, nothing exchangeable if it be not useful: value in use and value in exchange are inseparable. But while, by industrial progress, demand varies and multiplies to an infinite extent, and while manufactures tend in consequence to increase the natural utility of things, and finally to convert all useful value into exchangeable value, production, on the other hand, continually increasing the power of its instruments and always reducing its expenses, tends to restore the venal value of things to their primitive utility: so that value in use and value in exchange are in perpetual struggle.
The effects of this struggle are well-known : the wars of commerce and of the market; obstructions to business ; stagnation ; prohibition; the massacres of competition ; monopoly; reductions of wages ; laws fixing maximum prices; the crushing inequality of fortunes; misery, — all these result from the antinomy of value. The proof of this I may be excused from giving here, as it will appear naturally in the chapters to follow.
The socialists, while justly demanding that this antagonism be brought to an end, have erred in mistaking its source, and in seeing in it only a mental oversight, capable of rectification by a legal decree. Hence this lamentable outbreak of sentimentalism, which has rendered socialism so insipid to positive minds, and which, spreading the absurdest delusions, makes so many fresh dupes every day. My complaint of socialism is not that it has appeared among us without cause, but that it has clung so long and so obstinately to its silliness.
2. But the economists have erred no less gravely in rejecting a priori, and just because of the contradictory, or rather antinomical, nature of value, every idea and hope of reform, never desiring to understand that, for the very reason that society has arrived at its highest point of antagonism, reconciliation and harmony are at hand. This, nevertheless, is what a close study of political economy would have shown to its adepts, had they paid more attention to the lights of modern metaphysics. It is indeed demonstrated, by the most positive evidence known to the human mind, that wherever an antinomy appears there is a promise of a resolution of its terms, and consequently an announcement of a coming change. Now, the idea of value, as developed by J. B. Say among others, satisfies exactly these conditions. But the economists, who have remained for the most part by an inconceivable fatality ignorant of the movement of philosophy, have guarded against the supposition that the essentially contradictory, or, as they say, variable, character of value might be at the same time the authentic sign of its constitutionality, — that is, of its eminently harmonious and determinable nature. However dishonorable it may be to the economists of the various schools, it is certain that their opposition to socialism results solely from this false conception of their own principles ; one proof, taken from a thousand, will suffice.
The Academy of Sciences (not that of Moral Sciences, but the other), going outside of its province one day, listened to a paper in which it was proposed to calculate tables of value for all kinds of merchandise upon the basis of the average product per man and per day's labor in each branch of industry. " Le Journal des Economistes" (August, 1845) immediately made this communication, intrusive in its eyes, the text of a protest against the plan of tariff which was its object, and the occasion of a reestablishment of what it called true principles: —;
" There is no measure of value, no standard of value," it said in its conclusions; " economic science tells us this, just as mathematical science tells us that there is no perpetual motion or quadrature of the circle, and that these never will be found. Now, if there is no standard of value, if the measure of value is not even a metaphysical illusion, what then is the law which
governs exchanges ? As we have said before, it is, in a
general way, supply and demand: that is the last word of science."
Now, how did " Le Journal des Economistes " prove that there is no measure of value? I use the consecrated expression: though I shall show directly that this phrase, measure of value, is somewhat ambiguous, and does not convey the exact meaning which it is intended, and which it ought, to express.
This journal repeated, with accompanying examples, the exposition that we have just given of the variability of value, but without arriving, as we did, at the contradiction. Now, if the estimable editor, one of the most distinguished economists of the school of Say, had had stricter logical habits; if he had been long used, not only to observing facts, but to seeking their explanation in the ideas which produce them, — I do not doubt that he would have expressed himself more cautiously, and that, instead of seeing in the variability of value the last word of science, he would have recognized unaided that it is the first. Seeing that the variability of value proceeds not from things, but from the mind, he would have said that, as human liberty has its law, so value must have its law; consequently, that the hypothesis of a measure of value, this being the common expression, is not at all irrational ; quite the contrary, that it is the denial of this measure that is illogical, untenable.
And indeed, what is there in the idea of measuring, and consequently of fixing, value, that is unscientific ? All men believe in it; all wish it, search for it, suppose it: every proposition of sale or purchase is at bottom only a comparison between two values,— that is, a determination, more or less accurate if you will, but nevertheless effective. The opinion of the human race on the existing difference between real value and market price may be said to be unanimous. It is for this reason that so many kinds of merchandise are sold at a fixed price; there are some, indeed, which, even in their variations, are always fixed,—bread, for instance. It will not be denied that, if two manufacturers can supply one another by an account current, and at a settled price, with quantities of their respective products, ten, a hundred, a thousand manufacturers can do the same. Now, that would be a solution of the problem of the measure of value. The price of every thing would be debated upon, I allow, because debate is still our only method of fixing prices ; but yet, as all light is the result of conflict, debate, though it may be a proof of uncertainty, has for its object, setting aside the greater or less amount of good faith that enters into it, the discovery of the relation of values to each other, — that is, their measurement, their law.
Ricardo, in his theory of rent, has given a magnificent example of the commensurability of values. He has shown that arable lands are to each other as the crops which they yield with the same outlay; and here universal practice is in harmony with theory. Now who will say that this positive and sure method of estimating the value of land, and in general of all engaged capital, cannot be applied to products also ?
They say: Political economy is not affected by d priori arguments ; it pronounces only upon facts. Now, facts and experience teach us that there is no measure of value and can be none, and prove that, though the conception of such an idea was necessary in the nature of things, its realization is wholly chimerical. Supply and demand is the sole law of exchange.
I will not repeat that experience proves precisely the contrary ; that every thing, in the economic progress of society, denotes a tendency toward the constitution and establishment of value; that that is the culminating point of political economy — which by this constitution becomes transformed — and the supreme indication of order in society : this general outline, reiterated without proof, would become tiresome. I confine myself for the moment within the limits of the discussion, and say that supply and demand, held up as the sole regulators of value, are nothing more than two ceremonial forms serving to bring useful value and exchangeable value face to face, and to provoke their reconciliation. They are the two electric poles, whose connection must produce the economical phenomenon of affinity called Exchange. Like the poles of a battery, supply and demand are diametrically opposed to each other, and tend continually to mutual annihilation ; it is by their antagonism that the price of things is either increased, or reduced to nothing: we wish to know, then, if it is not possible, on every occasion, so to balance or harmonize these two forces that the price of things always may be the expression of their true value, the expression of justice. To say after that that supply and demand is the law of exchange is to say that supply and demand is the law of supply and demand ; it is not an explanation of the general practice, but a declaration of its absurdity; and I deny that the general practice is absurd.
I have just quoted Ricardo as having given, in a special instance, a positive rule for the comparison of values: the economists do better still. Every year they gather from tables of statistics the average prices of the various grains. Now, what is the meaning of an average ? Every one can see that in a single operation, taken at random from a million, there is no means of knowing which prevailed, supply — that is, useful value, — or exchangeable value — that is, demand. But as every increase in the price of merchandise is followed sooner or later by a proportional reduction; as, in other words, in society the profits of speculation are equal to the losses, — we may regard with good reason the average of prices during a complete period as indicative of the real and legitimate value of products. This average, it is true, is ascertained too late: but who knows that we could not discover it in advance ? Is there an economist who dares to deny it ?
Nolens volens, then, the measure of value must be sought for: logic commands it, and her conclusions are adverse to economists and socialists alike. The opinion which denies the existence of this measure is irrational, unreasonable. Say as often as you please, on the one hand, that political economy is a science of facts, and that the facts are contrary to the hypothesis of a determination of value, or, on the other, that this troublesome question would not present itself in a system of universal association, which would absorb all antagonism, — I will reply still, to the right and to the left: —
1. That, as no fact is produced which has not its cause, so none exists which has not its law; and that, if the law of exchange is not discovered, the fault is, not with the facts, but with the savants.
2. That, as long as man shall labor in order to live, and shall labor freely, justice will be the condition of fraternity and the basis of association ; now, without a determination of value, justice is imperfect, impossible.
§ 2. — Constitution of value ; definition of wealth.
We know value in its two opposite aspects ; we do not know it in its Totality. If we can acquire this new idea, we shall have absolute value ; and a table of values, such as was called for in the memoir read to the Academy of Sciences, will be possible.
Let us picture wealth, then, as a mass held by a chemical force in a permanent state of composition, in which new elements, continually entering, combine in different proportions, but according to a certain law: value is the proportional relation (the measure) in which each of these elements forms a part of the whole.
From this two things result: one, that the economists have been wholly deluded when they have looked for the general measure of value in wheat, specie, rent, etc., and also when, after having demonstrated that this standard of measure was neither here nor there, they have concluded that value has neither law nor measure ; the other, that the proportion of values may continually vary without ceasing on that account to be subject to a law, whose determination is precisely the solution sought.
This idea of value satisfies, as we shall see, all the conditions : for it includes at once both the positive and fixed element in useful value and the variable element in exchangeable value; in the second place, it puts an end to the contradiction which seemed an insurmountable obstacle in the way of the determination of value ; further, we shall show that value thus understood differs entirely from a simple juxtaposition of the two ideas of useful and exchangeable value, and that it is endowed with new properties.
The proportionality of products is not a revelation that we pretend to offer to the world, nor a novelty that we bring into science, any more than the division of labor was an unheard-of thing when Adam Smith explained its marvels. The proportionality of products is, as we might prove easily by innumerable quotations, a common idea running through the works on political economy, but to which no one as yet has dreamed of attributing its rightful importance: and this is the task which we undertake to-day. We feel bound, for the rest, to make this declaration in order to reassure the reader concerning our pretensions to originality, and to satisfy those minds whose timidity leads them to look with little favor upon new ideas.
The economists seem always to have understood by the measure of value only a standard, a sort of original unit, existing by itself, and applicable to all sorts of merchandise, as the yard is applicable to all lengths. Consequently, many have thought that such a standard is furnished by the precious metals. But the theory of money has proved that, far from being the measure of values, specie is only their arithmetic, and a conventional arithmetic at that. Gold and silver are to value what the thermometer is to heat. The thermometer, with its arbitrarily graduated scale, indicates clearly when there is a loss or an increase of heat: but what the laws of heat-equilibrium are; what is its proportion in various bodies; what amount is necessary to cause a rise of ten, fifteen, or twenty degrees in the thermometer, — the thermometer does not tell us; it is not certain even that the degrees of the scale, equal to each other, correspond to equal additions of heat.
The idea that has been entertained hitherto of the measure of value, then, is inexact; the object of our inquiry is not the standard of value, as has been said so often and so foolishly, but the law which regulates the proportions of the various products to the social wealth; for upon the knowledge of this law depends the rise and fall of prices in so far as it is normal and legitimate. In a word, as we understand by the measure of celestial bodies the relation resulting from the comparison of these bodies with each other, so, by the measure of values, we must understand the relation which results from their comparison. Now, I say that this relation has its law, and this comparison its principle.
I suppose, then, a force which combines in certain proportions the elements of wealth, and makes of them a homogeneous whole: if the constituent elements do not exist in the desired proportion, the combination will take place nevertheless; but, instead of absorbing all the material, it will reject a portion as useless. The internal movement by which the combination is produced, and which the affinities of the various substances determine — this movement in society is exchange; exchange considered no longer simply in its elementary form and between man and man, but exchange considered as the fusion of all values produced by private industry in one and the same mass of social wealth. Finally, the proportion in which each element enters into the compound is what we call value; the excess remaining after the combination is non-value, until the addition of a certain quantity of other elements causes further combination and exchange.
We will explain later the function of money.
This determined, it is conceivable that at a given moment the proportions of values constituting the wealth of a country may be determined, or at least empirically approximated, by means of statistics and inventories, in nearly the same way that the chemists have discovered by experience, aided by analysis, the proportions of hydrogen and oxygen necessary to the formation of water. There is nothing objectionable in this method of determining values; it is, after all, only a matter of accounts. But such a work, however interesting it might be, would teach us nothing very useful. On the one hand, indeed, we know that the proportion continually varies; on the other, it is clear that from a statement of the public wealth giving the proportions of values only for the time and place when and where the statistics should be gathered we could not deduce the law of proportionality of wealth. For that, a single operation of this sort would not be sufficient; thousands and millions of similar ones would be necessary, even admitting the method to be worthy of confidence.
Now, here there is a difference between economic science and chemistry. The chemists, who have discovered by experience such beautiful proportions, know no more of their how or why than of the force which governs them. Social economy, on the contrary, to which no a posteriori investigation could reveal directly the law of proportionality of values, can grasp it in the very force which produces it, and which it is time to announce.
This force, which Adam Smith has glorified so eloquently, and which his successors have misconceived (making privilege its equal), — this force is Labor. Labor differs in quantity and quality with the producer; in this respect it is like all the great principles of Nature and the most general laws, simple in their action and formula, but infinitely modified by a multitude of special causes, and manifesting themselves under an innumerable variety of forms. It is labor, labor alone, that produces all the elements of wealth, and that combines them to their last molecules according to a law of variable, but certain, proportionality. It is labor, in fine, that, as the principle of life, agitates (mens agitaf) the material (moletn) of wealth, and proportions it.
Society, or the collective man, produces an infinitude of objects, the enjoyment of which constitutes its well-being. This well-being is developed not only in the ratio of the quantity of the products, but also in the ratio of their variety (quality) and proportion. From this fundamental datum it follows that society always, at each instant of its life, must strive for such proportion in its products as will give the greatest amount of well-being, considering the power and means of production. Abundance, variety, and proportion in products are the three factors which constitute Wealth : wealth, the object of social economy, is subject to the same conditions of existence as beauty, the object of art; virtue, the object of morality; and truth, the object of metaphysics.
