What is Property?/5I

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What is Property? Or, An Inquiry Into The Principle of Right and of Government by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Chapter V: Psychological Exposition of the Idea of Justice and In Justice, and a Determination of the Principle of Government and of Right -- Part I

Property is impossible; equality does not exist. We hate the former, and yet wish to possess it; the latter rules all our thoughts, yet we know not how to reach it. Who will explain this profound antagonism between our conscience and our will? Who will point out the causes of this pernicious error, which has become the most sacred principle of justice and society?

I am bold enough to undertake the task, and I hope to succeed.

But before explaining why man has violated justice, it is necessary to determine what justice is.

Part First[edit]

Of the Moral Sense in Man and the Animals[edit]

The philosophers have endeavored often to locate the line which separates man's intelligence from that of the brutes; and, according to their general custom, they gave utterance to much foolishness before resolving upon the only course possible for them to take,--observation. It was reserved for an unpretending savant--who perhaps did not pride himself on his philosophy--to put an end to the interminable controversy by a simple distinction; but one of those luminous distinctions which are worth more than systems. Frederic Cuvier separated INSTINCT from INTELLIGENCE.

But, as yet, no one has proposed this question:--


If, hitherto, any one had dared to maintain the latter alternative, his arguments would have seemed scandalous, blasphemous, and offensive to morality and religion. The ecclesiastical and secular tribunals would have condemned him with one voice. And, mark the style in which they would have branded the immoral paradox! "Conscience,"--they would have cried,--"conscience, man's chief glory, was given to him exclusively; the notion of justice and injustice, of merit and demerit, is his noble privilege; to man, alone,--the lord of creation,--belongs the sublime power to resist his worldly propensities, to choose between good and evil, and to bring himself more and more into the resemblance of God through liberty and justice. . . . No; the holy image of virtue was never graven save on the heart of man." Words full of feeling, but void of sense.

Man is a rational and social animal--{GREEK ` c g}--said Aristotle. This definition is worth more than all which have been given since. I do not except even M. de Bonald's celebrated definition,--MAN IS AN INTELLECT SERVED BY ORGANS--a definition which has the double fault of explaining the known by the unknown; that is, the living being by the intellect; and of neglecting man's essential quality,--animality.

Man, then, is an animal living in society. Society means the sum total of relationships; in short, system. Now, all systems exist only on certain conditions. What, then, are the conditions, the LAWS, of human society?

What are the RIGHTS of men with respect to each other; what is JUSTICE?

It amounts to nothing to say,--with the philosophers of various schools,--"It is a divine instinct, an immortal and heavenly voice, a guide given us by Nature, a light revealed unto every man on coming into the world, a law engraved upon our hearts; it is the voice of conscience, the dictum of reason, the inspiration of sentiment, the penchant of feeling; it is the love of self in others; it is enlightened self-interest; or else it is an innate idea, the imperative command of applied reason, which has its source in the concepts of pure reason; it is a passional attraction," &c., &c. This may be as true as it seems beautiful; but it is utterly meaningless. Though we should prolong this litany through ten pages (it has been filtered through a thousand volumes), we should be no nearer to the solution of the question.

"Justice is public utility," says Aristotle. That is true, but it is a tautology. "The principle that the public welfare ought to be the object of the legislator"--says M. Ch. Comte in his "Treatise on Legislation"--"cannot be overthrown. But legislation is advanced no farther by its announcement and demonstration, than is medicine when it is said that it is the business of physicians to cure the sick."

Let us take another course. RUGHT is the sum total of the principles which govern society. Justice, in man, is the respect and observation of those principles. To practise justice is to obey the social instinct; to do an act of justice is to do a social act. If, then, we watch the conduct of men towards each other under different circumstances, it will be easy for us to distinguish between the presence and absence of society; from the result we may inductively infer the law.

Let us commence with the simplest and least doubtful cases.

The mother, who protects her son at the peril of her life, and sacrifices every thing to his support, is in society with him-- she is a good mother. She, on the contrary, who abandons her child, is unfaithful to the social instinct,--maternal love being one of its many features; she is an unnatural mother.

If I plunge into the water to rescue a drowning man, I am his brother, his associate; if, instead of aiding him, I sink him, I am his enemy, his murderer.

Whoever bestows alms treats the poor man as his associate; not thoroughly, it is true, but only in respect to the amount which he shares with him. Whoever takes by force or stratagem that which is not the product of his labor, destroys his social character--he is a brigand.

The Samaritan who relieves the traveller lying by the wayside, dresses his wounds, comforts him, and supplies him with money, thereby declares himself his associate--his neighbor; the priest, who passes by on the other side, remains unassociated, and is his enemy.

