Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, Volume Two: Translator’s Notes

I have now uploaded the second volume of my working translation of Proudhon’s Of Justice in the Revolution and in the Church, which includes the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Studies, the second part of the essay “Bourgeoisie and Plebs” and two passages from the 1858 edition not included in the revised edition. These are revised drafts, with most of the problem passages resolved, but, as with the first volume, some notes will probably help to orient readers.



My second pass through the translations has been a rather different experience than the first. It was impossible for me, in my initial readings of Justice, not to be very focused on the Studies on Love and Marriage and the problems that they would pose. It was a curious experience, as a great deal of the material in the earlier studies seemed to tend in very different directions. This time around, much of my attention has been fixed on the possibility that this might have been a very different sort of book.

My second encounter with the material has also been shaped by some time spent wrestling with the extensive manuscripts that exist for the work. As I said in the introduction to Volume One, I have been particularly interested in how Proudhon essentially recycled the 1858 Justice — arguably his masterwork at the time — to launch his “Studies in Popular Philosophy,” which were perhaps intended to be a rather different sort of work, however much of the old material they may have contained. What the manuscripts suggest is that Justice had already gone through one fairly significant transformation even before the publication of the 1858 first edition. They contain significant portions of a version of the work that would have progressed from the Study on Progress and Decadence, through Studies on Religious and Political Indifference, to a rather different Study on Moral Sanction.

There is a very deep rabbit-hole here, which I have certainly not yet explored with anything like the seriousness it deserves, but, if nothing else were to come of the exploration, the possibility of a Justice that went somewhere other than the “solution” proposed in the Studies on Love and Marriage is a fascinating one. And it is a possibility not denied by much that appears in the first nine studies.

Having reached the halfway point in the revision of my translations, with the repeated engagement with the text that that entails, I think that the most striking realization for me is just how good, in quite a range of senses, most of the work really is. There are certainly plenty of moments when I am reminded that this is the Proudhon who will write the Studies on Love and Marriage and The Pornocracy, but there are at least as many moments when I am forced to ask myself how and why, as the argument would, in general, seem to be trending in a very different direction.

I am already at work on the revision of the Seventh Study and hope to have Volume Three of these revised drafts available to share before the year’s end.

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