in 1840, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the infamous first assumed anarchist, published a little book. in it he wrote:

“One of three things must be done. Either the laborer must be given a portion
of the product in addition to his wages; or the employer must render the laborer
an equivalent in productive service; or else he must pledge himself to employ him
for ever. Division of the product, reciprocity of service, or guarantee of perpetual labor, — from the adoption of one of these courses the capitalist cannot escape. But it is evident that he cannot satisfy the second and third of these conditions — he can neither put himself at the service of the thousands of working-men, who, directly or indirectly, have aided him in establishing himself, nor employ them all for ever. He has no other course left him, then, but a division of the property. But if the property is divided, all conditions will be equal — there will be no more large capitalists or large proprietors.” (p. 103)

and later:

“Thus we see property, at all ages and in all its forms, oscillating by virtue
of its principle between two opposite terms, — extreme division and extreme
Property, at its first term, is almost null. Reduced to personal exploitation, it is property only potentially. At its second term, it exists in its perfection; then it is truly property” (p. 247)


“Now I think that I have demonstrated in my First Memoir, that large accumulation and minute division are the first two terms of an economical trinity, — a thesis and an antithesis. But, while M. Wolowski says nothing of the third term, the synthesis, and thus leaves the inference in suspense, I have shown that this third term is ASSOCIATION, which is the annihilation of property” (p. 275)

through these quotes, we can see what Proudhon meant as a solution for the problem of property – the problem of distinction, separateness, of boundaries and limitations, that is, the problem of a system* which creates organization, and therefore suppression. his solution matches perfectly the dark irony that is the Zeitgeist of post-modernism: produce more of the problem, until it’s nullified.

(* = I’m drawing on Luhmann here to equate system to distinction)

for Proudhon, the more divided property was, that is, the more property existed, the less significant it would be. at the limit, when property had been so divided that everyone had it, it would cease existing. and, of course, all of this would be utter nonsense if we wasn’t talking about primary property (in his very words: possession).

one working hypothesis in this site will be that this kind of solution can be applied systematically to most if not all social problems. generalizing it, the formula gets so simple it’s beautiful: if you want to destroy a distinction/system, produce as many of those distinctions as possible.

a brief list of potential problems that could be solved through this method: genders, schools, states, racism, nationalism/tribalism, and even wars. in coming posts, i’ll try and apply the method to these and many other problems.


4 thoughts on “the proudhonian solution

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