Pierre Joseph Proudhon

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to Pierre Joseph Proudhon: Mikhail Bakunin
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Proudhon, Pierre Joseph


Born Jan. 15, 1809, in Besançon; died Jan. 19, 1865, in Paris. French petit bourgeois socialist; theoretician of anarchism.

The son of a cooper and brewer (a member of the small-scale peasantry), Proudhon worked as a compositor and proofreader from 1827. From 1836 to 1838 he was the co-owner of a small printing shop. After receiving his secondary diploma in 1838, he was granted a stipend by the Besançon Academy for scientific studies.

Proudhon gained reputation with the publication of the book What Is Property? (1840; Russian translation, 1907), in which, discussing large-scale capitalist property, he stated that “property is theft.”

In Paris in 1844–45 Proudhon made the acquaintance of the Young Hegelians, who were German emigrés. He also met K. Marx, who attempted to persuade him to adopt a revolutionary position. However, Proudhon continued to advocate Utopian, petit bourgeois, reformist views. In his System of Economic Contradictions, or the Philosophy of Poverty (1846), he proposed the peaceful transformation of society by means of reforms in credit and circulation, and he sharply attacked communism. Marx demolished Proudhon’s ideas in the Poverty of Philosophy (1847).

In 1847, Proudhon settled in Paris. During the Revolution of 1848 he was elected to the Constituent Assembly. He also edited a number of newspapers, and in a series of works he described plans for economic cooperation among classes and outlined the anarchist theory of the “abolition of the state.” Sentenced to three years in prison for his sharp newspaper attacks in 1849 against Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the president of France, Proudhon continued to write polemical articles in prison and developed, in his words, “socialism from the point of view of bourgeois interests.” He acclaimed the Bonapartist coup of Dec. 2, 1851, as a type of “social revolution.” Later, he criticized the Bonapartist government for its support of the big bourgeoisie, but his advocacy of political indifference retarded the political activity of the working class.

Proudhon was sentenced to prison in 1858 for his anticlerical writings, but he evaded imprisonment by emigrating to Belgium. Pardoned in 1860, he returned to France in 1862. At the end of his life Proudhon elaborated the program for mutualism.


Système des contradictions économiques ou philosophie de la misère, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1846.
Les Confessions d’un révolutionnaire. Paris, 1849.
La Révolution sociale démontrée par le coup d’état du 2 décembre, 2nd ed. Paris, 1852.
De La Justice dans la révolution et dans l’église, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1858.
De La Capacité politique des classes ouvrières, 3rd ed. Paris, 1865.


Marx, K. Nishcheta filosofii. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4.
Marx, K. “O Prudone.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Zastenker, N. “Prudon i bonapartistskii perevorot 2 dek. 1851 g.” lstoricheskii zhurnal, 1944, nos. 10–11.
Zastenker, N. “Prudon i Fevral’skaia revoliutsiia 1848 g.” In the collection Frantsuzskii ezhegodnik: 1960. Moscow, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Schapiro, "Pierre Joseph Proudhon, Harbinger of Fascism," The American Historical Review 50, (1945): 714-15.
However, it does seem a little strange that Bookchin should take such great offence at the writings of Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Proudhon was probably the best known and most widely-ready radical writer in France during the 19th century.
Foreshadowing both Pierre Joseph Proudhon's concept of agro-industrial federation and Peter Kropotkin's communitarian philosophy of mutual aid, Althusius significantly departed from that trajectory of individualized liberal thought that led from John Locke and Thomas Hobbes to John Rawls.