Chapter IV “Critical Criticism” As the Tranquillity of Knowledge, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Edgar
- Chapter I “Critical Criticism in the Form of a Master-Bookbinder”, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Reichardt
- Chapter II “Critical Criticism” As a ‘Mill-Owner’, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Jules Faucher
- Chapter III “The Thoroughness of Critical Criticism”, Or Critical Criticism As Herr J. (Jungnitz?)
- Chapter IV “Critical Criticism” As the Tranquillity of Knowledge, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Edgar
- Chapter V “Critical Criticism” As a Mystery-Monger, Or “Critical Criticism” As Herr Szeliga
- Chapter VI Absolute Critical Criticism, Or Critical Criticism As Herr Bruno
- Chapter VII Critical Criticism’s Correspondence
- Chapter VIII The Earthly Course and Transfiguration Of “Critical Criticism”, Or “Critical Criticism” As Rudolph, Prince of Geroldstein
- Chapter IX The Critical Last Judgment and Historical Epilogue
1) Flora Tristan's "Union Ouvrière[edit source]
Written by Engels
The French Socialists maintain that the worker makes everything, produces everything and yet has no rights, no possessions, in short, nothing at all. Criticism answers in the words of Herr Edgar, the personification of the tranquillity of Knowledge:
"To be able to create everything, a stronger consciousness is needed than that of the worker. Only the opposite of the above proposition would be true: the worker makes nothing, therefore he has nothing; but the reason why he makes nothing is that his work is always individual, having as its object his most personal needs, and is everyday work."
Here Criticism achieves a height of abstraction in which it regards only the creations of its own thought and generalities which contradict all reality as "something", indeed as "everything", The worker creates nothing because he creates only "individual", that is, perceptible, palpable, spiritless and un-Critical objects, which are an abomination in the eyes of pure Criticism. Everything that is real and living is un-Critical, of a mass nature, and therefore "nothing"; only the ideal, fantastic creatures of Critical Criticism are "everything". The worker creates nothing, because his work remains individual, having only his individual needs as its object, that is, because in the present world system the individual interconnected branches of labour are separated from, and even opposed to, one another; in short, because labour is not organized. Criticism's own proposition, if taken in the only reasonable sense it can possibly have, demands the organization of labour. Flora Tristan, in an assessment of whose work this great proposition appears, puts forward the same demand and is treated en canaille for her insolence in anticipating Critical Criticism. Anyhow, the proposition that the worker creates nothing is absolutely crazy except in the sense that the individual worker produces nothing whole, which is tautology. Critical Criticism creates nothing, the worker creates everything; and so much so that even his intellectual creations put the whole of Criticism to shame; the English and the French workers provide proof of this. The worker creates even man; the critic will never he anything but sub-human though on the other hand, of course, he has the satisfaction of being a Critical critic.
"Flora Tristan is an example of the feminine dogmatism which must have a formula and constructs it out of the categories of what exists."
Criticism does nothing but "construct formulae out of the categories of what exists, namely, out of the existing Hegelian philosophy and the existing social aspirations. Formulae, nothing but formulae. And despite ail its invectives against dogmatism, it condemns itself to dogmatism and even to feminine dogmatism. It is and remains an old woman — faded, widowed Hegelian philosophy which paints and adorns its body, shrivelled into the most repulsive abstraction, and ogles all over Germany in search of a wooer.
2) Béraud on Prostitutes[edit source]
Written by Engels
Herr Edger, taking pity on social questions, meddles also in "conditions of prostitutes" (Heft V, p. 26).
He criticizes Paris Police Commissioner Be´raud's book on prostitution because he is concerned with the "point of view" from which "B´raud considers the attitude of prostitutes to society" The "tranquillity of knowledge" is surprised to see that a policeman adopts the point of view of the police, and it gives the mass to understand that that point of view is quite wrong. But it does not reveal its own point of view. Of course not! When Criticism takes up with prostitutes it cannot be expected to do so in public.
3) Love[edit source]
Written by Marx
In order to complete its transformation into the tranquillity of knowledge", Critical Criticism must first seek to dispose of love. Love is a passion, and nothing is more dangerous for the tranquillity of knowledge than passion. That is why, speaking of Madame von Paalzow's novels, which, he assures us, he has "thoroughly studied". Herr Edgar is amazed at "a childish thing like so-called love". It is a horror and abomination and excites the wrath of Critical Criticism, makes it almost as bitter as gall, indeed, insane.