In all these cases, man is moved by an internal attraction towards his fellow, by a secret sympathy which causes him to love, congratulate, and condole; so that, to resist this attraction, his will must struggle against his nature.

But in these respects there is no decided difference between man and the animals. With them, as long as the weakness of their young endears them to their mothers,--in a word, associates them with their mothers,--the latter protect the former, at the peril of their lives, with a courage which reminds us of our heroes dying for their country. Certain species unite for hunting purposes, seek each other, call each other (a poet would say invite each other), to share their prey; in danger they aid, protect, and warn each other. The elephant knows how to help his companion out of the ditch into which the latter has fallen. Cows form a circle, with their horns outward and their calves in the centre, in order to repel the attacks of wolves. Horses and pigs, on hearing a cry of distress from one of their number, rush to the spot whence it comes. What descriptions I might give of their marriages, the tenderness of the males towards the females, and the fidelity of their loves! Let us add, however,--to be entirely just--that these touching demonstrations of society, fraternity, and love of neighbor, do not prevent the animals from quarrelling, fighting, and outrageously abusing one another while gaining their livelihood and showing their gallantry; the resemblance between them and ourselves is perfect.

The social instinct, in man and beast, exists to a greater or less degree--its nature is the same. Man has the greater need of association, and employs it more; the animal seems better able to endure isolation. In man, social needs are more imperative and complex; in the beast, they seem less intense, less diversified, less regretted. Society, in a word, aims, in the case of man, at the preservation of the race and the individual; with the animals, its object is more exclusively the preservation of the race.

As yet, we have met with no claim which man can make for himself alone. The social instinct and the moral sense he shares with the brutes; and when he thinks to become god-like by a few acts of charity, justice, and devotion, he does not perceive that in so acting he simply obeys an instinct wholly animal in its nature. As we are good, loving, tender, just, so we are passionate, greedy, lewd, and vindictive; that is, we are like the beasts. Our highest virtues appear, in the last analysis, as blind, impulsive instincts. What subjects for canonization and apotheosis!

There is, however, a difference between us two-handed bipeds and other living creatures--what is it?

A student of philosophy would hasten to reply: "This difference lies in the fact that we are conscious of our social faculty, while the animals are unconscious of theirs--in the fact that while we reflect and reason upon the operation of our social instinct, the animals do nothing of the kind."

I will go farther. It is by our reflective and reasoning powers, with which we seem to be exclusively endowed, that we know that it is injurious, first to others and then to ourselves, to resist the social instinct which governs us, and which we call JUSTICE. It is our reason which teaches us that the selfish man, the robber, the murderer--in a word, the traitor to society--sins against Nature, and is guilty with respect to others and himself, when he does wrong wilfully. Finally, it is our social sentiment on the one hand, and our reason on the other, which cause us to think that beings such as we should take the responsibility of their acts. Such is the principle of remorse, revenge, and penal justice.

But this proves only an intellectual diversity between the animals and man, not at all an affectional one; for, although we reason upon our relations with our fellows, we likewise reason upon our most trivial actions,--such as drinking, eating, choosing a wife, or selecting a dwelling-place. We reason upon things earthly and things heavenly; there is nothing to which our reasoning powers are not applicable. Now, just as the knowledge of external phenomena, which we acquire, has no influence upon their causes and laws, so reflection, by illuminating our instinct, enlightens us as to our sentient nature, but does not alter its character; it tells us what our morality is, but neither changes nor modifies it. Our dissatisfaction with ourselves after doing wrong, the indignation which we feel at the sight of injustice, the idea of deserved punishment and due remuneration, are effects of reflection, and not immediate effects of instinct and emotion. Our appreciation (I do not say exclusive appreciation, for the animals also realize that they have done wrong, and are indignant when one of their number is attacked, but), our infinitely superior appreciation of our social duties, our knowledge of good and evil, does not establish, as regards morality, any vital difference between man and the beasts.

Of the first and second degrees of Sociability[edit]

I insist upon the fact, which I have just pointed out, as one of the most important facts of anthropology.

The sympathetic attraction, which causes us to associate, is, by reason of its blind, unruly nature, always governed by temporary impulse, without regard to higher rights, and without distinction of merit or priority. The bastard dog follows indifferently all who call it; the suckling child regards every man as its father and every woman as its nurse; every living creature, when deprived of the society of animals of its species, seeks companionship in its solitude. This fundamental characteristic of the social instinct renders intolerable and even hateful the friendship of frivolous persons, liable to be infatuated with every new face, accommodating to all whether good or bad, and ready to sacrifice, for a passing liaison, the oldest and most honorable affections. The fault of such beings is not in the heart--it is in the judgment. Sociability, in this degree, is a sort of magnetism awakened in us by the contemplation of a being similar to ourselves, but which never goes beyond the person who feels it; it may be reciprocated, but not communicated. Love, benevolence, pity, sympathy, call it what you will, there is nothing in it which deserves esteem,--nothing which lifts man above the beast.

