JUSTICE: Program – Conclusion

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume I, “Program,” section XIII.


The papacy having been broken, Catholicism is brought low: there is no more religion in the civilized world.

The Protestant churches, a sort of middle term between religious thought and philosophical thought, that remained in opposition to the Roman Church, perish in their turn, obliged as they will be either to decisively adopt philosophy, and consequently to consummate their abjuration, or to undergo a restoration of unity, and consequently to contradict themselves.

Eclecticism itself no longer has any raison d’être; of what could it remain composed? Willy-nilly, it must join the revolutionary antithesis, unless it is to dissolve into pure skepticism. Isn’t it already towards the latter sad alternative that minds are inclining in France and in all of Europe? Before December 2, the governments, by a kind of tacit pact, pursued a moderate course in politics; they tended to balance themselves, and followed one another in the application of the constitutional system. Now, all political and social development is suspended; the reason of State, which had been in the process of reconciling itself with the rationality of law, floats randomly, free from any suggestion of fear, mistrust, and ancient antagonism. International relations are disturbed; there are no more principles; the despair of minds pushes them toward war.

Has England, which first, out of hatred of democracy, applauded December 2, any principles? The question has become almost laughable. For some years, England has astonished the world by its contempt for divine and human law… I am mistaken: yes, England has one principle, to destroy, one by the others, the powers of the continent.

Does Russia have principles? — If Russia had principles, if for example it believed in the inviolability of nations, then either it would restore Poland, or else it would not permit this so-called emancipation of the Italians. If Russia had principles, it would understand that there is no transition between the immorality of servitude and the recognition of the rights of man and citizen; it would be its night of August 4; instead of haggling over the liberty of its peasants, it would free them straightaway, in a revolutionary manner.

Does Austria have principles? How then is it perpetually at odds with its peoples, suspect to its neighbors, unfaithful to its allies, ungrateful to its benefactors, odious to all?

Does Germany have principles? Let us hope so. Germany is the land of philosophy, as France is the land of the Revolution. Now, a German has said that Revolution and philosophy are one and the same thing. But, since December 2, that connection has been broken: Germany, which fears a new Tugendbund perhaps more than a new Napoleon, dreams of centralization, which could well mean, one day, denationalization. With Germany centralized, there would be five empires in Europe: four military empires, the French, Austrian, German and Russian; and one mercantile, the British. These five empires, when they did not battle one another, would form a holy alliance by which they would reciprocally guarantee the obedience of their subjects and the exploitation of their plebs. But then there would be no more nations in Europe, nothing being more destructive of nationalities than military and malthusian mores.

Does Italy have principles? Is Italy imperial, pontifical, royal or federal? It does not know itself. Poor Italy! In place of the Revolution, we have brought it revolt; it has hurled back at us the tempest.

There are no more principles: Europe has descended into the chaos of December 2, and we advance through the void, per inania régna. What is sad is that we know it, we speak of it everywhere, and we accept it. We take our part in it as a natural thing, as an inevitable phase. “France has fallen; the times of the Late Empire have come for it:” this is the talk in the cafes of Paris. As one said in 93, France is revolutionary; in 1814, France is liberal; in 1830, France is conservative; in 1848, France is republican. A little while longer, and we will say with the same carelessness: France is rotten; and we will record its moral death.

Let Napoleon III now do as he wishes: the papacy struck down, nothing can call it back to life. The faith of the peoples no longer sustains it. The judgment is without appeal: neither restrictions, nor amendments will do a thing. The pope can absolve the emperor, the emperor, confessed, reconciled, will not save the pope. And as there is not a nation in Europe of which one could not note, proofs in hand, the intellectual and moral decadence, the fall of the papacy becomes the signal of the debacle.

Now, the time of the initiating races is past. The movement will not be reborn in Europe, neither in the east, nor the west, nor the center; today, regeneration can be neither Greek, nor Latin, nor Germanic. It can only come, as eighteen centuries ago, from a cosmopolitan propaganda, sustained by all people who, after having renounced the ancient gods, protest, without distinction of race nor of language, against corruption.

What will be their flag? They can have only one: the Revolution, Philosophy, Justice.

The Revolution is the French name for the new idea; Philosophy is its German name;

Let Justice become its cosmopolitan name.


  1. The coming of the people to philosophy
  2. The definition of philosophy
  3. On the quality of the philosophical mind
  4. The origin of ideas
  5. That metaphysics is within the province of primary instruction
  6. That philosophy must be essentially practical
  7. The character that must be presented by the guarantee of our judgments and the rule of our actions.–Conversion from speculative to practical reason: determination of the criterion.
  8. Justice, universal reason of things: science and conscience.
  9. Supremacy of Justice.
  10. Conditions for a philosophical propaganda.
  11. Law of Progress. Social destination.
  12. A word about the situation.
  13. Conclusion.

And that concludes the “Program,” from Justice in the Revolution and in the Church. This working translation is a Collective Reason effort, by Jesse Cohn and Shawn P. Wilbur. At this point, however, the imperfections and incompletions should be considered mine. Now, I need to turn my attention to Pierre Leroux for a few days.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.