There are some discussions going on about perhaps attempting a Proudhon Library comparable to the Bakunin Library publishing project currently underway. It has taken four years to move from the decision to publish the Bakunin works to the point where we are now, with two volumes nearing completion and a fairly clear plan for the rest. Given the much greater extent and complexity of Proudhon’s work, the planning stage is likely to be at least as lengthy. But there are other difficulties as well. There is more than a bit of resistance to be overcome if we’re going to have an audience for a really ambitious publishing program. At the moment, I’m not sure that we’ve entirely convinced ourselves how ambitious a Proudhon Library ought to be. However, I have a chance to test the waters and set the table a bit, through a tentative agreement to publish expanded versions of some familiar Corvus Editions, as well as some other works-in-progress. I’m moving forward with that project, in the hope that some of our long-term questions will be answered. None of these projects has been officially accepted by the publisher, but all are under serious consideration. It’s likely that any that are rejected will end up as Corvus Editions print-on-demand titles.
These are the works at the top of the Proudhon Library pile:
P.-J. PROUDHON: BETWEEN SCIENCE AND VENGEANCE: I’ve wanted to supplement the new translations with a new introduction to Proudhon. There are some very basic contextual issues (key terminology, a full and accurate chronology of works, attention to collaborators, etc.) that should probably be established sooner, rather than later. And I have wanted to start, as quickly as possible, to incorporate the aspects of Proudhon’s personality that shine in works like “My Testament” and the Carnets, but were consciously downplayed in the published works, into our shared portrait of him. As it stands, we know the more “extreme” side of Proudhon almost entirely through the infamous prejudiced bits, without knowing his revolutionary, even insurrectionary side. At the same time, Proudhon the social scientist is largely overshadowed by Marx. So my goal for the short Proudhon Library intro volume is to combine a sett of useful references with an entertaining collection of bits from the notebooks, correspondence and manuscripts that fill out our picture of Proudhon a bit. There are certainly plenty of notes and fugitive pieces that might otherwise never see print.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF PROGRESS: I’ve come to think of this as one of the easiest entry points for understanding Proudhon’s thought. It’s a trial run for some of the central ideas in “Justice,” but also a summary of a lot of material from the earlier works, much of which does not, perhaps, appear as important as it should unless you know where Proudhon was headed. The central question of “the criterion of certainty” was extremely important to Proudhon. In the Carnets we can find an outline where he imagined his various early works as chapters in a larger study on the question of certainty. The “Economie” manuscripts also include a work on the “Principles of the Philosophy of Progress,” focused on the question of “collective force,” and the plan for this volume is to combine the text of the 1853 work with that essay from “Economie” and an introduction addressing Proudhon’s method and the long shift from “critical” to “constructive” work most clearly marked by “The Philosophy of Progress.”
THE CELEBRATION OF SUNDAY: This book was a very pleasant surprise when I finally got around to really spending time with it. I’m planning on pairing it with Proudhon’s application for the Suard Pension, correspondence regarding Proudhon’s relationship with the Académie de Besançon, and an introduction discussing Proudhon in the late 183s and the relationship between “Celebration of Sunday” and the later works.
ARGUMENTS PRESENTED TO THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR ON THE RIGHT OF PROPERTY: The first order of business here to is restore the sections on religion not originally delivered by Proudhon at his defense. The introduction will address Proudhon’s various brushes with the courts and censors, but also the development of his thinking, and rhetoric, concerning property. This text contains the provocative claim that Proudhon wished to universalize property-theft, which is an important step on the road between “What is Property?” and “Theory of Property,” and I think I have some new things to say about that development.
THE GENERAL IDEA OF THE REVOLUTION IN THE 19TH CENTURY: I’m in the midst of retranslating “The General Idea.” The problems with the translation of “anarchie” were critical enough to get me started, but I’m finding more that needs to be addressed. The introduction will place the work in the context of Proudhon’s various attempts, starting as early as 1847, to produce a practical application of the “Economic Contradictions,” deal with the fact that this was, despite its subsequent popularity among radicals, a work addressed to the bourgeoisie, and perhaps begin the long-overdue redemption of “The Social Revolution Demonstrated by the Coup d’État of December 2.”
My translation of “The Theory of Property” is, of course, finished in rough-draft form, and I have spend enough time with the manuscripts to be confident about the faithfulness of the published version. But I probably won’t try to do much more with it until I can transcribe and translate “Political Geography and Nationality” and Proudhon’s correspondence with Grandclément. I expect the latter will be too specialized for our prospective publisher, but is of enough interest that I’ll probably do some sort of print-on-demand edition.
There are various other odds and ends that might muscle their way into the line. I have assembled the three Cham collections that feature Proudhon and would like to produce an English translation of the bunch at some point. I’ve assembled notes for a volume collecting Proudhon’s polemics with Pierre Leroux, Louis Blanc and Victor Considerant, with “The Feuding Brothers” and some of the other short satirical pieces covering the conflicts in the Second Republic.
None of these works are necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Proudhon, but in each case I think strong connections can be made either to the elements that anarchists think they have inherited from Proudhon (“property is theft,” “I am an anarchist,” etc.) or to elements that are perhaps missing in contemporary anarchist theory (“collective force,” etc.) And I think that Proudhon can fairly easily be presented as both more radical and more entertaining than most readers will expect. Whether that is likely to gain us the audience that would ever make a Collected Works make sense is another question, of course.