The second degree of sociability is justice, which may be defined as the RECOGNITION OF THE EQUALITY BETWEEN ANOTHER'S PERSONALITY AND OUR OWN. The sentiment of justice we share with the animals; we alone can form an exact idea of it; but our idea, as has been said already, does not change its nature. We shall soon see how man rises to a third degree of sociability which the animals are incapable of reaching. But I must first prove by metaphysics that SOCIETY, JUSTICE, and EQUALITY, are three equivalent terms,--three expressions meaning the same thing,-- whose mutual conversion is always allowable.

If, amid the confusion of a shipwreck, having escaped in a boat with some provisions, I see a man struggling with the waves, am I bound to go to his assistance? Yes, I am bound under penalty of being adjudged guilty of murder and treason against society.

But am I also bound to share with him my provisions?

To settle this question, we must change the phraseology. If society is binding on the boat, is it also binding on the provisions? Undoubtedly. The duty of an associate is absolute. Man's occupancy succeeds his social nature, and is subordinate to it; possession can become exclusive only when permission to occupy is granted to all alike. That which in this instance obscures our duty is our power of foresight, which, causing us to fear an eventual danger, impels us to usurpation, and makes us robbers and murderers. Animals do not calculate the duty of instinct any more than the disadvantages resulting to those who exercise it; it would be strange if the intellect of man-- the most sociable of animals--should lead him to disobey the law.

He betrays society who attempts to use it only for his own advantage; better that God should deprive us of prudence, if it is to serve as the tool of our selfishness.

"What!" you will say, "must I share my bread, the bread which I have earned and which belongs to me, with the stranger whom I do not know; whom I may never see again, and who, perhaps, will reward me with ingratitude? If we had earned this bread together, if this man had done something to obtain it, he might demand his share, since his co-operation would entitle him to it; but as it is, what claim has he on me? We have not produced together--we shall not eat together."

The fallacy in this argument lies in the false supposition, that each producer is not necessarily associated with every other producer.

When two or more individuals have regularly organized a society,--when the contracts have been agreed upon, drafted, and signed,--there is no difficulty about the future. Everybody knows that when two men associate--for instance--in order to fish, if one of them catches no fish, he is none the less entitled to those caught by his associate. If two merchants form a partnership, while the partnership lasts, the profits and losses are divided between them; since each produces, not for himself, but for the society: when the time of distribution arrives, it is not the producer who is considered, but the associate. That is why the slave, to whom the planter gives straw and rice; and the civilized laborer, to whom the capitalist pays a salary which is always too small,--not being associated with their employers, although producing with them,--are disregarded when the product is divided. Thus, the horse who draws our coaches, and the ox who draws our carts produce with us, but are not associated with us; we take their product, but do not share it with them. The animals and laborers whom we employ hold the same relation to us. Whatever we do for them, we do, not from a sense of justice, but out of pure benevolence.[1]

[1] To perform an act of benevolence towards one's neighbor is called, in Hebrew, to do justice; in Greek, to take compassion or pity ({GREEK n n f e },from which is derived the French _aumone_); in Latin, to perform an act of love or charity; in French, give alms. We can trace the degradation of this principle through these various expressions: the first signifies duty; the second only sympathy; the third, affection, a matter of choice, not an obligation; the fourth, caprice.

But is it possible that we are not all associated? Let us call to mind what was said in the last two chapters, That even though we do not want to be associated, the force of things, the necessity of consumption, the laws of production, and the mathematical principle of exchange combine to associate us. There is but a single exception to this rule,--that of the proprietor, who, producing by his right of increase, is not associated with any one, and consequently is not obliged to share his product with any one; just as no one else is bound to share with him. With the exception of the proprietor, we labor for each other; we can do nothing by ourselves unaided by others, and we continually exchange products and services with each other. If these are not social acts, what are they?

Now, neither a commercial, nor an industrial, nor an agricultural association can be conceived of in the absence of equality; equality is its sine qua non. So that, in all matters which concern this association, to violate society is to violate justice and equality. Apply this principle to humanity at large.

After what has been said, I assume that the reader has sufficient insight to enable him to dispense with any aid of mine.

By this principle, the man who takes possession of a field, and says, "This field is mine," will not be unjust so long as every one else has an equal right of possession; nor will he be unjust, if, wishing to change his location, he exchanges this field for an equivalent. But if, putting another in his place, he says to him, "Work for me while I rest," he then becomes unjust, unassociated, UNEQUAL. He is a proprietor.