But how establish this marvelous proportion, so essential that without it a portion of human labor is lost, — that is, useless, inharmonious, untrue, and consequently synonymous with poverty and annihilation ?
Prometheus, according to the fable, is the symbol of human activity. Prometheus steals the fire of heaven, and invents the early arts; Prometheus foresees the future, and aspires to equality with Jupiter; Prometheus is God. Then let us call society Prometheus.
Prometheus devotes, on an average, ten hours a day to labor, seven to rest, and seven to pleasure. In order to gather from his toil the most useful fruit, Prometheus notes the time and trouble that each object of his consumption costs him. Only experience can teach him this, and this experience lasts throughout his life. While laboring and producing, then, Prometheus is subject to an infinitude of disappointments. But, as a final result, the more he labors, the greater is his well-being and the more idealized his luxury; the further he extends his conquests over Nature, the more strongly he fortifies within him the principle of life and intelligence in the exercise of which he alone finds happiness ; till finally, the early education of the" Laborer completed and order introduced into his occupations, to labor, with him, is no longer to suffer, — it is to live, to enjoy. But the attractiveness of labor does not nullify the rule, since, on the contrary, it is the fruit of it; and those who, under the pretext that labor should be attractive, reason to the denial of justice and to communism, resemble children who, after having gathered some flowers in the garden, should arrange a flower-bed on the staircase.
In society, then, justice is simply the proportionality of values; its guarantee and sanction is the responsibility of the producer.
Prometheus knows that such a product costs an hour's labor, such another a day's, a week's, a year's; he knows at the same time that all these products, arranged according to their cost, form the progression of his wealth. First, then, he will assure his existence by providing himself with the least costly, and consequently most necessary, things; then, as fast as his position becomes secure, he will look forward to articles of luxury, proceeding always, if he is wise, according to the natural position of each article in the scale of prices. Sometimes Prometheus will make a mistake in his calculations, or else, carried away by passion, he will sacrifice an immediate good to a premature enjoyment, and, after having toiled and moiled, he will starve. Thus, the law carries with it its own sanction; its violation is inevitably accompanied by the immediate punishment of the transgressor.
Say, then, was right in saying: " The happiness of this class (the consumers), composed of all the others, constitutes the general well-being, the state of prosperity of a country." Only he should have added that the happiness of the class of producers, which also is composed of all the others, equally constitutes the general well-being, the state of prosperity of a country. So, when he says: " The fortune of each consumer is perpetually at war with all that he buys," he should have added again: "The fortune of each producer is incessantly attacked by all that he sells." In the absence of a clear expression of this reciprocity, most economical phenomena become unintelligible; and I will soon show how, in consequence of this grave omission, most economists in writing their books have talked wildly about the balance of trade.
I have just said that society produces first tJie least costly, and consequently most necessary, things. Now, is it true that cheapness of products is always a correlative of their necessity, and vice versa ; so that these two words, necessity and cheapness, like the following ones, costliness and superfluity, are synonymes ?
If each product of labor, taken alone, would suffice for the existence of man, the synonymy in question would not be doubtful; all products having the same qualities, those would be most advantageously produced, and therefore the most necessary, which cost the least. But the parallel between the utility and price of products is not characterized by this theoretical precision : either through the foresight of Nature or from some other cause, the balance between needs and productive power is more than a theory, — it is a fact, of which daily practice, as well as social progress, gives evidence.
Imagine ourselves living in the day after the birth of man at the beginning of civilization: is it not true that the industries originally the simplest, those which required the least preparation and expense, were the following: gathering, pasturage, hunting, and fishing, which were followed long afterwards by agriculture? Since then, these four primitive industries have been perfected, and moreover appropriated: a double circumstance which does not change the meaning of the facts, but, on the contrary, makes it more manifest. In fact, property has always attached itself by preference to objects of the most immediate utility, to made values, if I may so speak; so that the scale of values might be fixed by the progress of appropriation.
In his work on the " Liberty of Labor," M. Dunoyer has positively accepted this principle by distinguishing four great classes of industry, which he arranges according to the order of their development, — that is, from the least labor-cost to the greatest. These are extractive industry, — including all the semi-barbarous functions mentioned above, — commercial industry, manufacturing industry, agricultural industry. And it is for a profound reason that the learned author placed agriculture last in the list. For, despite its great antiquity, it is certain that this industry has not kept pace with the others, and the succession of human affairs is not decided by their origin, but by their entire development. It may be that agricultural industry was born before the others, and it may be that all were contemporary; but that will be deemed of the latest date which shall be perfected last.
Thus the very nature of things, as well as his own wants, indicates to the laborer the order in which he should effect the production of the values that make up his well-beirtg. Our law of proportionality, then, is at once physical and logical, objective and subjective; it has the highest degree of certainty. Let us pursue the application.
Of all the products of labor, none perhaps has cost longer and more patient efforts than the calendar. Nevertheless, there is none the enjoyment of which can now be procured more cheaply, and which, consequently, by our own definitions, has become more necessary. How, then, shall we explain this change ? Why has the calendar, so useless to the early hordes, who only needed the alternation of night and day, as of winter and summer, become at last so indispensable, so unexpensive, so perfect ? For, by a marvelous harmony, in social economy all these adjectives are interconvertible. How account, in short, by our law of proportion, for the variability of the value of the calendar ?
In order that the labor necessary to the production of the calendar might be performed, might be possible, man had to find means of gaining time from his early occupations and from those which immediately followed them. In other words, these industries had to become more productive, or less costly, than they were at the beginning: which amounts to saying that it was necessary first to solve the problem of the production of the calendar from the extractive industries themselves.
Suppose, then, that suddenly, by a fortunate combination of efforts, by the division of labor, by the use of some machine, by better management of the natural resources, — in short, by his industry, — Prometheus finds a way of producing in one day as much of a certain object as he formerly produced in ten: what will follow ? The product will change its position in the table of the elements of wealth ; its power of affinity for other products, so to speak, being increased, its relative value will be proportionately diminished, and, instead of being quoted at one hundred, it will thereafter be quoted only at ten. But this value will still and always be none the less accurately determined, and it will still be labor alone which will fix the degree of its importance. Thus value varies, and the law of value is unchangeable: further, if value is susceptible of variation, it is because it is governed by a law whose principle is essentially inconstant, — namely, labor measured by time.
The same reasoning applies to the production of the calendar as to that of all possible values. I do not need to explain how, — civilization (that is, the social fact of the increase of life) multiplying our tasks, rendering our moments more and more precious, and obliging us to keep a perpetual and detailed record of our whole life, — the calendar has become to all one of the most necessary things. We know, moreover, that this wonderful discovery has given rise, as its natural complement, to one of our most valuable industries, the manufacture of clocks and watches.
At this point there very naturally arises an objection, the only one that can be offered against the theory of the proportionality of values.
Say and the economists who have succeeded him have observed that, labor being itself an object of valuation, a species of merchandise indeed like any other, to take it as the principal and efficient cause of value is to reason in a vicious circle. Therefore, they conclude, it is necessary to fall back on scarcity and opinion.
These economists, if they will allow me to say it, herein have shown themselves wonderfully careless. Labor is said to have value, not as merchandise itself, but in view of the values supposed to be contained in it potentially. The value of labor is a figurative expression, an anticipation of effect from cause.
It is a fiction by the same title as the productivity of capital. Labor produces, capital has value : and when, by a sort of ellipsis, we say the value of labor, we make an enjambement which is not at all contrary to the rules of language, but which theorists ought to guard against mistaking for a reality. Labor, like liberty, love, ambition, genius, is a thing vague and indeterminate in its nature, but qualitatively defined by its object, — that is, it becomes a reality through its product. When, therefore, we say : This man's labor is worth five francs per day, it is as if we should say: The daily product of this man's labor is worth five francs.
Now, the effect of labor is continually to eliminate scarcity and opinion as constitutive elements of value, and, by necessary consequence, to transform natural or indefinite utilities (appropriated or not) into measurable or social utilities : whence it follows that labor is at once a war declared upon the parsimony of Nature and a permanent conspiracy against property.
According to this analysis, value, considered from the point of view of the association which producers, by division of labor and by exchange, naturally form among themselves, is the proportional relation of the products which constitute wealth ; and what we call the value of any special product is a formula which expresses, in terms of money, the proportion of this product to the general wealth. — Utility is the basis of value ; labor fixes the relation ; the price is the expression which, barring the fluctuations that we shall have to consider, indicates this relation.
Such is the centre around which useful and exchangeable value oscillate, the point where they finally are swallowed up and disappear : such is the absolute, unchangeable law which regulates economic disturbances and the freaks of industry and commerce, and governs progress. Every effort of thinking and laboring humanity, every individual and social speculation, as an integrant part of collective wealth, obeys this law. It was the destiny of political economy, by successively positing all its contradictory terms, to make this law known; the object of social economy, which I ask permission for a moment to distinguish from political economy, although at bottom there is no difference between them, will be to spread and apply it universally.
The theory of the measure or proportionality of values is, let it be noticed, the theory of equality itself. Indeed, just as in society, where we have seen that there is a complete identity between producer and consumer, the revenue paid to an idler is like value cast into the flames of Etna, so the laborer who receives excessive wages is like a gleaner to whom should be given a loaf of bread for gathering a stalk of grain: and all that the economists have qualified as unproductive consumption is in reality simply a violation of the law of proportionality.
We shall see in the sequence how, from these simple data, the social genius gradually deduces the still obscure system of organization of labor, distribution of wages, valuation of products, and universal solidarity. For social order is established upon the basis of inexorable justice, not at all upon the paradisical sentiments of fraternity, self-sacrifice, and love, to the exercise of which so many honorable socialists are endeavoring now to stimulate the people. It is in vain that, following Jesus Christ, they preach the necessity, and set the example, of sacrifice; selfishness is stronger, and only the law of severity, economic fatality, is capable of mastering it. Humanitarian enthusiasm may produce shocks favorable to the progress of civilization; but these crises of sentiment, like the oscillations of value, must always result only in a firmer and more absolute establishment of justice. Nature, or Divinity, we distrust in our hearts : she has never believed in the love of man for his fellow; and all that science reveals to us of the ways of Providence in the progress of society — I say it to the shame of the human conscience, but our hypocrisy must be made aware of it — shows a profound misanthropy on the part of God. God helps us, not from motives of goodness, but because order is his essence; God promotes the welfare of the world, not because he deems it worthy, but because the religion of his supreme intelligence lays the obligation upon him: and while the vulgar give him the sweet name Father, it is impossible for the historian, for the political economist, to believe that he either loves or esteems us.
Let us imitate this sublime indifference, this stoical ataraxia, of God ; and, since the precept of charity always has failed to promote social welfare, let us look to pure reason for the conditions of harmony and virtue.
Value, conceived as the proportionality of products, otherwise called Constituted Value, necessarily implies in an equal degree utility and venality, indivisibly and harmoniously united. It implies utility, for, without this condition, the product would be destitute of that affinity which renders it exchangeable, and consequently makes it an element of wealth; it implies venality, since, if the product was not acceptable in the market at any hour and at a known price, it would be only a non-value, it would be nothing.
But, in constituted value, all these properties acquire a broader, more regular, truer significance than before. Thus, utility is no longer that inert capacity, so to speak, which things possess of serving for our enjoyments and in our researches ; venality is no longer the exaggeration of a blind fancy or an unprincipled opinion ; finally, variability has. ceased to explain itself by a disingenuous discussion between supply and demand : all that has disappeared to give place to a positive, normal, add, under all possible circumstances, determinable idea. By the constitution of values each product, if it is allowable to establish such an analogy, becomes like the nourishment which, discovered by the alimentary instinct, then prepared by the digestive organs, enters into the general circulation, where it is converted, according to certain proportions, into flesh, bone, liquid, etc., and gives to the body life, strength, and beauty.
Now, what change does the idea of value undergo when we rise from the contradictory notions of useful value and exchangeable value to that of constituted value or absolute value ? There is, so to speak, a joining together, a reciprocal penetration, in which the two elementary concepts, grasping each other like the hooked atoms of Epicurus, absorb one another and disappear, leaving in their place a compound possessed, but in a superior degree, of all their positive properties, and divested of all their negative properties. A value really such, — like money, first-class business paper, government annuities, shares in a well-established enterprise, — can neither be increased without reason nor lost in exchange: it is governed only by the natural law of the addition of special industries and the increase of products. Further, such a value is not the result of a compromise, — that is, of eclecticism, juste-milieu, or mixture ; it is the product of a complete fusion, a product entirely new and distinct from its components, just as water, the product of the combination of hydrogen and oxygen, is a separate body, totally distinct from its elements.
The resolution of two antithetical ideas in a third of a superior order is what the school calls synthesis. It alone gives the positive and complete idea, which is obtained, as we have seen, by the successive affirmation or negation — for both amount to the same thing — of two diametrically opposite concepts. Whence we deduce this corollary, of the first importance in practice as well as in theory: wherever, in the spheres of morality, history, or political economy, analysis has established the antinomy of an idea, we may affirm on d priori grounds that this antinomy conceals a higher idea, which sooner or later will make its appearance.
I am sorry to have to insist at so great length on ideas familiar to all young college graduates: but I owed these details to certain economists, who, apropos of my critique of property, have heaped dilemmas on dilemmas to prove that, if I was not a proprietor, I necessarily must be a communist; all because they did not understand thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
The synthetic idea of value, as the fundamental condition of social order and progress, was dimly seen by Adam Smith, when, to use the words of M. Blanqui,-"he showed that labor is the universal and invariable measure of values, and proved that every thing has its natural price, toward which it continually gravitates amid the fluctuations of the market, occasioned by accidental circumstances foreign to the venal value of the thing."
