PIERRE-JOSEPH PROUDHON: His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works by Edward Hyams

PIERRE-JOSEPH PROUDHON: His Revolutionary Life, Mind and Works

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Whoever would like to make sense of the chaotic French labor movement had better become acquainted with Proudhon, the great advocate of Mutualism--i.e., of worker cooperatives and self-management. Hyams, a novelist and former contributor to the New Statesman, is strongly sympathetic to the artisan-philosopher of Besan‡on, seeing in his ideas an alternative to Marxist socialism. Another friendly biographer of Proudhon, George Woodcock, emphasized that his subject's passion for small-scale enterprise, self-sufficiency, and craft work--which underlay his anarchism--was appropriate to French conditions for an extended period; but he felt that the epoch of Proudhonian anarchism had passed. Hyams is noncommittal, apparently hoping that the spirit of the author of What Is Property? (P's answer--theft! !) still has a place. He concentrates on getting Proudhon's ideas across--but takes him to task, nonetheless, for his considerable failings. Chief among these was Proudhon's virulent anti-feminism, which Hyams emphasizes throughout. But most fascinating to any biographer is the history of which Proudhon was a part, and Hyams follows him from Besan‡on onward in his multiple careers as philosopher, printer, journalist, political leader, and even business agent, against the backdrop of the 1848 revolution and the Second Empire. It was the Golden Age of the artisan-inspired European social unrest, and Proudhon was in the middle of the upheaval and perhaps its greatest representative. Hyam's biography, less scholarly than Woodcock's, is an accessible introduction to that once-and-future world.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1979
Publisher: Taplinger