Reciprocally, the sluggard, or the rake, who, without performing any social task, enjoys like others--and often more than others-- the products of society, should be proceeded against as a thief and a parasite. We owe it to ourselves to give him nothing; but, since he must live, to put him under supervision, and compel him to labor.

Sociability is the attraction felt by sentient beings for each other. Justice is this same attraction, accompanied by thought and knowledge. But under what general concept, in what category of the understanding, is justice placed? In the category of equal quantities. Hence, the ancient definition of justice-- _Justum aequale est, injustum inaequale_. What is it, then, to practise justice? It is to give equal wealth to each, on condition of equal labor. It is to act socially. Our selfishness may complain; there is no escape from evidence and necessity.

What is the right of occupancy? It is a natural method of dividing the earth, by reducing each laborer's share as fast as new laborers present themselves. This right disappears if the public interest requires it; which, being the social interest, is also that of the occupant.

What is the right of labor? It is the right to obtain one's share of wealth by fulfilling the required conditions. It is the right of society, the right of equality.

Justice, which is the product of the combination of an idea and an instinct, manifests itself in man as soon as he is capable of feeling, and of forming ideas. Consequently, it has been regarded as an innate and original sentiment; but this opinion is logically and chronologically false. But justice, by its composition hybrid--if I may use the term,--justice, born of emotion and intellect combined, seems to me one of the strongest proofs of the unity and simplicity of the ego; the organism being no more capable of producing such a mixture by itself, than are the combined senses of hearing and sight of forming a binary sense, half auditory and half visual.

This double nature of justice gives us the definitive basis of all the demonstrations in Chapters II., III., and IV. On the one hand, the idea of JUSTICE being identical with that of society, and society necessarily implying equality, equality must underlie all the sophisms invented in defence of property; for, since property can be defended only as a just and social institution, and property being inequality, in order to prove that property is in harmony with society, it must be shown that injustice is justice, and that inequality is equality,--a contradiction in terms. On the other hand, since the idea of equality--the second element of justice--has its source in the mathematical proportions of things; and since property, or the unequal distribution of wealth among laborers, destroys the necessary balance between labor, production, and consumption,--property must be impossible.

All men, then, are associated; all are entitled to the same justice; all are equal. Does it follow that the preferences of love and friendship are unjust?

This requires explanation. I have already supposed the case of a man in peril, I being in a position to help him. Now, I suppose myself appealed to at the same time by two men exposed to danger.

Am I not allowed--am I not commanded even--to rush first to the aid of him who is endeared to me by ties of blood, friendship, acquaintance, or esteem, at the risk of leaving the other to perish? Yes. And why? Because within universal society there exist for each of us as many special societies as there are individuals; and we are bound, by the principle of sociability itself, to fulfil the obligations which these impose upon us, according to the intimacy of our relations with them. Therefore we must give our father, mother, children, friends, relatives, &c., the preference over all others. But in what consists this preference?

A judge has a case to decide, in which one of the parties is his friend, and the other his enemy. Should he, in this instance, prefer his INTIMATE ASSOCIATE to his DISTANT ASSOCIATE; and decide the case in favor of his friend, in spite of evidence to the contrary? No: for, if he should favor his friend's injustice, he would become his accomplice in his violation of the social compact; he would form with him a sort of conspiracy against the social body. Preference should be shown only in personal matters, such as love, esteem, confidence, or intimacy, when all cannot be considered at once. Thus, in case of fire, a father would save his own child before thinking of his neighbor's; but the recognition of a right not being an optional matter with a judge, he is not at liberty to favor one person to the detriment of another.

The theory of these special societies--which are formed concentrically, so to speak, by each of us inside of the main body--gives the key to all the problems which arise from the opposition and conflict of the different varieties of social duty,--problems upon which the ancient tragedies are based.

The justice practised among animals is, in a certain degree, negative. With the exception of protecting their young, hunting and plundering in troops, uniting for common defence and sometimes for individual assistance, it consists more in prevention than in action. A sick animal who cannot arise from the ground, or an imprudent one who has fallen over a precipice, receives neither medicine nor nourishment. If he cannot cure himself, nor relieve himself of his trouble, his life is in danger: he will neither be cared for in bed, nor fed in a prison.

Their neglect of their fellows arises as much from the weakness of their intellect as from their lack of resources. Still, the degrees of intimacy common among men are not unknown to the animals. They have friendships of habit and of choice; friendships neighborly, and friendships parental. In comparison with us, they have feeble memories, sluggish feelings, and are almost destitute of intelligence; but the identity of these faculties is preserved to some extent, and our superiority in this respect arises entirely from our understanding.

