Proudhon Library

P.-J. Proudhon, Three Prefaces for “The Celebration of Sunday”

Proudhon’s first major work, The Celebration of Sunday, was subject to quite a number of revisions between the first edition in 1839 and what appears to be the fourth edition in 1850. The Preface and notes seem to have been particularly subject to change. As I have been revising my translation of the text from the 19th-century Œuvres Complètes, I wanted to determine the extent of the changes and turned to the notes published in the 20th-century Rivière edition, including the “Appendix” that I recently translated, which includes some material from a manuscript, perhaps now no longer accessible, that did not appear in any of the editions. That material revealed that at the time of the Rivière edition it was believed that Proudhon’s original 1839 edition was lost, one of the factors prompted the scholarly exchange around the manuscripts. Having access, at present to the 1838 volume, but not the manuscript, I can’t say any more about the sections addressed to the Academy, but I can say that the story of the revisions was a bit more complicated and different in its details than was suggested in that 20th-century exchange. As part of the work of clarifying the details, in preparation for a new Corvus Editions New Proudhon Library release, I’ve translated the first three versions of the Preface. […]

Working Translations

Charles-Auguste Bontemps, “The Libertarian Spirit” (1945)

A libertarian, from whatever discipline he claims to be, defines himself as essentially individualist and non-conformist. The libertarian spirit, according to the views that I propose to lay out, manifests itself in a constant desire for clarity, realism, objectivity. However, the initial structure of human societies was, as we know, strictly communitarian. One cannot, consequently, study the behaviors that are appropriate to a libertarian spirit, without having previously situated the individual with the group. […]


Notes on Proudhon’s “Justice”

One key challenge for modern readers of Proudhon’s Justice is that the sections where he presumably provides his mature “solution of the social problem,” his account of basic social relations organized according to principles of immanent justice, are also the sections where his anti-feminism poses the most significant challenges for us. The account itself is hardly a mystery. I translated the “Catechism of Marriage” late in that 2014 campaign. Proudhon’s appropriation of the androgyne theory that had been popular in Saint-Simonian circles is straightforward enough — and, I think, there are also very few obstacles to making of it something useful, which dispenses with the particular forms of biological essentialism that we cite among the sources of the problem in Proudhon’s work. What does seem to remain a bit mysterious is a fairly wide range of details, through which Proudhon moved from some biological notions of dubious validity to a theory of social organization that is in some ways tantalizingly close to what we might hope for from an anarchist social science. […]