"Love ... is a cruel goddess, and like every deity she wishes to possess the whole of man and is not satisfied until he has surrendered to her not merely his soul, but his physical self. The worship of love is suffering, the peak of this worship is self-immolation, suicide."
In order to change love into "Moloch", the devil incarnate, Herr Edgar first changes it into a goddess. When love has become a goddess, i.e., a theological object, it is of course submitted to theological criticism; moreover, it is known that god and the devil are not far apart. Herr Edgar changes love into a "goddess", a, "cruel goddess" at that, by changing man who loves, the love of man, into a man of love; by making "love" a being apart, separate from man and as such independent. By this simple process, by changing the predicate into the subject, all the attributes and manifestations of human nature can be Critically transformed into their negation and into alienations of human nature." Thus, for example, Critical Criticism makes criticism, as a predicate and activity of man, into a subject apart, criticism which relates itself to itself and is therefore Critical Criticism: a "Moloch", the worship of which consists in the self-immolation, the suicide of man, and in particular of his ability to think.
"Object," exclaims, the tranquillity of knowledge, "object is the right expression, for the beloved is important to the lover [denn der Geliebte ist dem Liebenden] (there is no feminine) only as this external object of the emotion of his soul, as the object in which he wishes to see his selfish feeling satisfied."
Object! Horrible! There is nothing more damnable, more profane, more mass-like than an object — agrave; bas the object! How could absolute subjectivity, the actus puris, "pure" Criticism, not see in love its bête noire, that Satan incarnate, in love, which first really teaches man to believe in the objective world outside himself, which not only makes man into an object, but even the object into a man! Love, continues the tranquillity of knowledge, beside itself, is not even content with turning man into the category of "object" for another man, it even makes him into a definite, real object, into this bad-individual (see Hegel's Phänomenologie on the categories "This" and "That", where there is also a polemic against the bad "This"), external object, which does not remain internal, hidden in the brain, but is sensuously manifest.
Lives not only in the brain immured.
No, the beloved is a sensuous object, and if Critical Criticism is to condescend to recognition of an object, it demands at the very least a senseless object. But love is an un-Critical, un-Christian materialist.
Finally, love even makes one human being "this external object of the emotion of the soul" of another, the object in which the selfish feeling of the other finds its satisfaction, a selfish feeling because it looks for its own essence in the other, and that must not be. Critical Criticism is so free from all selfishness that for it the whole range of human essence is exhausted by its own self.
Herr Edgar, of course, does not tell us in what way the beloved differs from the other "external objects of the emotion of the soul in which the selfish feelings of men find their satisfaction". The spiritually profound, meaningful, highly expressive object of love means nothing to the tranquillity of knowledge but the abstract formula: "this external object of the emotion of the soul", much as the comet means nothing to the speculative natural philosopher but "negativity". By making man the external object of the emotion of his soul, man does in fact attach "importance" to him, Critical Criticism itself admits, but only objective importance, so to speak, while the importance which Criticism attaches to objects is none other than that which it attaches to itself. Hence this importance lies not in "bad external being", but in the "Nothing" of the Critically important object.
If the tranquillity of knowledge has no object in real man, it has, on the other hand, a cause in humanity. Critical love "is careful above all not to forget the cause behind the personality, for that cause is none other than the cause of humanity". Un-Critical love does not separate humanity from the personal, individual man.
Love itself, as an abstract passion, which comes we know not whence and goes we know not whither, is incapable of`having an interest in internal development."
In the eyes of the tranquillity of knowledge, love is an abstract passion according to the speculative terminology in which the concrete is called abstract and the abstract concrete.
The maid was not born in that valley,
But where she came from, no one knew.
And soon all trace of her did vanish
Once she had bidden them adieu.
For abstraction, love is "the maid from a foreign land" who has no dialectical passport and is therefore expelled from the country by the Critical police.