It is our strength of memory and penetration of judgment which enable us to multiply and combine the acts which our social instinct impels us to perform, and which teaches us how to render them more effective, and how to distribute them justly. The beasts who live in society practise justice, but are ignorant of its nature, and do not reason upon it; they obey their instinct without thought or philosophy. They know not how to unite the social sentiment with the idea of equality, which they do not possess; this idea being an abstract one. We, on the contrary, starting with the principle that society implies equality, can, by our reasoning faculty, understand and agree with each other in settling our rights; we have even used our judgment to a great extent. But in all this our conscience plays a small part, as is proved by the fact that the idea of RIGHT--of which we catch a glimpse in certain animals who approach nearer than any others to our standard of intelligence--seems to grow, from the low level at which it stands in savages, to the lofty height which it reaches in a Plato or a Franklin. If we trace the development of the moral sense in individuals, and the progress of laws in nations, we shall be convinced that the ideas of justice and legislative perfection are always proportional to intelligence. The notion of justice--which has been regarded by some philosophers as simple--is then, in reality, complex. It springs from the social instinct on the one hand, and the idea of equality on the other; just as the notion of guilt arises from the feeling that justice has been violated, and from the idea of free-will.

In conclusion, instinct is not modified by acquaintance with its nature; and the facts of society, which we have thus far observed, occur among beasts as well as men. We know the meaning of justice; in other words, of sociability viewed from the standpoint of equality. We have met with nothing which separates us from the animals.

Of the third degree of Sociability[edit]

The reader, perhaps, has not forgotten what was said in the third chapter concerning the division of labor and the speciality of talents. The sum total of the talents and capacities of the race is always the same, and their nature is always similar. We are all born poets, mathematicians, philosophers, artists, artisans, or farmers, but we are not born equally endowed; and between one man and another in society, or between one faculty and another in the same individual, there is an infinite difference. This difference of degree in the same faculties, this predominance of talent in certain directions, is, we have said, the very foundation of our society. Intelligence and natural genius have been distributed by Nature so economically, and yet so liberally, that in society there is no danger of either a surplus or a scarcity of special talents; and that each laborer, by devoting himself to his function, may always attain to the degree of proficiency necessary to enable him to benefit by the labors and discoveries of his fellows. Owing to this simple and wise precaution of Nature, the laborer is not isolated by his task. He communicates with his fellows through the mind, before he is united with them in heart; so that with him love is born of intelligence.

It is not so with societies of animals. In every species, the aptitudes of all the individuals--though very limited--are equal in number and (when they are not the result of instinct) in intensity. Each one does as well as all the others what all the others do; provides his food, avoids the enemy, burrows in the earth, builds a nest, &c. No animal, when free and healthy, expects or requires the aid of his neighbor; who, in his turn, is equally independent.

Associated animals live side by side without any intellectual intercourse or intimate communication,--all doing the same things, having nothing to learn or to remember; they see, feel, and come in contact with each other, but never penetrate each other. Man continually exchanges with man ideas and feelings, products and services. Every discovery and act in society is necessary to him. But of this immense quantity of products and ideas, that which each one has to produce and acquire for himself is but an atom in the sun. Man would not be man were it not for society, and society is supported by the balance and harmony of the powers which compose it.

Society, among the animals, is SIMPLE; with man it is COMPLEX. Man is associated with man by the same instinct which associates animal with animal; but man is associated differently from the animal, and it is this difference in association which constitutes the difference in morality.

I have proved,--at too great length, perhaps,--both by the spirit of the laws which regard property as the basis of society, and by political economy, that inequality of conditions is justified neither by priority of occupation nor superiority of talent, service, industry, and capacity. But, although equality of conditions is a necessary consequence of natural right, of liberty, of the laws of production, of the capacity of physical nature, and of the principle of society itself,--it does not prevent the social sentiment from stepping over the boundaries of DEBT and CREDIT. The fields of benevolence and love extend far beyond; and when economy has adjusted its balance, the mind begins to benefit by its own justice, and the heart expands in the boundlessness of its affection.

The social sentiment then takes on a new character, which varies with different persons. In the strong, it becomes the pleasure of generosity; among equals, frank and cordial friendship; in the weak, the pleasure of admiration and gratitude.

The man who is superior in strength, skill, or courage, knows that he owes all that he is to society, without which he could not exist. He knows that, in treating him precisely as it does the lowest of its members, society discharges its whole duty towards him. But he does not underrate his faculties; he is no less conscious of his power and greatness; and it is this voluntary reverence which he pays to humanity, this avowal that he is but an instrument of Nature,--who is alone worthy of glory and worship,--it is, I say, this simultaneous confession of the heart and the mind, this genuine adoration of the Great Being, that distinguishes and elevates man, and lifts him to a degree of social morality to which the beast is powerless to attain. Hercules destroying the monsters and punishing brigands for the safety of Greece, Orpheus teaching the rough and wild Pelasgians,--neither of them putting a price upon their services,--there we see the noblest creations of poetry, the loftiest expression of justice and virtue.

