Ms. 2846 — Theory of Property

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Dedication. Persons, Property.

We work to avoid the economic question.

It is from this point of view that I judge contemporary politics.

We imagine meeting the needs of the situation with free exchange, with pension funds, with company towns, agiotage, and pisciculture, with the jockey-club! —

We are mistaken…

We excite the hatred of the populations against the old dynasties; we hopes by this sacrifice to save the aristocracies. The Romanovs, the Habsburgs, the Hohenzollerns, the Bourbons, etc., that is what we offer up as fodder for the hydra.

But we work to save the old gentries, to reestablish the aristocracies.

Now, it is just the opposite that I demand.

We must destroy the Polish nobility and the Hungarian nobility, like the Russian nobility.

We must make possessors of the peasant, the worker, the proletarian, in France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and everywhere.

We must put an end to the distinction of bourgeoisie and proles, of capitalist and employee, worker and master.

The individual right, which leads to equal exchange, which has decreed universal suffrage, perhaps a bit too soon, guides us there.

The unity of Italy, the reconstitution of Poland and Hungary, annexations, war: backward-looking fantasies, henceforth devoid of sense.

The Pope reduced to spiritual power; a Catholic restoration; a second edition of the Concordat: a backward-looking fantasy.


Theory of Property.

Epigraph: Sancta Santis.

That is to say, Everything becomes just for the just man:

Beati pacifici, quoniam,
ipsi possidebuni terram.

Everything can be justified between the just.
(Thus the sexual act is permitted in marriage, and sanctified; but woe to the man who behaves with his wife as with a courtesan.)

That maxim contains the whole secret of the solution.

The act of appropriation in itself, considered objectively, is without right. It can be legitimated by nothing. It is not like wages, which is justified by labor, like possession, which is justified by necessity and the equality of shares; property remains absolutist and arbitrary, invasive and selfish.

It is only legitimated by the justice of the subject itself.

But how do we make men just?

That is the aim of education, of civilization, of manners, of the arts, etc.; it is also the goal of the political and economic institutions of which property is the principal.

In order for property to be legitimized, it is necessary that man legitimize himself; that he desires to be just; that he proposes Justice as the goal, in everything and everywhere.

He must say to himself, for example: Property in itself not being just, how would I make it just?

First, by recognizing in all the same right of appropriation, of usurpation; second, by regulating the usurpation, like the corsair dividing the loot among his companions; so that it tends spontaneously to level itself.

If I do not do that, property follows its nature: it is exaggerated for one, annihilated for the other; it is unmannered, immoral.


Chapter VII.

Guarantism.—Theory of Property.

That the citizen, a free and concrete being, made in the image of the State, must have, along with the possession of their person, authority over things, or risk being deprived of all guarantees.—Prejudices unfavorable to absolutism.—Different manners of possessing the land: in community, in feudalism, in sovereignty or property. Examination of the first two modes: rejection.—Opinions of the jurists concerning the origin and principle of property: refutation of these opinions.—New Theory: that the reasons for property, and thus for its legitimacy, must not be sought in its principle or origins, but in its aims. Account of these aims: 1 Necessity, after having organized the State, of creating a counterweight to the State in the liberty of each citizen; federalist and republican character of property; observations on the poll tax and confiscation.—2 Abstention from any law regulating the possession, production, circulation, and consumption of things: analogies with love and art; mobilization of real property.—3 Competition, equalization and moralization of selfishness; character of the true proprietor; scale of the social problem: organic condition of property;—how and why it is said to be absolute.—Preservation of proprietary egoism through the collective reason: maxims of that reason; progressive leveling of conditions and forms; law of social approximations.—Historical look at property: causes of its uncertainties, its variations, its abuses and failures; it has never, anywhere, existed in truth and fullness, in accordance with the [4] wishes of society, and with a perfect understanding of itself.—Spirit of socialism: defense of the author and his critique.—A word to the Poles.

Let us look back over the road we have traveled. Having posed our two great principles, the immanence of justice and of ideas in humanity (Ch. I) and the realism of the State (Ch. II), we have indicated the rule of political geography (Ch. III); from geography we have passed to ethnography (Ch. IV); from ethnography to the organization of the Social Body, and consequently in the form of the Collective Reason (Ch. V); some considerations concerning the Collective Reason have raised us, finally, to the laws of the universal conscience, which are those of progress. Thus we have arrived, through that ultimate question of customs and social transformations, to the far reaches of the intellectual world. One step more, and we would run the risk of falling from the reality where we have remained thus far, into mysticism. It is time to end our ascent, and, as we have climbed from matter to mind, to descend once again from mind towards matter, which we will do, not by retracing our steps, but by completing our arc, by continuing on our path.

One of our maxims is that the citizen must be made in the image of the State, the man given by nature reproduced in the style of Society, true and living Word. It is only in this way that the individual will can acquire that liberty and autonomy of which only the shadow has been given to it by nature, become the personification of right and be able to separate itself from the magistracy and the government.

But it is not only through intelligence and justice, it is not only with theoretical and practical reason that the citizen must follow the example the State. [5] If this were the case, the civic quality would be reduced to a pure ideality. The humanitary republic would exist only in the imagination, in the dream of the conscience; the State alone, having its feet on the ground, king of the temporal realm, would possess things and could say: I am; the nation, deprived of a body, without authority over matter, would be up in the air, lost in its hazy other-worldliness. Here there is not, there cannot be, as in the Apocalypse, two Jerusalems, one on the earth and the other in the heavens: the two are only one, and it is a question of establishing their identity. So it is necessary that the citizen, declared free and inviolable, in full possession of himself though education, autocrat 0ver his labors, his opinions, his desires, his conceptions, his will, as well as over his person, called to resist, if necessary, the despotic tendencies of the State, and to react against the influences and incursions of his fellows, must furthermore be established, like the State, in sovereignty over things; that his self, relying on the external world, creates there a position, a domain, without which his liberty, like a force that had exploded in the void, would remain without efficacy and would fall back into nothingness.

Now, to confer on the citizen power and jurisdiction over things, to assign him a possession, a territory, to make him in this way the head of a state within the state, that is what I call closing the political circle, and ending just where we began. It is not, in fact, through the soil that the political life begins for the individual, as we have previously seen the political State set out from its embryonic valley. It is, on the contrary, though the possession of the soil, through the eminent domain that is granted to him over a portion of territory that the citizen is completed and dignity begins. Thus the citizen becomes the fellow, what am I saying?—the equal, the rival of the State. He is himself the entire State, reduced to its simplest expression, to its most minimal extent. [6] In this way the union of matter and mind is accomplished in the social world, a phenomenon inexplicable in the world of nature, where the creative operation is performed, without our being able to discover its beginning; where the syntheses are given to us ready-made, without our being able to resolve them.

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