Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

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He was the first person to refer to himself as an anarchist.[citation needed] In What is Property, published in 1840, he defined anarchy as "the absence of a master, of a sovereign", and in The General idea of the Revolution (1851) he urged a "society without authority." He extended this analysis beyond political institutions, arguing in What is Property? that "proprietor" was "synonymous" with "sovereign". For Proudhon:

Proudhon in his earliest works analyzed the nature and problems of the capitalist economy. While deeply critical of capitalism, he also objected to those contemporary socialists who idolized association. In a sequence of commentaries, from What is Property? (1840) through the posthumously published Théorie de la propriété (Theory of Property, 1863–64), he declared in turn that "property is theft", "property is impossible", "property is despotism" and "property is freedom". When he said "property is theft", he was referring to the landowner or capitalist who he believed "stole" the profits from laborers. For Proudhon, the capitalist's employee was "subordinated, exploited: his permanent condition is one of obedience".[6]

In asserting that property is freedom, he was referring not only to the product of an individual's labor, but to the peasant or artisan's home and tools of his trade and the income he received by selling his goods. For Proudhon, the only legitimate source of property is labor. What one produces is one's property and anything beyond that is not. He advocated worker self-management and was opposed to the private ownership of the means of production. He strenuously rejected the ownership of the products of labor by society, arguing in What is Property? that while "property in product [...] does not carry with it property in the means of production"[7] [...] The right to product is exclusive [...] the right to means is common" and applied this to the land ("the land is [...] a common thing"[8]) and workplaces ("all accumulated capital being social property, no one can be its exclusive proprietor".[9]) He argued that while society owned the means of production or land, users would control and run them (under supervision from society), with the "organising of regulating societies" in order to "regulate the market".[10] Proudhon called himself a socialist, but he opposed state ownership of capital goods in favour of ownership by workers themselves in associations. This makes him one of the first theorists of libertarian socialism. Proudhon was one of the main influence for the theorization, at the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, of workers' self-management (autogestion).

This use-ownership he called "possession", and this economic system mutualism. Proudhon had many arguments against entitlement to land and capital, including reasons based on morality, economics, politics, and individual liberty. One such argument was that it enabled profit, which in turn led to social instability and war by creating cycles of debt that eventually overcame the capacity of labor to pay them off. Another was that it produced "despotism" and turned workers into wage workers subject to the authority of a boss.

In What Is Property? Proudhon wrote:

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.

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