The passion of love is incapable of having an interest in internal development because it cannot be construed a priori, because its development is a real one which takes place in the world of the senses and between real individuals. But the main interest of speculative construction is the "Whence" and the "Whither". The "Whence" is the "necessity of a concept, its proof and deduction" (Hegel). The "Whither" is the determination "by which each individual link of the speculative circular course, as the animated content of the method, is at the same time the beginning of a new link" (Hegel). Hence, only if its "Whence" and its "Whither" could be construed a priori would love deserve the "interest" of speculative Criticism.
What Critical Criticism combats here is not merely love but everything living, everything which is immediate, every sensuous experience, any and every real experience, the "Whence" and the "Whither" of which one never knows beforehand.
By overcoming love, Herr Edgar has completely asserted himself as the "tranquillity of knowledge", and now by his treatment of Proudhon, he can show great virtuosity in knowledge, the "object" of which is no longer "this external object", and a still greater lack of love for the French language.
4) Proudhon[edit source]
Written by Marx
It was not Proudhon himself, but "Proudhon's point of view", Critical Criticism informs us, that wrote Qu'est-ce que la propriété?
"I begin my exposition of Proudhon's point of view by characterizing its" (the point of view's) "work, "Qu'est-ce que la propriété?" 
As only the works of the Critical point of view possess a character of their own, the Critical characterization necessarily begins by giving a character to Proudhon's work. Herr Edgar gives this work a character by translating it. He naturally gives it a bad character, for he turns it into an object of "Criticism"
Proudhon's work, therefore, is subjected to a double attack by Herr Edgar — an unspoken one in his characterising translation and an outspoken one in his Critical comments. We shall see that Herr Edgar is more devastating when he translates than when he comments.
Characterizing Translation No. 1[edit source]
"I do not wish" (says the Critically translated Proudhon) "to give any system of the new; I wish for nothing but the abolition of privilege, the abolition of slavery.... Justice, nothing but justice, that is what I mean."
The characterized Proudhon confines himself to will and opinion, because "good will" and unscientific "opinion" are characteristic attributes of the un-Critical Mass. The characterized Proudhon behaves with the humility that is fitting for the mass and subordinates what he wishes to what he does not wish. He does not presume to wish to give a system of the new, he wishes less, he even wishes for nothing but the abolition of privilege, etc. Besides this Critical subordination of the will he has to the will he has not, his very first word is marked by a characteristic lack of logic. A writer who begins his book by saying that he does not wish to give any system of the new, should then tell us what he does wish to give: whether it is a systematised old or an unsystematised new. But does the characterized Proudhon, who does not wish to give any system of the new, wish to give the abolition of privilege? No. He just wishes it.
The real Proudhon says: "Je ne fais pas de système; je demande la fin du privilège," etc. I make no system, I demand, etc., that is to say, the real Proudhon declares that he does not pursue any abstract scientific aims, but makes immediately practical demands on society. And the demand he makes is not an arbitrary one. It is motivated and justified by his whole argument and is the summary of that argument for, he says, "justice, rien que justice; tel est le resumé' de mon discours." With his "Justice, nothing but justice, that is what I mean", the characterized Proudhon gets himself into a position which is all the more embarrassing as he means much more. According to Herr Edgar, for example, he "means" that philosophy has not been practical enough, he "means" to refute Charles Comte, and so forth.
The Critical Proudhon asks: "Ought man then always to be unhappy?" In other words, he asks whether unhappiness is man's moral destiny. The real Proudhon is a light-minded Frenchman and he asks whether unhappiness is a material necessity, a must. (L'homme doit-il être éternellement malheureux?)
The mass-type Proudhon says: "Et, sans m'arrêter aux explications â toute fin des entrepreneurs de réformes, accusant de la détresse générale, ceux-ci la lâcheté et l'impéritie du pouvoir, ceux-là les conspirateurs et les émeutes, d'autres l'ignorance et la corruption générale", etc.
