A Rough “Justice” and More

Last night I was able to complete a rough first-draft translation of Proudhon’s six-volume masterpiece, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church. When I started the project at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t at all certain that I could finish it in a year’s time. But here it is, mid-July, and my translation drafts for the year amount to more than 1,050,000 words, roughly 3250 double-spaced pages of material. Beyond the twelve Studies in Justice, the following works by Proudhon are have also been completed this year in draft-translation form:

along with the biography that formed one of the occasions for Justice:

  • Eugène de Mirecourt, “Proudhon” (1855)

and a number of other anarchist or anarchism-adjacent texts, not all of which directly relate to the Proudhon Library project:

The remainder of July will largely be dedicated to finishing Proudhon’s “The Pornocracy” — the unfinished, posthumously published “News of the Revolution” section orginally intended to supplement the Studies on love and marriage in Justice — and, if time allows, “How Business is Going in France, and Why We Will Have War, if We Have It” — the finished, but unpublished work that seems to have been a false start in his project of popular philosophy — along with two responses to Justice by radical women.

  • Juliette Lambert, “Anti-Proudhonian Ideas on Love, Woman and Marriage” (2nd ed, 1861)
  • André Léo, “Woman and Mores” (1869)

Looking over my original maximalist “wish list” for an edition of Justice, that just leaves Proudhon’s 70,000-word The Justice Pursued by the Church, which gives an account of the legal action surrounding the book, and Jenny P. d’Héricourt’s Woman Emancipated, which I have been puttering away at for years now. Once the revision of the main text of Justice is underway, I can return to more leisurely work on those remaining texts.

There is more, of course. I’ve done all the work for a major revision of Theory of Property, made a dent in The Creation of Order in Humanity, France and Rhine, and Political Geography and Nationality, finished some previously untranslated sections of Jesus and the Origins of Christianity, etc. Part of the task has been to spend enough time searching through the still-untranslated texts and manuscripts to at least begin to understand what would be demanded by a real edition of Proudhon’s works. But the timetable for continuing any of that work is uncertain, as the next phase is to return to the beginning of Justice and begin to do the slow, careful work of revising word by word, line by line, and building the tools — a glossary, a list of works cited by Proudhon, annotations, etc. — necessary to establish the work as a core around which the rest of Proudhon’s works can be organized and through which they can be more easily understood.

An important part of that process will be applying a more-or-less Proudhonian critique to Proudhon’s own work, assessing the nature and extent of the obstacles presented by his missteps, and proposing alternatives. My sense, after a first real immersion in the work, is that there is nothing in Proudhon’s account that cannot ultimately be rectified by the application of his principles to less compromised premises, but the demonstration will require a lot of careful work through a range of texts.

There will be a lot to say about the details as things progress, but for now let’s just mark the beginning of a new phase.

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