The joys of self-sacrifice are ineffable.

If I were to compare human society to the old Greek tragedies, I should say that the phalanx of noble minds and lofty souls dances the strophe, and the humble multitude the antistrophe. Burdened with painful and disagreeable tasks, but rendered omnipotent by their number and the harmonic arrangement of their functions, the latter execute what the others plan. Guided by them, they owe them nothing; they honor them, however, and lavish upon them praise and approbation.

Gratitude fills people with adoration and enthusiasm.

But equality delights my heart. Benevolence degenerates into tyranny, and admiration into servility. Friendship is the daughter of equality. O my friends! may I live in your midst without emulation, and without glory; let equality bring us together, and fate assign us our places. May I die without knowing to whom among you I owe the most esteem!

Friendship is precious to the hearts of the children of men.

Generosity, gratitude (I mean here only that gratitude which is born of admiration of a superior power), and friendship are three distinct shades of a single sentiment which I will call equite, or SOCIAL PROPORTIONALITY.[1] Equite does not change justice: but, always taking equite for the base, it superadds esteem, and thereby forms in man a third degree of sociability. Equite makes it at once our duty and our pleasure to aid the weak who have need of us, and to make them our equals; to pay to the strong a just tribute of gratitude and honor, without enslaving ourselves to them; to cherish our neighbors, friends, and equals, for that which we receive from them, even by right of exchange. Equite is sociability raised to its ideal by reason and justice; its commonest manifestation is URBANITY or POLITENESS, which, among certain nations, sums up in a single word nearly all the social duties.

[1] I mean here by equite what the Latins called humanitas,--that is, the kind of sociability which is peculiar to man. Humanity, gentle and courteous to all, knows how to distinguish ranks, virtues, and capacities without injury to any.

It is the just distribution of social sympathy and universal love.

Now, this feeling is unknown among the beasts, who love and cling to each other, and show their preferences, but who cannot conceive of esteem, and who are incapable of generosity, admiration, or politeness.

This feeling does not spring from intelligence, which calculates, computes, and balances, but does not love; which sees, but does not feel. As justice is the product of social instinct and reflection combined, so equite is a product of justice and taste combined--that is, of our powers of judging and of idealizing.

This product--the third and last degree of human sociability--is determined by our complex mode of association; in which inequality, or rather the divergence of faculties, and the speciality of functions--tending of themselves to isolate laborers--demand a more active sociability.

That is why the force which oppresses while protecting is execrable; why the silly ignorance which views with the same eye the marvels of art, and the products of the rudest industry, excites unutterable contempt; why proud mediocrity, which glories in saying, "I have paid you--I owe you nothing," is especially odious.

SOCIABILITY, JUSTICE, EQUITE--such, in its triplicity, is the exact definition of the instinctive faculty which leads us into communication with our fellows, and whose physical manifestation is expressed by the formula: EQUALITY IN NATURAL WEALTH, AND THE PRODUCTS OF LABOR.

These three degrees of sociability support and imply each other.

Equite cannot exist without justice; society without justice is a solecism. If, in order to reward talent, I take from one to give to another, in unjustly stripping the first, I do not esteem his talent as I ought; if, in society, I award more to myself than to my associate, we are not really associated. Justice is sociability as manifested in the division of material things, susceptible of weight and measure; equite is justice accompanied by admiration and esteem,--things which cannot be measured.

From this several inferences may be drawn.

1. Though we are free to grant our esteem to one more than to another, and in all possible degrees, yet we should give no one more than his proportion of the common wealth; because the duty of justice, being imposed upon us before that of equite, must always take precedence of it. The woman honored by the ancients, who, when forced by a tyrant to choose between the death of her brother and that of her husband, sacrificed the latter on the ground that she could find another husband but not another brother,--that woman, I say, in obeying her sense of equite, failed in point of justice, and did a bad deed, because conjugal association is a closer relation than fraternal association, and because the life of our neighbor is not our property.

By the same principle, inequality of wages cannot be admitted by law on the ground of inequality of talents; because the just distribution of wealth is the function of economy,--not of enthusiasm.

Finally, as regards donations, wills, and inheritance, society, careful both of the personal affections and its own rights, must never permit love and partiality to destroy justice. And, though it is pleasant to think that the son, who has been long associated with his father in business, is more capable than any one else of carrying it on; and that the citizen, who is surprised in the midst of his task by death, is best fitted, in consequence of his natural taste for his occupation, to designate his successor; and though the heir should be allowed the right of choice in case of more than one inheritance,--nevertheless, society can tolerate no concentration of capital and industry for the benefit of a single man, no monopoly of labor, no encroachment.[1]

[1] Justice and equite never have been understood.