The expression "à toute fin" being a bad mass-type expression that is not in the mass-type German dictionaries, the Critical, Proudhon naturally omits this more exact definition of the "explanations". This term is taken from mass-type French jurisprudence, and "explications ... toute fin" means explanations which preclude any objection. The Critical Proudhon censures the "Reformists", a French Socialist Party; the massy Proudhon censures the initiators of reforms. The mass-type Proudhon distinguishes various classes of "entrepreneurs de réformes". These (ceux-ci) say one thing, those (ceix-là) say another, others (d'autres) a third. The Critical Proudhon, on the other hand, makes the same reformists "accuse now one, then another, then a third", which in any case is proof of their inconstancy. The real Proudhon, who follows mass-type French practice, speaks of "les conspirateurs et les émeutes", i.e., first of the conspirators and then of their activity, revolts. The Critical Proudhon, on the other hand, who has lumped together the various classes of reformists, classifies the rebels and hence says: the conspirators and the rebels. The mass-type Proudhon speaks of ignorance and "general corruption". The Critical Proudhon changes ignorance into stupidity, "corruption" into '"depravity, and finally, as a Critical critic, makes the stupidity general. He himself gives an immediate example of it by putting "générale" in the singular instead of the plural. He writes: "l'ignorance et la corruption générale" for general stupidity and depravity. According to un-Critical French grammar this should be: "l'ignorance et la corruption générales.
The characterized Proudhon, who speaks and thinks otherwise than the mass-type one, necessarily went through quite a different course of education. He "questioned the masters of science, read hundreds of volumes of philosophy and law, etc., and at last" he "realised that we have never yet grasped the meaning of the words Justice, Equity, Freedom". The real Proudhon thought he had realised at first (je crus d'abord reconnaître) what the Critical Proudhon realised only "at last". The Critical alteration of d'abord into enfin is necessary because the mass may not think it realises anything "at first". The mass-type Proudhon tells explicitly how he was staggered by the unexpected result of his studies and distrusted it. Hence he decided to carry out a "countertest" and asked himself: "Is it possible that mankind has so long and so universally been mistaken over the principles of the application of morals? How and why was it mistaken?" etc. He made the correctness of his observations dependent on the solution of these questions. He found that in morals, as in all other branches of knowledge, errors "are stages of science". The Critical Proudhon, on the other hand, immediately trusted the first impression that his studies of political economy, law and the like made upon him. Needless to say, the mass cannot proceed in any thorough way; it is bound to raise the first results of its investigations to the level of indisputable truths. It has "reached the end before it has started, before it has measured itself with its opposite". Hence, "it is seen" later "that it is not yet at the beginning when it thinks it has reached the end".
The Critical Proudhon therefore continues his reasoning in the most untenable and incoherent way.
"Our knowledge of moral laws is not complete from the beginning; thus it can for some time suffice for social progress, but in the long run it will lead us on a false path."
The Critical Proudhon does not give any reason why incomplete knowledge of moral laws call suffice for social progress even for a single day. The real Proudhon, having asked himself whether and why mankind could universally and so long have been mistaken and having found as the solution that all errors are stages of science and that our most imperfect judgments contain a sum of truths sufficient for a certain number of inductions and for a certain area of practical life, beyond which number and which area they lead theoretically to the absurd and practically to decay, is in a position to say that even imperfect knowledge of moral laws can suffice for social progress for a time. The Critical Proudhon says:
"But if new knowledge has become necessary, a bitter struggle arises between the old prejudices and the new idea."
How can a struggle arise against an opponent who does not yet exist? Admitted, the Critical Proudhon has told us that a new idea has become necessary but he has not said that it has already come into existence. The mass-type Proudhon says:
"Once higher knowledge has become indispensable it is never lacking", it is therefore ready at hand. "It is then that the struggle begins."
The Critical Proudhon asserts: "It is man's destiny to learn step by step", as if man did not have a quite different destiny, namely, that of being man, and as if that learning "step by step" necessarily brought him a step farther. I can go step by step and arrive at the very point from which I set out. The un-Critical Proudhon speaks, not of "destiny", but of the condition (condition) for man to learn not step by step (pas à pas), but by degrees (par degrés). The Critical Proudhon says to himself:
"Among the principles upon which society rests there is one which society does not understand, which is spoilt by society's ignorance and is the cause of all evil. Nevertheless, man honours this principle" and "wills it, for otherwise it would have no influence. Now this principle which is true in its essence; but is false in the way we conceive it ... what is it?"