But this idea of value was wholly intuitive with Adam Smith, and society does not change its habits upon the strength of intuitions ; it decides only upon the authority of facts. The antinomy had to be expressed in a plainer and clearer manner: J. B. Say was its principal interpreter. But, in spite of the imaginative efforts and fearful subtlety of this economist, Smith's definition controls him without his knowledge, and is manifest throughout his arguments.
" To put a value on an article," says Say, " is to declare that it should be estimated equally with some other designated article.
The value of every thing is vague and arbitrary until
it is Recognized " There is, therefore, a method of recognizing the value of things, — that is, of determining it; and, as this recognition or determination results from the comparison of things with each other, there is, further, a common feature, a principle, by means of which we are able to declare that one thing is worth more or less than, or as much as, another.
Say first said : " The measure of value is the value of another product." Afterwards, having seen that this phrase was but a tautology, he modified it thus: " The measure of value is the quantity of another product," which is quite as unintelligible. Moreover, this writer, generally so clear and decided, embarrasses himself with vain distinctions: " We may appreciate the value of things ; we cannot measure it, — that is, compare it with an invariable and known standard, for no such standard exists. We can do nothing but estimate the value of things by comparing them." At other times he distinguishes between real values and relative values : " The former are those whose value changes with the cost of production; the latter are those whose value changes relatively to the value of other kinds of merchandise."
Singular prepossession of a man of genius, who does not see that to compare, to appraise, to appreciate, is to Measure ; that every measure, being only a comparison, indicates for that very reason a true relation, provided the comparison is accurate ; that, consequently, value or real measure and value or relative measure are perfectly identical; and that the difficulty is reduced, not to the discovery of a standard of measure, since all quantities may serve each other in that capacity, but to the determination of a point of comparison. In geometry the point of comparison is extent, and the unit of measure is now the division of the circle into three hundred and sixty parts, now the circumference of the terrestrial globe, now the average dimension of the human arm, hand, thumb, or foot. In economic science, we have said after Adam Smith, the point of view from which all values are compared is labor; as for the unit of measure, that adopted in France is the Franc. It is incredible that so many sensible men should struggle for forty years against an idea so simple. But no: The comparison of values is effected without a point of comparison between them, and without a unit of measure, — such is the proposition which the economists of the nineteenth century, rather than accept the revolutionary idea of equality, have resolved to maintain against all comers. What will posterity say ?
I shall presently show, by striking examples, that the idea of the measure or proportion of values, theoretically necessary, is constantly realized in every-day life.
§3. — Application of the law of proportionality of values.
Every product is a representative of labor.
Every product, therefore, can be exchanged for some other, as universal practice proves.
But abolish labor, and you have left only articles of greater or less usefulness, which, being stamped with no economic character, no human seal, are without a common measure, — that is, are logically unexchangeable.
Gold and silver, like other articles of merchandise, are representatives of value; they have, therefore, been able to serve as common measures and mediums of exchange. But the special function which custom has allotted to the precious metals,— that of serving as a commercial agent, — is purely conventional, and any other article of merchandise, less conveniently perhaps, but just as authentically, could play this part: the economists admit it, and more than one example of it can be cited. What, then, is the reason of this preference generally accorded to the metals for the purpose of money, and how shall we explain this speciality of function, unparalleled in political economy, possessed by specie ? For every unique thing incomparable in kind is necessarily very difficult of comprehension, and often even fails of it altogether. Now, is it possible to reconstruct the series from which money seems to have been detached, and, consequently, restore the latter to its true principle ?
In dealing with this question the economists, following their usual course, have rushed beyond the limits of their science; they have appealed to physics, to mechanics, to history, etc.; they have talked of all things, but have given no answer. The precious metals, they have said, by their scarcity, density, and incorruptibility, are fitted to serve as money in a degree unapproached by other kinds of merchandise. In short, the economists, instead of replying to the economic question put to them, have set themselves to the examination of a question of art. They have laid great stress on the mechanical adaptation of gold and silver for the purpose of money; but not one of them has seen or understood the economic reason which gave to the precious metals the privilege they now enjoy.
Now, the point that no one has noticed is that, of all the various articles of merchandise, gold and silver were the first whose value was determined. In the patriarchal period, gold and silver still were bought and sold in ingots, but already with a visible tendency to superiority and with a marked preference. Gradually sovereigns took possession of them and stamped them with their seal; and from this royal consecration was born money, — that is, the commodity par excellence; that which, notwithstanding all commercial shocks, maintains a determined proportional value, and is accepted in payment for all things.
That which distinguishes specie, in fact, is not the durability of the metal, which is less than that of steel, nor its utility, which is much below that of wheat, iron, coal, and numerous other substances, regarded as almost vile when compared with gold; neither is it its scarcity or density, for in both these respects it might be replaced, either by labor spent upon other materials, or, as at present, by bank notes representing vast amounts of iron or copper. The distinctive feature of gold and silver, I repeat, is the fact that, owing to their metallic properties, the difficulties of their production, and, above all, the intervention of public authority, their value as merchandise was fixed and authenticated at an early date.
I say then that the value of gold and silver, especially of the part that is made into money, although perhaps it has not yet been calculated accurately, is no longer arbitrary; I add that it is no longer susceptible of depreciation, like other values, although it may vary continually nevertheless. All the logic and erudition that has been expended to prove, by the example of gold and silver, that value is essentially indeterminable, is a mass of paralogisms, arising from a false idea of the question, ab ignorantid elenchi.
Philip I., King of France, mixed with the livre tournois of Charlemagne one-third alloy, imagining that, since he held the monopoly of the power of coining money, he could do what every merchant does who holds the monopoly of a product. What was, in fact, this adulteration of money, for which Philip and his successors are so severely blamed ? A very sound argument from the standpoint of commercial routine, but wholly false in the view of economic science, — namely, that, supply and demand being the regulators of value, we may, either by causing an artificial scarcity or by monopolizing the manufacture, raise the estimation, and consequently the value, of things, and that this is as true of gold and silver as of wheat, wine, oil, tobacco. Nevertheless Philip's fraud was no sooner suspected than his money was reduced to its true value, and he lost himself all that he had expected to gain from his subjects. The same thing happened after all similar attempts. What was the reason of this disappointment ?
Because, say the economists, the quantity of gold and silver in reality being neither diminished nor increased by the false coinage, the proportion of these metals to other merchandise was not changed, and consequently it was not in the power of the sovereign to make that which was worth but two worth four. For the same reason, if, instead of debasing the coin, it had been in the king's power to double its mass, the exchangeable value of gold and silver would have decreased one-half immediately, always on account of this proportionality and equilibrium. The adulteration of the coin was, then, on the part of the king, a forced loan, or rather, a bankruptcy, a swindle.
Marvelous! the economists explain very clearly, when they choose, the theory of the measure of value ; that they may do so, it is necessary only to start them on the subject of money. Why, then, do they not see that money is the written law of commerce, the type of exchange, the first link in that long chain of creations all of which, as merchandise, must receive the sanction of society, and become, if not in fact, at least in right, acceptable as money in settlement of all kinds of transactions ?
" Money," M. Augier very truly says, " can serve, either as a means of authenticating contracts already made, or as a good medium of exchange, only so far as its value approaches the ideal of permanence; for in all cases it exchanges or buys only the value which it possesses."1
Let us turn this eminently judicious observation into a general formula.
Labor becomes a guarantee of well-being and equality only so far as the product of each individual is in proportion with the mass ; for in all cases it exchanges or buys a value equal only to its own.
1" History of Public Credit."
Is it not strange that the defence of speculative and fraudulent commerce is undertaken boldly, while at the same time the attempt of a royal counterfeiter, who, after all, did but apply to gold and silver the fundamental principle of political economy, the arbitrary instability of values, is frowned down ? If the administration should presume to give twelve ounces of tobacco for a pound,1 the economists would cry robbery; but, if the same administration, using its privilege, should increase the price a few cents a pound, they would regard it as dear, but would discover no violation of principles. What an imbroglio is political economy!
There is, then, in the monetization of gold and silver something that the economists have given no account of; namely, the consecration of the law of proportionality, the first act in the constitution of values. Humanity does all things by infinitely small degrees: after comprehending the fact that all products of labor must be submitted to a proportional measure which makes all of them equally exchangeable, it begins by giving this attribute of absolute exchangeability to a special product, which shall become the type and model of all others. In the same way, to lift its members to liberty and equality, it begins by creating kings. The people have a confused idea of this providential progress when, in their dreams of fortune and in their legends, they speak continually of gold and royalty; and the philosophers only do homage to universal reason when, in their so-called moral homilies and their socialistic utopias, they thunder with equal violence against gold and tyranny. Auri sacra fames ! Cursed gold ! ludicrously shouts some communist. As well say cursed wheat, cursed vines, cursed sheep; for, like gold and silver, every commercial value must reach an exact and accurate determination. The work was begun long since; to-day it is making visible progress.
Let us pass to other considerations.
It is an axiom generally admitted by the economists that all labor should leave an excess.
I regard this proposition as universally and absolutely true ; it is a corollary of the law of proportionality, which may be regarded as an epitome of the whole science of economy. But — I beg pardon of the economists — the principle that all labor should leave an excess has no meaning in their theory, and is not susceptible of demonstration. If supply and demand alone determine value, how can we tell what is an excess and what is a sufficiency? If neither cost, nor market price, nor wages can be mathematically determined, how is it possible to conceive of a surplus, a profit ? Commercial routine has given us the idea of profit as well as the word; and, since we are equal politically, we infer that every citizen has an equal right to realize profits in his personal industry. But commercial operations are essentially irregular, and it has been proved beyond question that the profits of commerce are but an arbitrary discount forced from the consumer by the producer, — in short, a displacement, to say the least. This we should soon see, if it was possible to compare the total amount of annual losses with the amount of profits. In the thought of political economy, the principle that all labor should leave an excess is simply the consecration of the constitutional right which all of us gained by the revolution, — the right of robbing one's neighbor.
1 In France, the sale of tobacco is a government monopoly. — Translator.
The law of proportionality of values alone can solve this problem. I will approach the question a little farther back: its gravity warrants me in treating it with the consideration that it merits.
Most philosophers, like most philologists, see in society only a creature of the mind, or rather, an abstract name serving to designate a collection of men. It is a prepossession which all of us received in our infancy with our first lessons in grammar, that collective nouns, the names of genera and species, do not designate realities. There is much to say under this head, but I confine myself to my subject. To the true economist, society is a living being, endowed with an intelligence and an activity of its own, governed by special laws discoverable by observation alone, and whose existence is manifested, not under a material aspect, but by the close concert and mutual interdependence of all its members. Therefore, when a few pages back, adopting the allegorical method, we used a fabulous god as a symbol of society, our language in reality was not in the least metaphorical: we only gave a name to the social being, an organic and synthetic unit. In the eyes of any one who has reflected upon the laws of labor and exchange (I disregard every other consideration), the reality, I had almost said the personality, of the collective man is as certain as the reality and the personality of the individual man. The only difference is that the latter appears to the senses as an organism whose parts are in a state of material coherence, which is not true of society. But intelligence, spontaneity, development, life, all that constitutes in the highest degree the reality of being, is as essential to society as to man : and hence it is that the government of societies is a science, — that is, a study of natural relations, — and not an art, — that is, good pleasure and absolutism. Hence it is, finally, that every society declines the moment it falls into the hands of the ideologists.
The principle that all labor should leave an excess, undemonstrable by political economy, — that is, by proprietary routine, — is one of those which bear strongest testimony to the reality of the collective person: for, as we shall see, this principle is true of individuals only because it emanates from society, which thus confers upon them the benefit of its own laws.
Let us turn to facts. It has been observed that railroad enterprises are a source of wealth to those who control them in a much less degree than to the State. The observation is a true one; and it might have been added that it applies, not only to railroads, but to every industry. But this phenomenon, which is essentially the result of the law of proportionality of values and of the absolute identity of production and consumption, is at variance with the ordinary notion of useful value and exchangeable value.
The average price charged for the transportation of merchandise by the old method is eighteen centimes per ton and kilometer, the merchandise taken and delivered at the warehouses. It has been calculated that, at this price, an ordinary railroad corporation would net a profit of not quite ten per cent., nearly the same as the profit made by the old method. But let us admit that the rapidity of transportation by rail is to that by wheels, all allowances made, as four to one: in society time itself being value, at the same price the railroad would have an advantage over the stage-wagon of four hundred per cent. Nevertheless, this enormous advantage, a very real one so far as society is concerned, is by no means realized in a like proportion by the carrier, who, while he adds four hundred per cent, to the social value, makes personally less than ten per cent. Suppose, in fact, to make the thing still clearer, that the railroad should raise its price to twenty-five centimes, the rate by the old method remaining at eighteen ; it would lose immediately all its consignments ; shippers, consignees, everybody would return to the stage-wagon, if necessary. The locomotive would be abandoned ; a social advantage of four hundred per cent, would be sacrificed to a private loss of thirty-three per cent .
The reason of this is easily seen. The advantage which results from the rapidity of the railroad is wholly social, and each individual participates in it only in a very slight degree (do not forget that we are speaking now only of the transportation of merchandise) ; while the loss falls directly and personally on the consumer. A special profit of four hundred per cent, in a society composed of say a million of men represents four tenthousandths for each individual; while a loss to the consumer of thirty-three per cent, means a social deficit of thirty-three millions. Private interest and collective interest, seemingly so divergent at first blush, are therefore perfectly identical and equal: and this example may serve to show already how economic science reconciles all interests.
Consequently, in order that society may realize the profit above supposed, it is absolutely necessary that the railroad's prices shall not exceed, or shall exceed but very little, those of the stagewagon.
