Lot 298: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

RR Auction

2015-12-18 16:59:29


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Lot 298: French politician and philosopher (1809–1865) who was the first to describe himself as an anarchist. ALS in French, signed "P-J Proudhon," three pages on two adjoining sheets, 5.25 x 8.25, La Voix du Peuple letterhead, March 9, 1850. Letter to Arthur de Bonnard, written from the Conciergerie prison. In part (translated): "It is rather not too logical to declare war to commerce parasites, to end up calling on merchants, storekeepers and manufacturers…Each one will believe to be threatened by your manifesto while it would be necessary, today especially that we preach conciliation, to reassure everybody. You can do it without failing your principles and with much more advantage for your enterprise. In fact, all the established store keepers and merchants, can and even should be considered by you as…responsible for an immense Commerce society, having for goal selling goods or raw material and consequently mission to make them accessible to all consumers. It is population agglomeration, believe me, that multiplies the grocers; and it is businesses stagnation and misery of the masses that ruins them. Maybe the numbers of stores would not seem to you as excessive, if everybody were earning a living.Reason the same for wine, meat, grocery; and instead of being so preoccupied deciding to reduce number of merchants, you would pay more attention to getting them customers. Decrease will come later: you have to start by circulation…you can, it seems to me, rework your plan, and have all the ones that you seem to want to combat today interested in it. You could make them see that it means for them to buy, with a small withholding on their benefits, a clientele, a flow always increasing…In brief, any critic of the established order, as right as it can be, is good for journalism, the tribune, or books, but never must be shown in a commercial and industrial society's project; the only thing that should appear, in business, is profit; what always remains understood, are the reforms. Mankind is made like that: do not be up in arms against susceptibilities and fragility of its routine… I am willing to be a relentless reformer in my books, and when my polemic needs ask for it. I cannot not be but conciliating in practical and realization things. Courage and prudence then. Remember this word from the Gospel: prudent as a serpent, simple as a dove." Top of the first page bears an ink identification notation in another hand. In fine condition, with show-through from writing to opposing sides. A complete translation is available upon request.A key aspect of Proudhon's ideology was the necessity of cooperative social reform; he was entirely nonviolent and realized that large sectors of society needed to buy in to the concepts of anarchism in order to make any progress. His advocacy for cooperation over combat is evident in this letter as he warns against alienating capital. Instead, he recommends demonstrating how economic reforms could actually be beneficial for storeowners, merchants, and the like. A contributor to newspapers himself, Proudhon understood that he needed to 'play to his audience' in order to gain mass appeal. Overall, this is an incredibly fascinating letter offering tremendous insight into Proudhon's methods and economic ideals. RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 467 Wednesday, 13th January 2016 Estimate: $2000-3000
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