In the first sentence the Critical Proudhon says that the principle is spoilt, misunderstood by society,hence that it is correct in itself. In the second sentence he admits superfluously that it is true in its essence; nevertheless he reproaches society with willing and honouring "this principle". The mass-type Proudhon, on the other hand, reproaches society with willing and honouring not this principle, but this principle as falsified by our ignorance ("Ce principe ... tel que notre ignorance l'a fait, est honoré"). The Critical Proudhon finds the essence of the principle in its untrue form true. The mass-type Proudhon finds that the essence of the falsified principle is our incorrect conception, but that it is true in its object (objet), just as the essence of alchemy and astrology is our imagination, but their objects — the movement of the heavenly bodies and the chemical properties of substances — are true. The Critical Proudhon continues his monologue:
The object of our investigation is the law, the definition of the social principle. Now the politicians, i.e., the men of social science, are a prey to complete lack of clarity...; but as there is a reality at the basis of every error, in their books we shall find the truth, which they have brought into the world without knowing it."
The Critical Proudhon has a most fantastic way of reasoning. From the fact that the politicians are ignorant and unclear, he goes on in the most arbitrary fashion to say that a reality lies at the basis of every error, which can all the less he doubted as there is a reality at the basis of every error — in the person of the one who errs. From the fact that a reality lies at the basis of every error he goes on to conclude that truth is to be found in the books of politicians. And finally he even makes out that the politicians have brought this truth into the world. Had they brought it into the world we should not need to look for it in their books. The mass-type Proudhon says:
"The politicians do not understand one another (ne s'entendent pas); their error is therefore a subjective one, having its origin in them (donc c'est en eux qu'est l'erreur)." Their mutual misunderstanding proves their one-sidedness. They confuse "their private opinion with common sense", and "as", according to the previous deduction, "every error has a true reality as its object, their books must contain the truth, which they unconsciously have put there" — i.e., in their books — "but have not brought into the world" (dans leurs livres doit se trouver la vérité qu' à leur insu its y auront mise).
The Critical Proudhon asks himself: "What is justice, what is its essence, its character, its meaning?" As if it had some meaning apart from its essence and character. The un-Critical Proudhon asks: What is its principle, its character and its formula (formule)? The formula is the principle as a principle of scientific reasoning. In the mass-type French language there is an essential difference between formule and signification. In the Critical French language there is none. After his highly irrelevant disquisitions, the Critical Proudhon pulls himself together and exclaims:
"Let us try to get somewhat closer to our object."
The un-Critical Proudhon, on the other hand, who arrived at his object long ago, tries to attain more precise and more positive definitions of his object (d'arriver à quelque chose de plus précis et de plus positif).
For the Critical Proudhon "the law" is a "definition of what is right", for the un-Critical Proudhon it is a "statement" (déclaration) of it. The un-Critical Proudhon disputes the view that right is made by law. But a "definition of the law" can mean that the law is defined just as it can mean that it defines. Previously, the Critical Proudhon himself spoke about the definition of the social principle in this latter sense. To be sure, it is unseemly of the mass-type Proudhon to make such nice distinctions.
Considering these differences between the Critically characterised Proudhon and the real Proudhon, it is no wonder that Proudhon No. 1 seeks to prove quite different things than Proudhon No. 2.
The Critical Proudhon
"seeks to prove by the experience of history" that "if the idea that we have of what is just and right is false, evidently" (he tries to prove it in spite of its evidence) "all its applications in law must be bad, all our institutions must be defective".
The mass-type Proudhon is far from wishing to prove what is evident. He says instead:
"If the idea that we have of what is just and right were badly defined, if it were incomplete or even false, it is evident that all our legislative applications would be bad", etc.
What, then, does the un-Critical Proudhon wish to prove?
"This hypothesis," he continues, "of the perversion of justice in our understanding, and as a necessary consequence in our actions, would be an established fact if the opinions of men concerning the concept of justice and its applications had not remained constantly the same, if at different times they had undergone modifications; in a word, if there had been progress in ideas."
And precisely that inconstancy, that change, that progress "is what history proves by the most striking testimonies". And the un-Critical Proudhon quotes these striking testimonies of history. His Critical double, who proves a completely different proposition by the experience of history, also presents that experience itself in a different way.