But, that this condition may be fulfilled,—in other words, that the railroad may be commercially possible, — the amount of matter transported must be sufficiently great to cover at least the interest on the capital invested and the running expenses of the road. Then a railroad's first condition of existence is a large circulation, which implies a still larger production and a vast amount of exchanges.
But production, circulation, and exchange are not self-creative things ; again, the various kinds of labor are not developed in isolation and independently of each other: their progress is necessarily connected, solidaire, proportional. There may be antagonism among manufacturers ; but, in spite of them, social action is one, convergent, harmonious, — in a word, personal. Further, there is a day appointed for the creation of great instruments of labor: it is the day when general consumption shall be able to maintain their employment, — that is, for all these propositions are interconvertible, the day when ambient labor can feed new machinery. To anticipate the hour appointed by the progress of labor would be to imitate the fool who, going from Lyons to Marseilles, chartered a steamer for himself alone.
These points cleared up, nothing is easier than to explain why labor must leave an excess for each producer.
And first, as regards society: Prometheus, emerging from the womb of Nature, awakens to life in a state of inertia which is very charming, but which would soon become misery and torture if he did not make haste to abandon it for labor. In this original idleness, the product of Prometheus being nothing, his wellbeing is the same as that of the brute, and may be represented by zero.
Prometheus begins to work: and from his first day's labor, the first of the second creation, the product of Prometheus, — that is, his wealth, his well-being, — is equal to ten.
The second day Prometheus divides his labor, and his product increases to one hundred.
The third day, and each following day, Prometheus invents machinery, discovers new uses in things, new forces in Nature; the field of his existence extends from the domain of the senses to the sphere of morals and intelligence, and with every step that his industry takes the amount of his product increases, and assures him additional happiness. And since, finally, with him, to consume is to produce, it is clear that each day's consumption, using up only the product of the day before, leaves a surplus product for the day after.
But notice also — and give especial heed to this all-important fact — that the well-being of man is directly proportional to the intensity of labor and the multiplicity of industries : so that the increase of wealth and the increase of labor are correlative and parallel.
To say now that every individual participates in these general conditions of collective development would be to affirm a truth which, by reason of the evidence in its support, would appear silly. Let us point out rather the two general forms of consumption in society.
Society, like the individual, has first its articles of personal consumption, articles which time gradually causes it to feel the need of, and which its mysterious instincts command it to create. Thus in the middle ages there was, with a large number of cities, a decisive moment when the building of city halls and cathedrals became a violent passion, which had to be satisfied at any price; the life of the community depended upon it. Security and strength, public order, centralization, nationality, country, independence, these are the elements which make up the life of society, the totality of its mental faculties ; these are the sentiments which must find expression and representation. Such formerly was the object of the temple of Jerusalem, real palladium of the Jewish nation ; such was the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus of Rome. Later, after the municipal palace and the temple,— organs, so to speak, of centralization and progress, — came the other works of public utility, — bridges, theatres, schools, hos• pitals, roads, etc.
The monuments of public utility being used essentially in common, and consequently gratuitously, society is rewarded for its advances by the political and moral advantages resulting from these great works, and which, furnishing security to labor and an ideal to the mind, give fresh impetus to industry and the arts.
But it is different with the articles of domestic consumption, which alone fall within the category of exchange. These can be produced only upon the conditions of mutuality which make consumption possible, — that is, immediate payment with advantage to the producers. These conditions we have developed sufficiently in the theory of proportionality of values, which we might call as well the theory of the gradual reduction of cost .
I have demonstrated theoretically and by facts the principle that all labor should leave an excess ; but this principle, as certain as any proposition in arithmetic, is very far from universal realization. While, by the progress of collective industry, each individual day's labor yields a greater and greater product, and while, by necessary consequence, the laborer, receiving the same wages, must grow ever richer, there exist in society classes which thrive and classes which perish ; laborers paid twice, thrice, a hundred times over, and laborers continually out of pocket; everywhere, finally, people who enjoy and people who suffer, and, by a monstrous division of the means of industry, individuals who consume and do not produce. The distribution of well-being follows all the movements of value, and reproduces them in misery and luxury on a frightful scale and with terrible energy. But everywhere, too, the progress of wealth — that is, the proportionality of values — is the dominant law ; and when the economists combat the complaints of the socialists with the progressive increase of public wealth and the alleviations of the condition of even the most unfortunate classes, they proclaim, without suspecting it, a truth which is the condemnation of their theories.
For I entreat the economists to question themselves for a moment in the silence of their hearts, far from the prejudices which disturb them, and regardless of the employments which occupy them or which they wait for, of the interests which they serve, of the votes which they covet, of the distinctions which tickle their vanity: let them tell me whether, hitherto, they have viewed the principle that all labor should leave an excess in connection with this series of premises and conclusions which we have elaborated, and whether they ever have understood these words to mean any thing more than the right to speculate in values by manipulating supply and demand; whether it is not true that they affirm at once, on the one hand the progress of wealth and well-being, and consequently the measure of values, and on the other the arbitrariness of commercial transactions and the incommensurability of values, — the flattest of contradictions ? Is it not because of this contradiction that we continually hear repeated in lectures, and read in the works on political economy, this absurd hypothesis: If the price of All things was doubled. . . . . f As if the price of all things was not the proportion of things, and as if we could double a proportion, a relation, a law ! Finally, is it not because of the proprietary and abnormal routine upheld by political economy that every one, in commerce, industry, the arts, and the State, on the pretended ground of services rendered to society, tends continually to exaggerate his importance, and solicits rewards, subsidies, large pensions, exorbitant fees : as if the reward of every service was not determined necessarily by the sum of its expenses ? Why do not the economists, if they believe, as they appear to, that the labor of each should leave an excess, use all their influence in spreading this truth, so simple and so luminous: Each man's labor can buy only the value which it contains, and this value is proportional to the services of all other laborers ?
But here a last consideration presents itself, which I will explain in a few words.
J. B. Say, who of all the economists has insisted the most strenuously upon the absolute indeterminability of value, is also the one who has taken the most pains to refute that idea. He, if I am not mistaken, is the author of the formula: Every product is worth what it costs; or, what amounts to the same thing: Products are bought with products. This aphorism, which leads straight to equality, has been controverted since by other economists ; we will examine in turn the affirmative and the negative.
When I say that every product is worth the products which it has cost, I mean that every product is a collective unit which, in a new form, groups a certain number of other products consumed in various quantities. Whence it follows that the products of human industry are, in relation to each other, genera and species, and that they form a series from the simple to the composite, according to the number and proportion of the elements, all equivalent to each other, which constitute each product. It matters little, for the present, that this series, as well as the equivalence of its elements, is expressed in practice more or less exactly by the equilibrium of wages and fortunes; our first business is with the relation of things, the economic law. For here, as ever, the idea first and spontaneously generates the fact, which, recognized then by the thought which has given it birth, gradually rectifies itself and conforms to its principle. Commerce, free and competitive, is but a long operation of redressal, whose object is to define more and more clearly the proportionality of values, until the civil law shall recognize it as a guide in matters concerning the condition of persons. I say, then, that Say's principle, Every product is worth what it costs, indicates a series in human production analogous to the animal and vegetable series, in which the elementary units (day's works) are regarded as equal. So that political economy affirms at its birth, but by a contradiction, what neither Plato, nor Rousseau, nor any ancient or modern publicist has thought possible, — equality of conditions and fortunes.
Prometheus is by turns husbandman, wine-grower, baker, weaver. Whatever trade he works at, laboring only for himself, he buys what he consumes (his products) with one and the same money (his products), whose unit of measurement is necessarily his day's work. It is true that labor itself is liable to vary; Prometheus is not always in the same condition, and from one moment to another his enthusiasm, his fruitfulness, rises and falls. But, like every thing that is subject to variation, labor has its average, which justifies us in saying that, on the whole, day's work pays for day's work, neither more nor less. It is quite true that, if we compare the products of a certain period of social life with those of another, the hundred millionth day's work of the human race will show at result incomparably superior to that of the first; but it must be remembered also that the life of the collective being can no more be divided than that of the individual; that, though the days may not resemble each other, they are indissolubly united, and that in the sum total of existence pain and pleasure are common to them. If, then, the tailor, for rendering the value of a day's work, consumes ten times the product of the day's work of the weaver, it is as if the weaver gave ten days of his life for one day of the tailor's. This is exactly what happens when a peasant pays twelve francs to a lawyer for a document which it takes him an hour to prepare; and this inequality, this iniquity in exchanges, is the most potent cause of misery that the socialists have unveiled, — as the economists confess in secret while awaiting a sign from the master that shall permit them to acknowledge it openly.
Every error in commutative justice is an immolation of the laborer, a transfusion of the blood of one man into the body of another Let no one be frightened ; I have no intention of
fulminating against property an irritating philippic; especially as I think that, according to my principles, humanity is never mistaken; that, in establishing itself at first upon the right of property, it only laid down one of the principles of its future organization ; and that, the preponderance of property once destroyed, it remains only to reduce this famous antithesis to unity. All the objections that can be offered in favor of property I am as well acquainted with as any of my critics, whom I ask as a favor to show their hearts when logic fails them. How can wealth that is not measured by labor be valuable? And if it is labor that creates wealth and legitimates property, how explain the consumption of the idler ? Where is the honesty in a system of distribution in which a product is worth, according to the person, now more, now less, than it costs ?
Say's ideas led to an agrarian law; therefore, the conservative party hastened to protest against them. "The original source of wealth," M. Rossi had said, " is labor. In proclaiming this great principle, the industrial school has placed in evidence not only an economic principle, but that social fact which, in the hands of a skilful historian, becomes the surest guide in following the human race in its marchings and haltings upon the face of the earth."
Why, after having uttered these profound words in his lectures, has M. Rossi thought it his duty to retract them afterwards in a review, and to compromise gratuitously his dignity as a philosopher and an economist ?
" Say that wealth is the result of labor alone; affirm that labor is always the measure of value, the regulator of prices; yet, to escape one way or another the objections which these doctrines call forth on all hands, some incomplete, others absolute, you will be obliged to generalize the idea of labor, and to substitute for analysis an utterly erroneous synthesis."
I regret that a man like M. Rossi should suggest to me so sad a thought; but, while reading the passage that I have just quoted, I could not help saying: Science and truth have lost their influence : the present object of worship is the shop, and, after the shop, the desperate constitutionalism which represents it . To whom, then, does M. Rossi address himself? Is he in favor of labor or something else; analysis or synthesis ? Is he in favor of all these things at once ? Let him choose, for the conclusion is inevitably against him.
If labor is the source of all wealth, if it is the surest guide in tracing the history of human institutions on the face of the earth, why should equality of distribution, equality as measured by labor, not be a law ?
If, on the contrary, there is wealth which is not the product of labor, why is the possession of it a privilege ? Where is the legitimacy of monopoly ? Explain then, once for all, this theory of the right of unproductive consumption; this jurisprudence of caprice, this religion of idleness, the sacred prerogative of a caste of the elect.
What, now, is the significance of this appeal from analysis to the false judgments of the synthesis ? These metaphysical terms are of no use, save to indoctrinate simpletons, who do not suspect that the same proposition can be construed, indifferently and at will, analytically or synthetically. Labor is the principle of value and the source of wealth: an analytic proposition such as M. Rossi likes, since it is the summary of an analysis in which it is demonstrated that the primitive notion of labor is identical with the subsequent notions of product, value, capital, wealth, etc. Nevertheless, we see that M. Rossi rejects the doctrine which results from this analysis. Labor, capital, and land are the sources of wealth: a synthetic proposition, precisely such as M. Rossi does not like. Indeed, wealth is considered here as a general notion, produced in three distinct, but not identical, ways. And yet the doctrine thus formulated is the one that M. Rossi prefers. Now, would it please M. Rossi to have us render his theory of monopoly analytically and ours of labor
synthetically? I can give him the satisfaction But I
should blush, with so earnest a man, to prolong such badinage. M. Rossi knows better than any one that analysis and synthesis of themselves prove absolutely nothing, and that the important work, as Bacon said, is to make exact comparisons and complete enumerations.
Since M. Rossi was in the humor for abstractions, why did he not say to the phalanx of economists who listen so respectfully to the least word that falls from his lips : —
" Capital is the material of wealth, as gold and silver are the material of money, as wheat is the material of bread, and, tracing the series back to the end, as earth, water, fire, and air are the material of all our products. But it is labor, labor alone, which successively creates each utility given to these materials, and which consequently transforms them into capital and wealth. Capital is the result of labor, — that is, realized intelligence and life,—as animals and plants are realizations of the soul of the universe, and as the chefs d'amvre of Homer, Raphael, and Rossini are expressions of their ideas and sentiments. Value is the proportion in which all the realizations of the human soul must balance each other in order to produce a harmonious whole, which, being wealth, gives us well-being, or rather is the token, not the object, of our happiness.
"The proposition, there is no measure of value, is illogical and contradictory, as is shown by the very arguments which have been offered in its support.
"The proposition, labor is the principle of proportionality of values, not only is true, resulting as it does from an irrefutable analysis, but it is the object of progress, the condition and form of social well-being, the beginning and end of political economy. From this proposition and its corollaries, every product is worth what it costs, and products are bought with products, follows the dogma of equality of conditions.
" The idea of value socially constituted, or of proportionality of values, serves to explain further: («) how a mechanical invention, notwithstanding the privilege which it temporarily creates and the disturbances which it occasions, always produces in the end a general amelioration ; (V) how the value of an economical process to its discoverer can never equal the profit which it realizes for society; (<:) how, by a series of oscillations between supply and demand, the value of every product constantly seeks a level with cost and with the needs of consumption, and consequently tends to establish itself in a fixed and positive manner; (</) how, collective production continually increasing the amount of consumable things, and the day's work consequently obtaining higher and higher pay, labor must leave an excess for each producer ; (£) how the amount of work to be done, instead of being diminished by industrial progress, ever increases in both quantity and quality — that is, in intensity and difficulty — in all branches of industry; (/) how social value continually eliminates fictitious values, — in other words, how industry effects the socialization of capital and property; (£") finally, how the distribution of products, growing in regularity with the strength of the mutual guarantee resulting from the constitution of value, pushes society onward to equality of conditions and fortunes.
