Tag Archives | Left-Libertarian

Primitive Accumulation of Pretzels

In my latest YouTube video, I discuss the distinction between markets and capitalism as drawn in the 1919 textbook THE ABC OF COMMUNISM (written by two Soviet apparatchiks, Nikolai Bukharin and Yevgeny Preobrazhensky), as well as in the Marxist tradition generally, with attention to how Marxism twists itself into a pretzel to avoid endorsing free-market anti-capitalism.

Anarchy in the Tube

My second YouTube video (and first substantive one) is up on Agoric Café! In this one I discuss Steven J. Shone’s book on 19th-century American anarchism:

Molinari and Proudhon: Mutual(ist) Influence?

While Molinari and Proudhon were certainly aware of each other (both published in the Journal des Économistes, for example), neither of them, to my knowledge, ever acknowledged being influenced by the other. Nor is that surprising; they belonged to rival libertarian traditions that had grown increasingly hostile to each other, and the debate between Proudhon and Molinari’s mentor Bastiat in 1849-50, while beginning in a cautiously friendly fashion, had ended in a flurry of insult and acrimony. Nevertheless, I think there is good reason to suspect mutual influence.

While Proudhon declared his opposition to the state as early as in his 1840 work What is Property?, he at that time offered little in the way of detail as to what sorts of social or economic mechanisms might replace state functions.

Then, in 1849, Molinari published both his article “The Production of Security” (in the Journal des Économistes) and his book Soirées on the Rue Saint-Lazare, in both of which he described how private enterprise could take over the functions of the state. (Molinari’s ideas were subsequently discussed in the Journal; see here and here.)

Two years later, in 1851, Proudhon published his General Idea of the Revolution in the 19th Century, in which he now discussed, in more detail than ever before, his ideas (in part similar, in part different) as to how private enterprise could take over the functions of the state. This is where I suspect Molinari’s influence on Proudhon.

In that same work, Proudhon described the process of transition as the “dissolution of government in the economic organism.” Over three decades later, in his Political Evolution and the Revolution (1884), Molinari used almost the same phrase to describe the transition to a stateless society – the “diffusion of the state within society” – although he somewhat disingenuously suggested that this approach was in contrast to anarchism: “The future thus belongs neither to the absorption of society by the state, as the communists and collectivists suppose, nor to the suppression of the state, as the anarchists and nihilists dream, but to the diffusion of the state within society.” (pp. 393-94; cf. p. 482, where he speaks of the “diffusion of government within society” rather than of the state.)* This is where I suspect Proudhon’s influence on Molinari.


[* Cf. Benjamin Tucker in 1890: “Anarchists work for the abolition of the State, but by this they mean not its overthrow, but, as Proudhon put it, its dissolution in the economic organism.” Tucker was certainly aware of some of Molinari’s later work – see here and here – but whether he had read the particular works by Molinari here named is unclear. Certainly Tucker’s idea for competing security agencies resembles Molinari’s, but Tucker had also read, e.g., Spooner’s similar proposal from 1851, and I doubt that Spooner would have read Molinari.]

Who Said These?

One of these quotations is from a communist anarchist. The other is from an individualist anarchist. Guess who said them.

1. Suppose that suggestions of economy have substituted the large unitary edifice for the isolated home. … [W]hen these several domestic functions are performed severally upon the large scale, additional conveniences will be found to arise from combining the Eating-House, the Laundry, the Nursery, the Lying-in Department, etc., etc., in one unitary edifice, and conducting the whole upon a plan not inferior, perhaps, in magnificence and extent to the Phalansterian order of Fourier.

2. Phalansteries are repugnant to millions of human beings. The most reserved man certainly feels the necessity of meeting his fellows for the purpose of common work …. But it is not so for the hours of leisure, reserved for rest and intimacy. … A phalanstery, which is in fact nothing but an immense hotel, can please some, … but the great mass prefers family life …. They prefer isolated apartments, Anglo-Saxons even going as far as to prefer houses of from six to eight rooms, in which the family, or an agglomeration of friends, can live apart. Sometimes a phalanstery is a necessity, but it would be hateful, were it the general rule. Isolation, alternating with time spent in society, is the normal desire of human nature. This is why one of the greatest tortures in prison is the impossibility of isolation, much as solitary confinement becomes torture in its turn, when not alternated with hours of social life.

See the comments section for the answer.

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