"Suppose that some spoils, taken from the enemy, and equal to twelve, are to be divided between Achilles and Ajax. If the two persons were equal, their respective shares would be arithmetically equal: Achilles would have six, Ajax six. And if we should carry out this arithmetical equality, Thersites would be entitled to as much as Achilles, which would be unjust in the extreme. To avoid this injustice, the worth of the persons should be estimated, and the spoils divided accordingly. Suppose that the worth of Achilles is double that of Ajax: the former's share is eight, the latter four. There is no arithmetical equality, but a proportional equality. It is this comparison of merits, rationum, that Aristotle calls distributive justice. It is a geometrical proportion."--Toullier: French Law according to the Code.

Are Achilles and Ajax associated, or are they not? Settle that, and you settle the whole question. If Achilles and Ajax, instead of being associated, are themselves in the service of Agamemnon who pays them, there is no objection to Aristotle's method. The slave-owner, who controls his slaves, may give a double allowance of brandy to him who does double work. That is the law of despotism; the right of slavery.

But if Achilles and Ajax are associated, they are equals. What matters it that Achilles has a strength of four, while that of Ajax is only two? The latter may always answer that he is free; that if Achilles has a strength of four, five could kill him; finally, that in doing personal service he incurs as great a risk as Achilles. The same argument applies to Thersites. If he is unable to fight, let him be cook, purveyor, or butler. If he is good for nothing, put him in the hospital. In no case wrong him, or impose upon him laws.

Man must live in one of two states: either in society, or out of it. In society, conditions are necessarily equal, except in the degree of esteem and consideration which each one may receive. Out of society, man is so much raw material, a capitalized tool, and often an incommodious and useless piece of furniture.

2. Equite, justice, and society, can exist only between individuals of the same species. They form no part of the relations of different races to each other,--for instance, of the wolf to the goat, of the goat to man, of man to God, much less of God to man. The attribution of justice, equity, and love to the Supreme Being is pure anthropomorphism; and the adjectives just, merciful, pitiful, and the like, should be stricken from our litanies. God can be regarded as just, equitable, and good, only to another God. Now, God has no associate; consequently, he cannot experience social affections,--such as goodness, equite, and justice. Is the shepherd said to be just to his sheep and his dogs? No: and if he saw fit to shear as much wool from a lamb six months old, as from a ram of two years; or, if he required as much work from a young dog as from an old one,--they would say, not that he was unjust, but that he was foolish. Between man and beast there is no society, though there may be affection. Man loves the animals as THINGS,--as SENTIENT THINGS, if you will,--but not as PERSONS. Philosophy, after having eliminated from the idea of God the passions ascribed to him by superstition, will then be obliged to eliminate also the virtues which our liberal piety awards to him.[1]

[1] Between woman and man there may exist love, passion, ties of custom, and the like; but there is no real society. Man and woman are not companions. The difference of the sexes places a barrier between them, like that placed between animals by a difference of race. Consequently, far from advocating what is now called the emancipation of woman, I should incline, rather, if there were no other alternative, to exclude her from society.

The rights of woman and her relations with man are yet to be determined Matrimonial legislation, like civil legislation, is a matter for the future to settle.

If God should come down to earth, and dwell among us, we could not love him unless he became like us; nor give him any thing unless he produced something; nor listen to him unless he proved us mistaken; nor worship him unless he manifested his power. All the laws of our nature, affectional, economical, and intellectual, would prevent us from treating him as we treat our fellow-men,--that is, according to reason, justice, and equite.

I infer from this that, if God should wish ever to put himself into immediate communication with man, he would have to become a man.

Now, if kings are images of God, and executors of his will, they cannot receive love, wealth, obedience, and glory from us, unless they consent to labor and associate with us--produce as much as they consume, reason with their subjects, and do wonderful things. Still more; if, as some pretend, kings are public functionaries, the love which is due them is measured by their personal amiability; our obligation to obey them, by the wisdom of their commands; and their civil list, by the total social production divided by the number of citizens.

Thus, jurisprudence, political economy, and psychology agree in admitting the law of equality. Right and duty-- the due reward of talent and labor--the outbursts of love and enthusiasm,--all are regulated in advance by an invariable standard; all depend upon number and balance. Equality of conditions is the law of society, and universal solidarity is the ratification of this law.