" Finally, the theory of the successive constitution of all commercial values implying the infinite progress of labor, wealth, and well-being, the object of society, from the economic point of view, is revealed to us : To produce incessantly, with the least possible amount of labor for each product, the greatest possible quantity and variety of values, in such a way as to realize, for each individual, the greatest amount of physical, moral, and intellectual well-being, and, for the race, the highestpetfection and infinite glory."
Now that we have determined, not without difficulty, the meaning of the question asked by the Academy of Moral Sciences touching the oscillations of profit and wages, it is time to begin the essential part of our work. Wherever labor has not been socialized — that is, wherever value is not synthetically determined, — there is irregularity and dishonesty in exchange; a war of stratagems and ambuscades; an impediment to production, circulation, and consumption ; unproductive labor; insecurity; spoliation ; insolidarity; want; luxury: but at the same time an effort of the genius of society to obtain justice, and a constant tendency toward association and order. Political economy is simply the history of this grand struggle. On the one hand, indeed, political economy, in so far as it sanctions and pretends to perpetuate the anomalies of value and the prerogatives of selfishness, is truly the theory of misfortune and the organization of misery; but in so far as it explains the means invented by civilization to abolish poverty, although these means always have been used exclusively in the interest of monopoly, political economy is the preamble of the organization of wealth.
It is important, then, that we should resume the study of economic facts and practices, discover their meaning, and formulate their philosophy. Until this is done, no knowledge of social progress can be acquired, no reform attempted. The error of socialism has consisted hitherto in perpetuating religious reverie by launching forward into a fantastic future instead of seizing the reality which is crushing it; as the wrong of the economists has been in regarding every accomplished fact as an injunction against any proposal of reform.
For my own part, such is not my conception of economic science, the true social science. Instead of offering a priori arguments as solutions of the formidable problems of the organization of labor and the distribution of wealth, I shall interrogate political economy as the depositary of the secret thoughts of humanity ; I shall cause it to disclose the facts in the order of their occurrence, and shall relate their testimony without intermingling it with my own. It will be at once a triumphant and a lamentable history, in which the actors will be ideas, the episodes theories, and the dates formulas.
SYSTEM OF ECONOMICAL CONTRADICTIONS
THE PHILOSOPHY OF MISERY.
By P. J. PROUDHON.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY THE EDITOR.
ECONOMIC EVOLUTIONS. — FIRST PERIOD. — THE DIVISION OF LABOR.
THE fundamental idea, the dominant category, of political economy is Value.
Value reaches its positive determination by a series of oscillations between supply and demand.
Consequently, value appears successively under three aspects: useful value, exchangeable value, and synthetic, or social, value, which is true value. The first term gives birth to the second in contradiction to it, and the two together, absorbing each other in reciprocal penetration, produce the third : so that the contradiction or antagonism of ideas appears as the point of departure of all economic science, allowing us to say of it, parodying the sentence of Tertullian in relation to the Gospel, Credo quia absurdum: There is, in social economy, a latent truth wherever there is an apparent contradiction, Credo quia contrarium.
From the point of view of political economy, then, social progress consists in a continuous solution of the problem of the constitution of values, or of the proportionality and solidarity of products.
But while in Nature the synthesis of opposites is contemporary with their opposition, in society the antithetic elements seem to appear at long intervals, and to reach solution only after long and tumultuous agitation. Thus there is no example — the idea even is inconceivable — of a valley without a hill, a left without a right, a north pole without a south pole, a stick with but one end, or two ends without a middle, etc. The human body, with its so perfectly antithetic dichotomy, is formed integrally at the very moment of conception ; it refuses to be put together and arranged piece by piece, like the garment patterned after it which, later, is to cover it.1
In society, on the contrary, as well as in the mind, so far from the idea reaching its complete realization at a single bound, a sort of abyss separates, so to speak, the two antinomical positions, and even when these are recognized at last, we still do not see what the synthesis will be. The primitive concepts must be fertilized, so to speak, by burning controversy and passionate struggle ; bloody battles will be the preliminaries of peace. At the present moment, Europe, weary of war and discussion, awaits a reconciling principle; and it is the vague perception of this situation which induces the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences to ask, " What are the general facts which govern the relations of profits to wages and determine their oscillations ?" in other words, what are the most salient episodes and the most remarkable phases of the war between labor and capital ?
If, then, I demonstrate that political economy, with all its contradictory hypotheses and equivocal conclusions, is nothing but an organization of privilege and misery, I shall have proved thereby that it contains by implication the promise of an organization of labor and equality, since, as has been said, every systematic contradiction is the announcement of a composition ; further, I shall have fixed the bases of this composition. Then, indeed, to unfold the system of economical contradictions is to lay the foundations of universal association; to show how the products of collective labor come out of society is to explain how
1 A subtle philologist, M. Paul Ackermann, has shown, using the French language as an illustration, that, since every word in a language has its opposite, or, as the author calls it, its antonym, the entire vocabulary might be arranged in couples, forming a vast dualistic system. (See Dictionary of Antonyms. By Paul Ackermann. Paris: Brockhaus & Avenarius. 1842.)
it will be possible to make them return to it; to exhibit the genesis of the problems of production and distribution is to prepare the way for their solution. All these propositions are identical and equally evident.
§ 1. — Antagonistic effects of the principle of division.
. All men are equal in the state of primitive communism, equal in their nakedness and ignorance, equal in the indefinite power of their faculties. The economists generally look at only the first of these aspects; they neglect or overlook the second. Nevertheless, according to the profoundest philosophers of modern times, La Rochefoucault, Helv£tius, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Jacotot, intelligence differs in individuals only qualitatively, each having thereby his own specialty or genius; in its essence, — namely, judgment, — it is quantitatively equal in all. Hence it follows that, a little sooner or a little later, according as circumstances shall be more or less favorable, general progress must lead all men from original and negative equality to a positive equivalence of talents and acquirements.
I insist upon this precious datum of psychology, the necessary consequence of which is that the hierarchy of capacities henceforth cannot be allowed as a principle and law of organization: equality alone is our rule, as it is also our ideal. Then, just as the equality of misery must change gradually into equality of well-being, as we have proved by the theory of value, so the equality of minds, negative in the beginning, since it represents only emptiness, must reappear in a positive form at the completion of humanity's education. The intellectual movement proceeds parallelly with the economic movement; they are the expression, the translation, of each other ; psychology and social economy are in accord, or rather, they but unroll the same history, each from a different point of view. -This appears especially in Smith's great law, the division of labor.
Considered in its essence, the division of labor is the way in which equality of condition and intelligence is realized. Through diversity of function, it gives rise to proportionality of products and equilibrium in exchange, and consequently opens for us the road to wealth; as also, in showing us infinity everywhere in art and Nature, it leads us to idealize our acts, and makes the creative mind — that is, divinity itself, tnentem diviniorem — immanent and perceptible in all laborers.
Division of labor, then, is the first phase of economic evolution as well as of intellectual development: our point of departure is true as regards both man and things, and the progress of our exposition is in no wise arbitrary.
But, at this solemn hour of the division of labor, tempestuous winds begin to blow upon humanity. Progress does not improve the condition of all equally and uniformly, although in the end it must include and transfigure every intelligent and industrious being. It commences by taking possession of a small number of privileged persons, who thus compose the /lite of nations, while the mass continues, or even buries itself deeper, in barbarism. It is this exception of persons on the part of progress which has perpetuated the belief in the natural and providential inequality of conditions, engendered caste, and given an hierarchical form to all societies. It has not been understood that all inequality, never being more than a negation, carries in itself the proof of its illegitimacy and the announcement of its downfall: much less still has it been imagined that this same inequality proceeds accidentally from a cause the ulterior effect of which must be its entire disappearance.
Thus, the antinomy of value reappearing in the law of division, it is found that the first and most potent instrument of knowledge and wealth which Providence has placed in our hands has become for us an instrument of misery and imbecility. Here is the formula of this new law of antagonism, to which we owe the two oldest maladies of civilization, aristocracy and the proletariat; Labor, in dividing itself according to the law which is peculiar to it, and which is the primary condition of its productivity, ends in the frustration of its own objects, and destroys itself; in other words : Division, in the absence of which there is no progress, no wealth, no equality, subordinates the workingman, and renders intelligence useless, wealth harmful, and equality impossible.
All the economists, since Adam Smith, have pointed out the advantages and the inconveniences of the law of division, but at the same time insisting much more strenuously upon the first than the second, because such a course was more in harmony with their optimistic views, and not one of them ever asking how a law can have inconveniences. This is the way in which J. B. Say summed up the question : —
" A man who during his whole life performs but one operation, certainly acquires the power to execute it better and more readily than another; but at the same time he becomes less capable of any other occupation, whether physical or moral; his other faculties become extinct, and there results a degeneracy in the individual man. That one has made only the eighteenth part of a pin is a sad account to give of one's self: but let no one imagine that it is the workingman who spends his life in handling a file or a hammer that alone degenerates in this way from the dignity of his nature; it is the same with the man whose position leads him to exercise the most subtle faculties of his mind. . . On the whole, it may be said that the separation of tasks is an advantageous use of human forces; that it increases enormously the products of society; but that it takes something from the capacity of each man taken individually." 1
What, then, after labor, is the primary cause of the multiplication of wealth and the skill of laborers ? Division.
What is the primary cause of intellectual degeneracy and, as we shall show continually, civilized miser)'? Division.
How does the same principle, rigorously followed to its conclusions, lead to effects diametrically opposite ? There is not an economist, either before or since Adam Smith, who has even perceived that here is a problem to be solved. Say goes so far as to recognize that in the division of labor the same cause which produces the good engenders the evil; then, after a few words of pity for the victims of the separation of industries, content with having given an impartial and faithful exhibition of the facts, he leaves the matter there. " You know," he seems to say, "that the more we divide the workmen's tasks, the more we increase the productive power of labor; but at the same time the more does labor, gradually reducing itself to a mechanical operation, stupefy intelligence."
In vain do we express our indignation against a theory which, creating by labor itself an aristocracy of capacities, leads inevitably to political inequality;. in vain do we protest in the name of democracy and progress that in the future there will be no nobility, no bourgeoisie, no pariahs. The economist replies, with the impassibility of destiny: You are condemned to produce much, and to produce cheaply; otherwise your industry will be always insignificant, your commerce will amount to nothing, and you will drag in the rear of civilization instead of taking the lead. — What! among us, generous men, there are some predestined to brutishness ; and the more perfect our industry becomes, the larger will grow the number of our accursed brothers! . . . — Alas ! . . . That is the last word of the economist.
1" Treatise on Political Economy."
We cannot fail to recognize in the division of labor, as a general fact and as a cause, all the characteristics of a Law ; but as this law governs two orders of phenomena radically opposite and destructive of each other, it must be confessed also that this law is of a sort unknown in the exact sciences, — that it is, strange to say, a contradictory law, a counter-law, an antinomy. Let us add, in anticipation, that such appears to be the identifying feature of social economy, and consequently of philosophy.
Now, without a Recomposition of labor which shall obviate the inconveniences of division while preserving its useful effects, the contradiction inherent in the principle is irremediable. It is necessary, — following the style of the Jewish priests plotting the death of Christ, — it is necessary that the poor should perish to secure the proprietor his fortune, expedit unum hominem pro populo mori. I am going to demonstrate the necessity of this decree; after which, if the parcellaire laborer still retains a glimmer of intelligence, he will console himself with the thought that he dies according to the rules of political economy.
Labor, which ought to give scope to the conscience and render it more and more worthy of happiness, leading through parcellaire division to prostration of mind, dwarfs man in his noblest part, minorat capitis, and throws him back into animality. Thenceforth the fallen man labors as a brute, and consequently must be treated as a brute. This sentence of Nature and necessity society will execute.
The first effect of parcellaire labor, after the depravation of the mind, is the lengthening of the hours of labor, which increase in inverse proportion to the amount of intelligence expended. For, the product increasing in quantity and quality at once, if, by any industrial improvement whatever, labor is lightened in one way, it must pay for it in another. But as the length of the workingday cannot exceed from sixteen to eighteen hours, when compensation no longer can be made in time, it will be taken from the price, and wages will decrease. And this decrease will take place, not, as has been foolishly imagined, because value is essentially arbitrary, but because it is essentially determinable. Little matters it that the struggle between supply and demand ends, now to the advantage of the employer, now to the benefit of the employee ; such oscillations may vary in amplitude, this depending on well-known accessory circumstances which have been estimated a thousand times. The certain point, and the only one for us to notice now, is that the universal conscience does not set the same price upon the labor of an overseer and the work of a hod-carrier. A reduction in the price of the day's work, then, is necessary: so that the laborer, after having been afflicted in mind by a degrading function, cannot fail to be struck also in his body by the meagreness of his reward. This is the literal application of the words of the Gospel: He that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.
There is in economic accidents a pitiless reason which laughs at religion and equity as political aphorisms, and which renders man happy or unhappy according as he obeys or escapes the prescriptions of destiny. Certainly this is far from that Christian charity with which so many honorable writers to-day are inspired, and which, penetrating to the heart of the bourgeoisie, endeavors to temper the rigors of the law by numerous religious institutions. Political economy knows only justice, justice as inflexible and unyielding as the miser's purse; and it is because political economy is the effect of social spontaneity and the expression of the divine will that I have been able to say: God is man's adversary, and Providence a misanthrope. God makes us pay, in weight of blood and measure of tears, for each of our lessons ; and to complete the evil, we, in our relations with our fellows, all act like him. Where, then, is this love of the celestial father for his creatures ? Where is human fraternity ?
