LeftLiberty: Proudhon on individualism and socialism

Bits of progress on LeftLiberty, including tweaks to the logo, the beginnings of a website and some responses to my call for contributions. I’ve been working to get the wiki archive working smoothly, with prettier urls and interwiki linking with the Distributive Passions site. The material for the “classics” section looks like it will include works by Proudhon, Leroux, Bastiat, Molinari, Tucker, and several others. In the early works, there is a lot of belligerent agreement that a simple opposition between “individualism” and “socialism” doesn’t quite get the work done. Here’s a bit of a letter from Proudhon:

Paris, January 24, 1856.


In my Contradictions, I scoffed equally at the Socialist and the Economists; since 1848, I have affirmed Socialism. That variance preoccupies you, and you ask for an explanation.

Every word in a language is subject to meanings that are very different, even sometimes opposed.

By Socialism, do you mean the philosophy which teaches the theory of society or the social science? I affirm that Socialism.

Do you want to designate, not the philosophy or the science, but the school, the sect, or the party which admits that science, believes it possible and searches for it? I am of that opinion. It is in that sense that the Peuple and Représentant du peuple in 1848, were two organs of Socialism.

Even today, I strongly profess my belief in Socialism, and more than ever believe in its triumph.

But, in the economic discussions, it happens that one calls Socialism the theory which tends to sacrifice individual rights to the social, as one calls Individualism the theory which tends to sacrifice society to the individual. In that case, I deny Socialism and Individualism alike; in this, I only follow the example of Pierre Leroux, who, for all that he, like me, declared himself a Socialist in 1848, has none the less combatted Socialism in his books, and demanded the individual prerogative.

from Correspondence, V. 7
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.