Equality of conditions has never been realized, thanks to our passions and our ignorance; but our opposition to this law has made it all the more a necessity. To that fact history bears perpetual testimony, and the course of events reveals it to us. Society advances from equation to equation. To the eyes of the economist, the revolutions of empires seem now like the reduction of algebraical quantities, which are inter-deducible; now like the discovery of unknown quantities, induced by the inevitable influence of time. Figures are the providence of history. Undoubtedly there are other elements in human progress; but in the multitude of hidden causes which agitate nations, there is none more powerful or constant, none less obscure, than the periodical explosions of the proletariat against property. Property, acting by exclusion and encroachment, while population was increasing, has been the life-principle and definitive cause of all revolutions. Religious wars, and wars of conquest, when they have stopped short of the extermination of races, have been only accidental disturbances, soon repaired by the mathematical progression of the life of nations. The downfall and death of societies are due to the power of accumulation possessed by property.

In the middle ages, take Florence,--a republic of merchants and brokers, always rent by its well-known factions, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, who were, after all, only the people and the proprietors fighting against each other,--Florence, ruled by bankers, and borne down at last by the weight of her debts;[1] in ancient times, take Rome, preyed upon from its birth by usury, flourishing, nevertheless, as long as the known world furnished its terrible proletaires with LABOR stained with blood by civil war at every interval of rest, and dying of exhaustion when the people lost, together with their former energy, their last spark of moral sense; Carthage, a commercial and financial city, continually divided by internal competition; Tyre, Sidon, Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon, ruined, in turn, by commercial rivalry and, as we now express it, by panics in the market,--do not these famous examples show clearly enough the fate which awaits modern nations, unless the people, unless France, with a sudden burst of her powerful voice, proclaims in thunder-tones the abolition of the regime of property?

[1] "The strong-box of Cosmo de Medici was the grave of Florentine liberty," said M. Michelet to the College of France.

Here my task should end. I have proved the right of the poor; I have shown the usurpation of the rich. I demand justice; it is not my business to execute the sentence. If it should be argued--in order to prolong for a few years an illegitimate privilege--that it is not enough to demonstrate equality, that it is necessary also to organize it, and above all to establish it peacefully, I might reply: The welfare of the oppressed is of more importance than official composure. Equality of conditions is a natural law upon which public economy and jurisprudence are based. The right to labor, and the principle of equal distribution of wealth, cannot give way to the anxieties of power. It is not for the proletaire to reconcile the contradictions of the codes, still less to suffer for the errors of the government. On the contrary, it is the duty of the civil and administrative power to reconstruct itself on the basis of political equality. An evil, when known, should be condemned and destroyed. The legislator cannot plead ignorance as an excuse for upholding a glaring iniquity. Restitution should not be delayed. Justice, justice! recognition of right! reinstatement of the proletaire!--when these results are accomplished, then, judges and consuls, you may attend to your police, and provide a government for the Republic!

For the rest, I do not think that a single one of my readers accuses me of knowing how to destroy, but of not knowing how to construct. In demonstrating the principle of equality, I have laid the foundation of the social structure I have done more. I have given an example of the true method of solving political and legislative problems. Of the science itself, I confess that I know nothing more than its principle; and I know of no one at present who can boast of having penetrated deeper. Many people cry, "Come to me, and I will teach you the truth!" These people mistake for the truth their cherished opinion and ardent conviction, which is usually any thing but the truth. The science of society--like all human sciences--will be for ever incomplete. The depth and variety of the questions which it embraces are infinite. We hardly know the A B C of this science, as is proved by the fact that we have not yet emerged from the period of systems, and have not ceased to put the authority of the majority in the place of facts. A certain philological society decided linguistic questions by a plurality of votes. Our parliamentary debates--were their results less pernicious-- would be even more ridiculous. The task of the true publicist, in the age in which we live, is to close the mouths of quacks and charlatans, and to teach the public to demand demonstrations, instead of being contented with symbols and programmes. Before talking of the science itself, it is necessary to ascertain its object, and discover its method and principle. The ground must be cleared of the prejudices which encumber it. Such is the mission of the nineteenth century.

For my part, I have sworn fidelity to my work of demolition, and I will not cease to pursue the truth through the ruins and rubbish. I hate to see a thing half done; and it will be believed without any assurance of mine, that, having dared to raise my hand against the Holy Ark, I shall not rest contented with the removal of the cover. The mysteries of the sanctuary of iniquity must be unveiled, the tables of the old alliance broken, and all the objects of the ancient faith thrown in a heap to the swine. A charter has been given to us,--a resume of political science, the monument of twenty legislatures. A code has been written,--the pride of a conqueror, and the summary of ancient wisdom. Well! of this charter and this code not one article shall be left standing upon another! The time has come for the wise to choose their course, and prepare for reconstruction.

But, since a destroyed error necessarily implies a counter-truth, I will not finish this treatise without solving the first problem of political science,--that which receives the attention of all minds.