Can he do otherwise? say the theists. Man falling, the animal remains: how could the Creator recognize in him his own image ? And what plainer than that he treats him then as a beast of burden ? But the trial will not last for ever, and sooner or later labor, having been particularized, will be synthetized.
Such is the ordinary argument of all those who seek to justify Providence, but generally succeed only in lending new weapons to atheism. That is to say, then, that God would have envied us, for six thousand years, an idea which would have saved millions of victims, a distribution of labor at once special and synthetic ! In return, he has given us, through his servants Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Mahomet, etc., those insipid writings, the disgrace of our reason, which have killed more men than they contain letters ! Further, if we must believe primitive revelation, social economy was the cursed science, the fruit of the tree reserved for God, which man was forbidden to touch ! Why this religious depreciation of labor, if it is true, as economic science already shows, that labor is the father of love and the organ of happiness ? Why this jealousy of our advancement ? But if, as now sufficiently appears, our progress depends upon ourselves alone, of what use is it to adore this phantom of divinity, and what does he still ask of us through the multitude of inspired persons who pursue us with their sermons ? All of you, Christians, protestant and orthodox, neo-revelators, charlatans and dupes, listen to the first verse of the humanitarian hymn upon God's mercy: " In proportion as the principle of division of labor receives complete application, the worker becomes weaker, narrower, and more dependent. Art advances ; the artisan recedes!"'
Then let us guard against anticipating conclusions and prejudging the latest revelation of experience. At present God seems less favorable than hostile: let us confine ourselves to establishing the fact.
Just as political economy, then, at its point of departure, has made us understand these mysterious and dismal words : In proportion as the production of utility increases, venality decreases; so, arrived at its first station, it warns us in a terrible voice: In proportion as art advances, the artisan recedes.
To fix the ideas better, let us cite a few examples.
In all the branches of metal-working, who are the least industrious of the wage-laborers ? Precisely those who are called machinists. Since tools have been so admirably perfected, a machinist is simply a man who knows how to handle a file or a plane: as for mechanics, that is the business of engineers and foremen. A
» Tocqueville, " Democracy in America."
country blacksmith often unites in his own person, by the very necessity of his position, the various talents of the locksmith, the edge-tool maker, the gunsmith, the machinist, the wheel-wright, and the horse-doctor: the world of thought would be astonished at the knowledge that is under the hammer of this man, whom the people, always inclined to jest, nickname brule-fer. A workingman of Creuzot, who for ten years has seen the grandest and finest that his profession can offer, on leaving his shop, finds himself unable to render the slightest service or to earn his living. The incapacity of the subject is directly proportional to the perfection of the art; and this is as true of all the trades as of metal-working.
The wages of machinists are maintained as yet at a high rate : sooner or later their pay must decrease, the poor quality of the labor being unable to maintain it.
I have just cited a mechanical art; let us now cite a liberal industry.
Would Gutenberg and his industrious companions, Faust and Schoffer, ever have believed that, by the division of labor, their sublime invention would fall into the domain of ignorance — I had almost said idiocy ? There are few men so weak-minded, so unlettered, as the mass of workers who follow the various branches of the typographic industry, — compositors, pressmen, type-founders, book-binders, and paper-makers. The printer, as he existed even in the days of the Estiennes, has become almost an abstraction. The employment of women in type-setting has struck this noble industry to the heart, and consummated its degradation. I have seen a female compositor—and she was one of the best — who did not know how to read, and was acquainted only with the forms of the letters. The whole art has been withdrawn into the hands of foremen and proof-readers, modest men of learning whom the impertinence of authors and patrons still humiliates, and a few workmen who are real artists. The press, in a word, fallen into mere mechanism, is no longer, in its personnel, at the level of civilization : soon there will be left of it but a few souvenirs.
I am told that the printers of Paris are endeavoring by association to rise again from their degradation : may their efforts not be exhausted in vain empiricism or misled into barren utopias !
After private industries, let us look at public administration.
In the public service, the effects of parcellaire labor are no less frightful, no less intense: in all the departments of administration, in proportion as the art develops, most of the employees see their salaries diminish. A letter-carrier receives from four hundred to six hundred francs per annum, of which the administration retains about a tenth for the retiring pension. After thirty years of labor, the pension, or rather the restitution, is three hundred francs per annum, which, when given to an almshouse by the pensioner, entitles him to a bed, soup, and washing. My heart bleeds to say it, but I think, nevertheless, that the administration is generous: what reward would you give to a man whose whole function consists in walking? The legend gi%Tes but five sous to the Wandering Jew; the letter-carriers receive twenty or thirty; true, the greater part of them have a family. That part of the service which calls into exercise the intellectual faculties is reserved for the postmasters and clerks: these are better paid ; they do the work of men.
Everywhere, then, in public service as well as free industry, things are so ordered that nine-tenths of the laborers serve as beasts of burden for the other tenth: such is the inevitable effect of industrial progress and the indispensable condition of all wealth. It is important to look well at this elementary truth before talking to the people of equality, liberty, democratic institutions, and other utopias, the realization of which involves a previous complete revolution in the relations of laborers.
The most remarkable effect of the division of labor is the decay of literature.
In the Middle Ages and in antiquity the man of letters, a sort of encyclopaedic doctor, a successor of the troubadour and the poet, all-knowing, was almighty. Literature lorded it over society with a high hand; kings sought the favor of authors, or revenged themselves for their contempt by burning them, — them and their books. This, too, was a way of recognizing literary sovereignty.
To-day we have manufacturers, lawyers, doctors, bankers, merchants, professors,.engineers, librarians, etc.; we have no men of letters. Or rather, whoever has risen to a remarkable height in his profession is thereby and of necessity lettered: literature, like the baccalaureate, has become an elementary part of every profession. The man of letters, reduced to his simplest expression, is the public writer, a sort of writing commissioner in the pay of everybody, whose best-known variety is the journalist.
It was a strange idea that occurred to the Chambers four years ago, — that of making a law on literary property ! As if henceforth the idea was not to become more and more -the allimportant point, the style nothing. Thanks to God, there is an end of parliamentary eloquence as of epic poetry and mythology ; the theatre rarely attracts business men and savants ; and while the connoisseurs are astonished at the decline of art, the philosophic observer sees only the progress of manly reason, troubled rather than rejoiced at these dainty trifles. The interest in romance is sustained only as long as it resembles reality ; history is reducing itself to anthropological exegesis; everywhere, indeed, the art of talking well appears as a subordinate auxiliary of the idea, the fact. The worship of speech, too mazy and slow for impatient minds, is neglected, and its artifices are losing daily their power of seduction. The language of the nineteenth century is made up of facts and figures, and he is the most eloquent among us who, with the fewest words, can say the most things. Whoever cannot speak this language is mercilessly relegated to the ranks of the rhetoricians; he is said to have no ideas.
In a young society the progress of letters necessarily outstrips philosophical and industrial progress, and for a long time serves for the expression of both. But there comes a day when thought leaves language in the rear, and when, consequently, the continued preeminence of literature in a society becomes a sure symptom of decline. Language, in fact, is to every people the collection of its native ideas, the encyclopaedia which Providence first reveals to it; it is the field which its reason must cultivate before directly attacking Nature through observation and expe rience. Now, as soon as a nation, after having exhausted the knowledge contained in its vocabulary, instead of pursuing its education by a superior philosophy, wraps itself in its poetic mantle, and begins to play with its periods and its hemistichs, we may safely say that such a society is lost. Every thing in it will become subtle, narrow, and false; it will not have even the advantage of maintaining in its splendor the language of which it is foolishly enamored; instead of going forward in the path of the geniuses of transition, the Tacituses, the Thucydides, the Machiavels, and the Montesquieus, it will be seen to fall, with irresistible force, from the majesty of Cicero to the subtleties of Seneca, the antitheses of St. Augustine, and the puns of St. Bernard.
Let no one, then, be deceived: from the moment that the mind, at first entirely occupied with speech, passes to experience and labor, the man of letters, properly speaking, is simply the puny personification of the least of our faculties ; and literature, the refuse of intelligent industry, finds a market only with the idlers whom it amuses and the proletaires whom it fascinates, the jugglers who besiege power and the charlatans who shelter themselves behind it, the hierophants of divine right who blow the trumpet of Sinai, and the fanatical proclaimers of the sovereignty of the people, whose few mouth-pieces, compelled to practise their tribunician eloquence from tombs until they can shower it from the height of rostrums, know no better than to give to the public parodies of Gracchus and Demosthenes.
All the powers of society, then, agree in indefinitely deteriorating the condition of the parcellaire laborer; and experience, universally confirming the theory, proves that this worker is condemned to misfortune from his mother's womb, no political reform, no association of interests, no effort either of public charity or of instruction, having the power to aid him. The various specifics proposed in these latter days, far from being able to cure the evil, would tend rather to inflame it by irritation; and all that has been written on this point has only exhibited in a clear light the vicious circle of political economy.
This we shall demonstrate in a few words.
§ 2. — Impotence of palliatives. — MM. Blanqui, Chevalier, Dunoyer, Rossi, and Passy.
All the remedies proposed for the fatal effects of parcellaire division may be reduced to two, which really^are but one, the second being the inversion of the first: to raise the mental and moral condition of the workingman by increasing his comfort and dignity ; or else, to prepare the way for his future emancipation and happiness by instruction.
We will examine successively these two systems-, one of which is represented by M. Blanqui, the other by M. Chevalier.
M. Blanqui is a friend of association and progress, a writer of democratic tendencies, a professor who has a place in the hearts of the proletariat. In his opening discourse of the year 1845, M, Blanqui proclaimed, as a means of salvation, the association of labor and capital, the participation of the workingman in the profits, — that is, a beginning of industrial solidarity. " Our century," he exclaimed, " must witness the birth of the collective producer." M. Blanqui forgets that the collective producer was born long since, as well as the collective consumer, and that the question is no longer a genetic, but a medical, one. Our task is to cause the blood proceeding from the collective digestion, instead of rushing wholly to the head, stomach, and lungs, to descend also into the legs and arms. Besides, I do not know what method M. Blanqui proposes to employ in order to realize his generous thought, — whether it be the establishment of national workshops, or the loaning of capital by the State, or the expropriation of the conductors of business enterprises and the substitution for them of industrial associations, or, finally, whether he will rest content with a recommendation of the savings-bank to workingmen, in which case the participation would be put off till doomsday.
However this may be, M. Blanqui's idea amounts simply to an increase of wages resulting from the copartnership, or at least from the interest in the business, which he confers upon the laborers. What, then, is the value to the laborer of a participation in the profits ?
A mill with fifteen thonsand spindles, employing three hundred hands, does not pay at present an annual dividend of twenty thousand francs. I am informed by a Mulhouse manufacturer that factory stocks in Alsace are generally below par and that this industry has already become a means of getting money by stock-jobbing instead of by labor. To Sell ; to sell at the right time ; to sell dear, — is the only object in view; to manufacture is only to prepare for a sale. When I assume, then, on an average, a profit of twenty thousand francs to a factory employing three hundred persons, my argument being general, I am twenty thousand francs out of the way. Nevertheless, we will admit the correctness of this amount. Dividing twenty thousand francs, the profit of the mill, by three hundred, the number of persons, and again by three hundred, the number of working days, I find an increase of pay for each person of twenty-two and one-fifth centimes, or for daily expenditure an addition of eighteen centimes, just a morsel of bread. Is it worth while, then, for this, to expropriate mill-owners and endanger the public welfare, by erecting establishments which must be insecure, since, property being divided into infinitely small shares, and being no longer supported by profit, business enterprises would lack ballast, and would be unable to weather commercial gales. And even if no expropriation was involved, what a poor prospect to offer the working class is an increase of eighteen centimes in return for centuries of economy ; for no less time than this would be needed to accumulate the requisite capital, supposing that periodical suspensions of business did not periodically consume its savings!
The fact which I have just stated has been pointed out in several ways. M. Passy * himself took from the books of a mill in Normandy where the laborers were associated with the owner the wages of several families for a period of ten years, and he found that they averaged from twelve to fourteen hundred francs per year. He then compared the situation of mill-hands paid in proportion to the prices obtained by their employers with that of laborers who receive fixed wages, and found that the difference is almost imperceptible. This result might easily have been foreseen. Economic phenomena obey laws as abstract and immutable as those of numbers : it is only privilege, fraud, and absolutism which disturb the eternal harmony.
M. Blanqui, repentant, as it seems, at having taken this first step toward socialistic ideas, has made haste to retract his words. At the same meeting in which M. Passy demonstrated the inadequacy of cooperative association, he exclaimed : " Does it not seem that labor is a thing susceptible of organization, and that it is in the power of the State to regulate the happiness of humanity as it does the march of an army, and with an entirely mathematical precision ? This is an evil tendency, a delusion which the Academy cannot oppose too strongly, because it is not only a chimera, but a dangerous sophism. Let us respect good and honest intentions ; but let us not fear to say that to publish a book upon the organization of labor is to rewrite for the fiftieth time a treatise upon the quadrature of the circle or the philosopher's stone."
