[from the Forums of the Libertarian Left]
From my perspective, the mutualist norm of reciprocity is more like a tool than a law. Even in the form of a “law of love,” it’s at most a conventional law — and conventions are just approximations, levers that may get the next work done. “Justice” is nothing more than a level, separate indeed from good consequences, but for different reasons, maybe, than Roderick suggests. By 1858, Proudhon had pretty clearly laid out a world in which we had the justice-level, and pretty much everything else was a hammer — and the ethical choices all come down to whether or not individuals were going to hammer each other down to the same level, build the general level of human existence up, or drop the level entirely and just hammer away at each other without any other guide than the “right” of the strong. I think that the more thoroughly we attempt to understand nature, including human nature, in its evolutions, the more efficient we can be at the job of just surviving, and the more energy we can devote to experimentation (for good and ill). Potentially, at least, we also learn to deal with the deepening antinomy involved in our phenomenologically separate but physically united existence. Progress (what Proudhon and others were happy to call “The Revolution”) is driven by the recognition of new relations and new forces (new tools, and new uses, so that we start to have more than hammers, or stop using everything like a hammer), and new ethical subjects.
“The multiplication of free forces is the true contr’un…” : That’s still just a working hypothesis, it seems to me, or more accurately a statement of experimental method.