1 Meeting of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, September, 1S45
Then, carried away by his zeal, M. Blanqui finishes the destruction of his theory of cooperation, which M. Passy already had so rudely shaken, by the following example : " M. Dailly, one of the most enlightened of farmers, has drawn up an account for each piece of land and an account for each product; and he proves that within a period of thirty years the same man has never obtained equal crops from the same piece of land. The products have varied from twenty-six thousand francs to nine thousand or seven thousand francs, sometimes descending as low as three hundred francs. There are also certain products — potatoes, for instance — which fail one time in ten. How, then, with these variations and with revenues so uncertain, can we establish even distribution and uniform wages for laborers ? . . ."
It might be answered that the variations in the product of each piece of land simply indicate that it is necessary to associate proprietors with each other after having associated laborers with proprietors, which would establish a more complete solidarity : but this would be a prejudgment on the very thing in question, which M. Blanqui definitively decides, after reflection, to be unattainable, — namely, the organization of labor. Besides, it is evident that solidarity would not add an obolus to the common wealth, and that, consequently, it does not even touch the problem of division.
In short, the profit so much envied, and often a very uncertain matter with employers, falls far short of the difference between actual wages and the wages desired; and M. Blanqui's former plan, miserable in its results and disavowed by its author, would be a scourge to the manufacturing industry. Now, the di vision of labor being henceforth universally established, the argument is generalized, and leads us to the conclusion that misery is an effect of labor, as well as of idleness.
The answer to this is, and it is a favorite argument with the people: Increase the price of services ; double and triple wages.
I confess that if such an increase was possible it would be a complete success, whatever M. Chevalier may have said, who needs to be slightly corrected on this point.
According to M. Chevalier, if the price of any kind of merchandise whatever is increased, other kinds will rise in a like proportion, and no one will benefit thereby.
This argument, which the economists have rehearsed for more than a century, is as false as it is old, and it belonged to M. Chevalier, as an engineer, to rectify the economic tradition. The salary of a head clerk being ten francs per day, and the wages of a workingman four, if the income of each is increased five francs, the ratio of their fortunes, which was formerly as one hundred to forty, will be thereafter as one hundred to sixty. The increase of wages, necessarily taking place by addition and not by proportion, would be, therefore, an excellent method of equalization; and the economists would deserve to have thrown back at them by the socialists the reproach of ignorance which they have be stowed upon them at random.
But I say that such an increase is impossible, and that the supposition is absurd: for, as M. Chevalier has shown very clearly elsewhere, the figure which indicates the price of the day's labor is only an algebraic exponent without effect on the reality: and that which it is necessary first to endeavor to increase, while correcting the inequalities of distribution, is not the monetary expression, but the quantity of products. Till then every rise of wages can have no other effect than that produced by a rise of the price of wheat, wine, meat, sugar, soap, coal, etc., — that is, the effect of a scarcity. For what is wages ?
It is the cost price of wheat, wine, meat, coal; it is the integrant price of all things. Let us go farther yet: wages is the proportionality of the elements which compose wealth, and which are consumed every day reproductively by the mass of laborers. Now, to double wages, in the sense in which the people understand the words, is to give to each producer a share greater than his product, which is contradictory: and if the rise pertains only to a few industries, a general disturbance in exchange ensues, — that is, a scarcity. God save me from predictions! but, in spite of my desire for the amelioration of the lot of the working class, I declare that it is impossible for strikes followed by an increase of wages to end otherwise than in a general rise in prices : that is as certain as that two and two make four. It is not by such methods that the workingmen will attain to wealth and — what is a thousand times more precious than wealth — liberty. The workingmen, supported by the favor of- an indiscreet press, in demanding an increase of wages, have served monopoly much better than their own real interests : may they recognize, when their situation, shall become more painful, the bitter fruit of their inexperience!
Convinced of the uselessness, or rather, of the fatal effects, of an increase of wages, and seeing clearly that the question is wholly organic and not at all commercial, M. Chevalier attacks the problem at the other end. He asks for the working class, first of all, instruction, and proposes extensive reforms in this direction.
Instruction ! this is also M. Arago's word to the workingmen ; it is the principle of all progress. Instruction ! . . . It should be known once for all what may be expected from it in the solution of the problem before us; it should be known, I say, not whether it is desirable that all should receive it, — this no one doubts, — but whether it is possible.
To clearly comprehend the complete significance of M. Chevalier's views, a knowledge of his methods is indispensable.
M. Chevalier, long accustomed to discipline, first by his polytechnic studies, then by his St. Simonian connections, and finally by his position in the University, does not seem to admit that a pupil can have any other inclination than to obey the regulations, a sectarian any other thought than that of his chief, a public functionary any other opinion than that of the government. This may be a conception of order as respectable as any other, and I hear upon this subject no expressions of approval or censure. Has M. Chevalier an idea to offer peculiar to himself ? On the principle that all that is not forbidden by law is allowed, he hastens to the front to deliver his opinion, and then abandons it to give his adhesion, if there is occasion, to the opinion of authority. It was thus that M. Chevalier, before settling down in the bosom of the Constitution, joined M. Enfantin: it was thus that he gave his views upon canals, railroads, finance, property, long before the administration had adopted any system in relation to the construction of railways, the changing of the rate of interest on bonds, patents, literary property, etc.
M. Chevalier, then, is not a blind admirer of the University system of instruction, — far from it; and until the appearance of the new order of things, he does not hesitate to say what he thinks. His opinions are of the most radical.
M. Villemain had said in his report: " The object of the higher education is to prepare in advance a choice of men to occupy and serve in all the positions of the administration, the magistracy, the bar and the various liberal professions, including the higher ranks and learned specialties of the army and navy."
', The higher education," thereupon observes M. Chevalier,1 " is designed also to prepare men some of whom shall be farmers, others manufacturers, these merchants, and those private engineers. Now, in the official programme, all these classes are forgotten. The omission is of considerable importance; for, indeed, industry in its various forms, agriculture, commerce, are neither accessories nor accidents in a State: they are its chief dependence. ... If the University desires to justify its name, it must provide a course in these things ; else an industrial university will be established in opposition to it. . . . We shall have altar against altar, etc. . . ."
And as it is characteristic of a luminous idea to throw light on all questions connected with it, professional instruction furnishes M. Chevalier with a very expeditious method of deciding, incidentally, the quarrel between the clergy and the University on liberty of education.
" It must be admitted that a very great concession is made to the clergy in allowing Latin to serve as the basis of education. The clergy know Latin as well as the University ; it is their own tongue. Their tuition, moreover, is cheaper; hence they must inevitably draw a large portion of our youth into their small seminaries and their schools of a higher grade. . . "
The conclusion of course follows: change the course of study, and you decatholicize the realm; and as the clergy know only Latin and the Bible, when they have among them neither masters of art, nor farmers, nor accountants; when, of their forty thousand priests, there are not twenty, perhaps, with the ability to make a plan or forge a nail, — we soon shall see which the fathers of families will choose, industry or the breviary, and whether they do not regard labor as the most beautiful language in which to pray to God.
1" Journal des Economistes," April, 1843.
Thus would end this ridiculous opposition between religious education and profane science, between the spiritual and the temporal, between reason and faith, between altar and throne, old rubrics henceforth meaningless, but with which they still impose upon the good nature of the public, until it takes offence.
M. Chevalier does not insist, however, on this solution: he knows that religion and monarchy are two powers which, though continually quarreling, cannot exist without each other; and that he may not awaken suspicion, he launches out into another revolutionary idea, — equality.
" France is in a position to furnish the polytechnic school with twenty times as many scholars as enter at present (the average being one hundred and seventy-six, this would amount to three thousand five hundred and twenty). The University has but to say the word. ... If my opinion was of any weight, I should maintain that mathematical capacity is much less special than is commonly supposed. I remember the success with which children, taken at random, so to speak, from the pavements of Paris, follow the teaching of La Martiniere by the method of Captain Tabareau."
If the higher education, reconstructed according to the views of M. Chevalier, was sought after by all young Frenchmen instead of by only ninety thousand as commonly, there would be no exaggeration in raising the estimate of the number of minds mathematically inclined from three thousand five hundred and twenty to ten thousand; but, by the same argument, we should have ten thousand artists, philologists, and philosophers; ten thousand doctors, physicians, chemists, and naturalists; ten thousand economists, legists, and administrators; twenty thousand manufacturers, foremen, merchants, and accountants ; forty thousand farmers, Wine-growers, miners, etc., — in all, one hundred thousand specialists a year, or about one-third of our youth. The rest, having, instead of special adaptations, only mingled adaptations, would be, distributed indifferently elsewhere.
It is certain that so powerful an impetus given to intelligence would quicken the progress of equality, and I do not doubt that such is the secret desire of M. Chevalier. But that is precisely what troubles me: capacity is never wanting, any more than population, and the problem is to find employment for the one and bread for the other. In vain does M. Chevalier tell us: " The higher education would give less ground for the complaint that it throws into society crowds of ambitious persons without any means of satisfying their desires, and interested in the overthrow of the State; people without employment and unable to get any, good for nothing and believing themselves fit for any thing, especially for the direction of public affairs. Scientific studies do not so inflate the mind. They enlighten and regulate it at once; they fit men for practical life. . . ." Such language, I reply, is good to use with patriarchs : a professor of political economy should have more respect for his position and his audience. The government has only one hundred and twenty offices annually at its disposal for one hundred and seventy-six students admitted to the polytechnic school: what, then, would be its embarrassment if the number of admissions was ten thousand, or even, taking M. Chevalier's figures, three thousand five hundred ? And, to generalize, the whole number of civil positions is sixty thousand, or three thousand vacancies annually; what dismay would the government be thrown into if, suddenly adopting the reformatory ideas of M. Chevalier, it should find itself besieged by fifty thousand office-seekers! The following objection has often been made to republicans without eliciting a reply : When everybody shall have the electoral privilege, will the deputies do any better, and will the proletariat be further advanced ? I ask the same question of M. Chevalier: When each academic year shall bring you one hundred thousand fitted men, what will you do with them ?
To provide for these interesting young people, you will go down to the lowest round of the ladder. You will oblige the young man, after fifteen years of lofty study, to begin, no longer as now with the offices of aspirant engineer, sub-lieutenant of artillery, second lieutenant, deputy, comptroller, general guardian, etc., but with the ignoble positions of pioneer, train-soldier, dredger, cabin-boy, fagot-maker, and exciseman. There he will wait, until death, thinning the ranks, enables him to advance a step. Under such circumstances a man, a graduate of the polytechnic school and capable of becoming a Vauban, may die a laborer on a second class road, or a corporal in a regiment.
Oh! how much more prudent Catholicism has shown itself, and how far it has surpassed you all, St. Simonians, republican::, university men, economists, in the knowledge of man and society ! The priest knows that our life is but a voyage, and that our perfection cannot be realized here below; and he contents himscli with outlining on earth an education which must be completed in heaven. The man whom religion has moulded, content to know, do, and obtain what suffices for his earthly destiny, never can become a source of embarrassment to the government: rather would he be a martyr. O beloved religion ! is it necessary that a bourgeoisie which stands in such need of you should disown you ? . . .
Into what terrible struggles of pride and misery does this mania for universal instruction plunge us ! Of what use is professional education, of what good are agricultural and commercial schools, if your students have neither employment nor capital ? And what need to cram one's self till the age of twenty with all sorts of knowledge, then to fasten the threads of a mule-jenny or pick coal at the bottom of a pit ? What! you have by your own confession only three thousand positions annually to bestow upon fifty thousand possible capacities, and yet you talk of establishing schools! Cling rather to your system of exclusion and privilege, a system as old as the world, the support of dynasties and patriciates, a veritable machine for gelding men in order to secure the pleasures of a caste of Sultans. Set a high price upon your teaching, multiply obstacles, drive away, by lengthy tests, the son of the proletaire whom hunger does not permit to wait, and protect with all your power the ecclesiastical schools, where the students are taught to labor for the other life, to cultivate resignation, to fast, to respect those in high places, to love the king, and to pray to God. For every useless study sooner or later becomes an abandoned study : knowledge is poison to slaves.
Surely M. Chevalier has too much sagacity not to have seen the consequences of his idea. But he has spoken from the bottorn of his heart, and we can only applaud his good intentions: men must first be men; after that, he may live who can.
Thus we advance at random, guided by Providence, who never warns us except with a blow: this is the beginning and end of political economy.
Contrary to M. Chevalier, professor of political economy at the College of France, M. Dunoyer, an economist of the Institute, does not wish instruction to be organized. The organization of instruction is a species of organization of labor; therefore, no organization. Instruction, observes M. Dunoyer, is a profession, not a function of the State; like all professions, it ought to be and remain free. It is communism, it is socialism, it is the revolutionary tendency, whose principal agents have been Robespierre, Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and M. Guizot, which have thrown into our midst these fatal ideas of the centralization and absorption of all activity in the State. The press is very free, and the pen of the journalist is an object of merchandise; religion, too, is very free, and every wearer of a gown, be it short or long, who knows how to excite public curiosity, can draw an audience about him. M. Lacordaire has his devotees, M. Leroux his apostles, M. Buchez his convent. Why, then, should not instruction also be free ? If the right of the instructed, like that of the buyer, is unquestionable, and that of the instructor, who is only a variety of the seller, is its correlative, it is impossible to infringe upon the liberty of instruction without doing violence to the most precious of liberties, that of the conscience. And then, adds M. Dunoyer, if the State owes instruction to everybody, it will soon be maintained that it owes labor; then lodging ; then shelter. . . . Where does that lead to ?
The argument of M. Dunoyer is irrefutable: to organize instruction is to give to every citizen a pledge of liberal employment and comfortable wages; the two are as intimately connected as the circulation of the arteries and the veins. But M. Dunoyer's theory implies also that progress belongs only to a certain select portion of humanity, and that barbarism is the eternal lot of nine-tenths of the human race, It is this which constitutes, according to M. Dunoyer, the very essence of society, which manifests itself in three stages, religion, hierarchy, and beggary. So that in this system, which is that of Destutt de Tracy, Montesquieu, and Plato, the antinomy of division, like that of value, is without solution.
It is a source of inexpressible pleasure to me, I confess, to see M. Chevalier, a defender of the centralization of instruction, opposed by M. Dunoyer, a defender of liberty; M. Dunoyer in his turn antagonized by M. Guizot; M. Guizot, the representative of the centralizers, contradicting the Charter, which posits liberty as a principle; the Charter trampled under foot by the Uni-. versity men, who lay sole claim to the privilege of teaching, regardless of the express command of the Gospel to the priests: Go and teach. And above all this tumult of economists, legislators, ministers, academicians, professors, and priests, economic 'Providence giving the lie to the Gospel, and shouting: Pedagogues ! what use am I to make of your instruction ?
Who will relieve us of this anxiety ? M. Rossi leans toward eclecticism : Too little divided, he says, labor remains unproductive ; too much divided, it degrades man. Wisdom lies between these extremes; in medio virtus. Unfortunately this intermediate wisdom is only a small amount of poverty joined with a small amount of wealth, so that the condition is not modified in the least. The proportion of good and evil, instead of being as one hundred to one hundred, becomes as fifty to fifty: in this we may take, once for all, the measure of eclecticism. For the rest, M. Rossi's juste-milieu is in direct opposition to the great economic law: To produce with the least possible expense the greatest possible quantity of values. . . Now, how can labor fulfil its destiny without an extreme division ? Let us look farther, if you please.
" All economic systems and hypotheses," says M. Rossi, " belong to the economist, but the intelligent, free, responsible man is under the control of the moral law. . . Political economy is only a science which examines the relations of things, and draws conclusions therefrom. It examines the effects of labor; in the application of labor, you should consider the importance of the object in view. When the application of labor is unfavorable to an object higher than the production of wealth, it should not be applied. . . . Suppose that it would increase the national wealth to compel children to labor fifteen hours a day: morality would say that that is not allowable. Does that prove that political economy is false ? No; that proves that you confound things which should be kept separate."
If M. Rossi had a little more of that Gallic simplicity so difficult for foreigners to acquire, he would very summarily have thrown his tongue to the dogs, as Madame de Sevigne said. But a professor must talk, talk, talk, not for the sake of saying any thing, but in order to avoid silence. M. Rossi takes three turns around the question, then lies down : that is enough to make certain people believe that he has answered it.
It is surely a sad symptom for a science when, in developing itself according to its own principles, it reaches its object just in time to be contradicted by another; as, for example, when the postulates of political economy are found to be opposed to those of morality, for I suppose that morality is a science as well as political economy. What, then, is human knowledge, if all its affirmations destroy each other, and on what shall we rely ? Divided labor is a slave's occupation, but it alone is really productive ; undivided labor belongs to the free man, but it does not pay its expenses. On the one hand, political economy tells us to be rich; on the other, morality tells us to be free; and M. Rossi, speaking in the name of both, warns us at the same time that we can be neither free nor rich, for to be but half of either is to be neither. M. Rossi's doctrine, then, far from satisfying this double desire of humanity, is open to the objection that, to avoid exclusiveness, it strips us of every thing: it is, under another form, the history of the representative system.
But the antagonism is even more profound than M. Rossi has supposed. For since, according to universal experience (on this point in harmony with theory), wages decrease in proportion to the division of labor, it is clear that, in submitting ourselves to parcellaire slavery, we thereby shall not obtain wealth ; we shall only change men into machines : witness the laboring population of the two worlds. And since, on the other hand, without the division of labor, society falls back into barbarism, it is evident also that, by sacrificing wealth, we shall not obtain liberty : witness all the wandering tribes of Asia and Africa. Therefore it is necessary — economic science and morality absolutely command it — for us to solve the problem of division : now, where are the economists ? More than thirty years ago, Lemontey, developing a remark of Smith, exposed the demoralizing and homicidal influence of the division of labor. What has been the reply ; what investigations have been made; what remedies proposed ; has the question even been understood ?
Every year the economists report, with an exactness which'I would commend more highly if I did not see that it is always fruitless, the commercial condition of the States of Europe. They know how many yards of cloth, pieces of silk, pounds of iron, have been manufactured; what has been the consumption per head of wheat, wine, sugar, meat: it might be said that to them the ultimate of science is to publish inventories, and the object of their labor is to become general comptrollers of nations. Never did such a mass of material offer so fine a field for investigation. What has been found ; what new principle has sprung from this mass; what solution of the many problems of long standing has been reached; what new direction have studies taken ?
One question, among others, seems to have been prepared for a final judgment, — pauperism. Pauperism, of all the phenomena of the civilized world, is to-day the best known : we know pretty nearly whence it comes, when and how it arrives, and what it costs; its proportion at various stages of civilization has been calculated, and we have convinced ourselves that all the specifics with which it hitherto has been fought have been impotent. Pauperism has been divided into genera, species, and varieties : it is a complete natural history, one of the most important branches of anthropology. Well! the unquestionable result of all the facts collected, unseen, shunned, covered'by the economists with their silence, is that pauperism is constitutional and chronic in society as long as the antagonism between labor and capital continues, and that this antagonism can end only by the absolute negation of political economy. What issue from this labyrinth have the economists discovered ?
This last point deserves a moment's attention.
In primitive communism misery, as I have observed in a preceding paragraph, is the universal condition.
Labor is war declared upon this misery.
Labor organizes itself, first by division, next by machinery, then by competition, etc.
Now, the question is whether it is not in the essence of this organization, as given us by political economy, at the same time that it puts an end to the misery of some, to aggravate that of others in a fatal and unavoidable manner. These are the terms in which the question of pauperism must be stated, and for this reason we have undertaken to solve it.
What means, then, this eternal babble of the economists about the improvidence of laborers, their idleness, their want of dignity, their ignorance, their debauchery, their early marriages, etc ? All these vices and excesses are only the cloak of pauperism; but the cause, the original cause which inexorably holds fourfifths of the human race in disgrace, — what is it ? Did not Nature make all men equally gross, averse to labor, wanton, and wild ? Did not patrician and proletaire spring from the same clay ? Then how happens it that, after so many centuries, and in spite of so many miracles of industry, science, and art, comfort and culture have not become the inheritance of all ? How happens it that in Paris and London, centres of social wealth, poverty is as hideous as in the days of Caesar and Agricola? Why, by the side of this refined aristocracy, has the mass remained so uncultivated? It is laid to the vices of the people: but the vices of the upper class appear to be no less; perhaps they are even greater. The original stain affected all alike: how happens it, once more, that the baptism of civilization has not been equally efficacious for all ? Does this not show that progress itself is a privilege, and that the man who has neither wagon nor horse is forced to flounder about for ever in the mud ? What do f say ? The totally destitute man has no desire to improve : he has fallen so low that ambition even is extinguished in his heart.
" Of all the private virtues," observes M. Dunoyer with infinite reason, " the most necessary, that which gives us all the others in succession, is the passion for well-being, is the violent desire to extricate one's self from misery and abjection, is that spirit of emulation and dignity which does not permit men to rest content with an inferior situation. . . . But this sentiment, which seems so natural, is unfortunately much less common than is thought. There are few reproaches which the generality of men deserve less than that which ascetic moralists bring against them of being too fond of their comforts : the opposite reproach might be brought against them with infinitely more justice. . . . There is even in the nature of men this very remarkable feature, that the less their knowledge and resources, the less desire they have of acquiring these. The most miserable savages and the least enlightened of men are precisely those in whom it is most difficult to arouse wants, those in whom it is hardest to inspire the desire to rise out of their condition; so that man must already have gained a certain degree of comfort by his labor, before he can feel with any keenness that need of improving his condition, of perfecting his existence, which I call the love of well-being." 1
Thus the misery of the laboring classes arises in general from their lack of heart and mind, or, as M. Passy has said somewhere, from the weakness, the inertia of their moral and intellectual faculties. This inertia is due to the fact that the said laboring classes, still half savage, do not have a sufficiently ardent desire to ameliorate their condition : this M. Dunoyer shows. But as this absence of desire is itself the effect of misery, it follows that misery and apathy are each other's effect and cause, and that the proletariat turns in a circle.
To rise out of this abyss there must be either well-being, — that is, a gradual increase of wages, — or intelligence and courage, — that is, a gradual development of faculties: two things diametrically opposed to the degradation of soul and body which is the natural effect of the division of labor. The misfortune of the proletariat, then, is wholly providential, and to undertake to extinguish it in the present state of political economy would be to produce a revolutionary whirlwind.
For it is not without a profound reason, rooted in the loftiest considerations of morality, that the universal conscience, expressing itself by turns through the selfishness of the rich and the apathy of the proletariat, denies a reward to the man whose whole function is that of a lever and spring. If, by some impossibility, material well-being could fall to the lot of theparcellaire laborer, we should see something monstrous happen : the laborers employed at disagreeable tasks would become like those Romans, gorged with the wealth of the world, whose brutalized
1 " The Liberty of Labor," Vol. II, p. 80.
minds became incapable of devising new pleasures. Well-being without education stupefies people and makes them insolent: this was noticed in the most ancient times. Incrassatus est, et recalcitravit, says Deuteronomy. For the rest, the parcellaire laborer has judged himself: he is content, provided he has bread, a pallet to sleep on, and plenty of liquor on Sunday. Any other condition would be prejudicial to him, and would endanger public order.
At Lyons there is a class of men who, under cover of the monopoly given them by the city government, receive higher pay than college professors or the head-clerks of the government ministers: I mean the porters. The price of loading and unloading at certain wharves in Lyons, according to the schedule of the Rigues or porters' associations, is thirty centimes per hundred kilogrammes. At this rate, it is not seldom that a man earns twelve, fifteen, and even twenty francs a day: he only has to carry forty or fifty sacks from a vessel to a warehouse. It is but a few hours' work. What a favorable condition this would be for the development of intelligence, as well for children as for parents, if, of itself and the leisure which it brings, wealth was a moralizing principle! But this is not the case: the porters of Lyons are to-day what they always have been, drunken, dissolute, brutal, insolent, selfish, and base. It is a painful thing to say, but I look upon the following declaration as a duty, because it is the truth: one of the first reforms to be effected among the laboring classes will be the reduction of the wages of some at the same time that we raise those of others. Monopoly does not gain in respectability by belonging to the lowest classes of people, especially when it serves to maintain only the grossest individualism. The revolt of the silk-workers met with no sympathy, but rather hostility, from the porters and the river population generally. Nothing that happens off the wharves has any power to move them. Beasts of burden fashioned in advance for despotism, they will not mingle with politics as long as their privilege is maintained. Nevertheless, I ought to say in their defence that, some time ago, the necessities of competition having brought their prices down, more social sentiments began to awaken in these gross natures : a few more reductions seasoned with a little poverty, and the Rigues of Lyons will be chosen as the storming-party when the time comes for assaulting the bastilles.
In short, it is impossible, contradictory, in the present system of society, for the proletariat to secure well-being through education or education through well-being. For, without considering the fact that the proletaire, a human machine, is as unfit for comfort as for education, it is demonstrated, on the one hand, that his wages continually tend to go down rather than up, and, on the other, that the cultivation of his mind, if it were possible, would be useless to him ; so that he always inclines towards barbarism and misery. Every thing that has been attempted of late years in France and England with a view to the amelioration of the condition of the poor in the matters of the labor of women and children and of primary instruction, unless it was the fruit of some hidden thought of radicalism, has been done contrary to economic. ideas and to the prejudice of the established order. Progress, to the mass of laborers, is always the book sealed with the seven seals ; and it is not by legislative misconstructions that the relentless enigma will be solved.
For the rest, if the economists, by exclusive attention to their old routine, have finally lost all knowledge of the present state of things, it cannot be said that the socialists have better solved the antinomy which division of labor raised. Quite the contrary, they have stopped with negation ; for is it not perpetual negation to oppose, for instance, the uniformity of parcellaire labor with a so-called variety in which each one can change his occupation ten, fifteen, twenty times a day at will ?
As if to change ten, fifteen, twenty times a day from one kind of divided labor to another was to make labor synthetic ; as if, consequently, twenty fractions of the day's work of a manual laborer could be equal to the day's work of an artist! Even if such industrial vaulting was practicable, — and it may be asserted in advance that it would disappear in the presence of the necessity of making laborers responsible and therefore functions personal, — it would not change at all the physical, moral, and intellectual condition of the laborer; the dissipation would only be a surer guarantee of his incapacity and, consequently, his dependence. This is admitted, moreover, by the organizers, communists, and others. So far are they from pretending to solve the antinomy of division that all of them admit, as an essential condition of organization, the hierarchy of labor, — that is, the classification of laborers into parcellaires and generalizers or organizers,— and in all utopias the distinction of capacities, the basis or everlasting excuse for inequality of goods, is admitted as a pivot. Those reformers whose schemes have nothing to recommend them but logic, and who, after having complained of the simplism, monotony, uniformity, and extreme division of labor, then propose a plurality as a Synthesis, — such inventors, I say, are judged already, and ought to be sent back to school.
But you, critic, the reader undoubtedly will ask, what is your solution ? Show us this synthesis which, retaining the responsibility, the personality, in short, the specialty of the laborer, will unite extreme division and the greatest variety in one complex and harmonious whole.
My reply is ready: Interrogate facts, consult humanity; we can choose no better guide. After the oscillations of value, division of labor is the economic fact which influences most perceptibly profits and wages. It is the first stake driven by Providence into the soil of industry, the starting-point of the immense triangulation which finally must determine the right and duty of each and all. Let us, then, follow our guides, without which we can only wander and lose ourselves.
Tu longe sequerc, et vestigia semper adora.