According to the real Proudhon, "the wise" (les sages), according to the Critical Proudhon, "the philosophers", foresaw the fall of the Roman Empire. The Critical Proudhon can of course consider only philosophers to be wise men. According to the real Proudhon, Roman "rights were consecrated by ten centuries of law practice" or "administration of justice" (ces droits consacrés par une justice dix: fois séculaire); according to the Critical Proudhon, Rome had "rights consecrated by ten centuries of justice".
According to the same Proudhon No. 1, the Romans reasoned as follows:
"Rome ... was victorious through its policy and its gods; any reform in worship or public spirit would be stupidity and profanation" (according to the Critical Proudhon, sacrilège means not the profanation or desecration of a holy thing, as in the mass-type French language, but just profanation). "Had it wished to free the peoples, it would thereby have renounced its right." "Rome had thus fact and right in its favour," Proudhon No. 1 adds.
According to the un-Critical Proudhon, the Romans reasoned more logically. The fact was set out in detail:
"The slaves are the most fertile source of its wealth; the freeing of the peoples would therefore be the ruin of its finance."
And the mass-type Proudhon adds, referring to law: "Rome's claims were justified by the law of nations (droit des gens)." This way of proving the right of subjugation was completely in keeping with the Roman view on law. See the mass-type pandects: "jure gentium servitus invasit" (Fr. 4. D.I.I)."
According to the Critical Proudhon, "idolatry, slavery and softness" were "the basis of Roman institutions", of all its institutions without exception. The real Proudhon says: "Idolatry in religion, slavery in the state and Epicureanism in private life" (épicurisme in the ordinary French language is not synonymous with mollesse, softness) "were the basis of the institutions." Within that Roman situation there "appeared", says the mystic Proudhon, "the Word of God", whereas according to the real, rationalistic Proudhon, it was "a man who called himself the Word of God". In the real Proudhon this man calls the priests "vipers" (vipères); in the Critical Proudhon he speaks more courteously with them and calls them "serpents". In the former he speaks in the Roman way of "advocates" [Advokaten], in the latter in the German way of "lawyers" [Rechtsgelehrte].
The Critical Proudhon calls the spirit of the French Revolution a spirit of contradiction, and adds:
"That is enough to realised that the new which replaced the old had on itself [an sich] nothing methodical and considered."
He cannot refrain from repeating mechanically the favourite categories of Critical Criticism, the "old" and the "new". He cannot refrain from the senseless demand that the "new" should have on itself [an sich] something methodical and considered, just as one might have a stain on oneself [an sich]. The real Proudhon says:
"That is enough to prove that the new order of things which was substituted for the old was in itself [in sich] without method or reflection."
Carried away by the memory of the French Revolution, the Critical Proudhon revolutionises the French language so much that he translates un fait physique by "a fact of physics", and un fait intellectuel by "a fact of the intellect". By this revolution in the French language the Critical Proudhon manages to put physics in possession of all the facts to be found in nature. Raising natural science unduly on one side, he debases it just as much on the other by depriving it of intellect and distinguishing between a fact of physics and a fact of the intellect. To the same extent he makes all further psychological and logical investigation unnecessary by raising the intellectual fact directly to the level of a fact of the intellect. Since the Critical Proudhon, Proudhon No. 1, has not the slightest idea what the real Proudhon, Proudhon No. 2, wishes to prove by his historical deduction, neither does the real content of that deduction exist for him, namely, the proof of the change in the views on law and of the continuous implementation of justice by the negation of historical actual right.
"La société fut sauvée par la négation de ses principes ... et la violation des droits les plus sacrés."
Thus the real Proudhon proves how the negation of Roman law led to the widening of right in the Christian conception, the negation of the right of conquest to the right of the communes and the negation of the whole feudal law by the French Revolution to the present more comprehensive system of law.
Critical Criticism could not possibly leave Proudhon the glory of having discovered the law of the implementation of a principle by its negation. In this conscious formulation, this idea was a real revelation for the French.
Critical Comment No. 1[edit source]
As the first criticism of any science is necessarily influenced by the premises of the science it is fighting against, so Proudhon's treatise Qu'est-ce que la propriété? is the criticism of political economy from the standpoint of political economy. — We need not go more deeply into the juridical part of the book, which criticizes law from the standpoint of law, for our main interest is the criticism of political economy. — Proudhon's treatise will therefore be scientifically superseded by a criticism of political economy, including Proudhon's conception of political economy. This work became possible only owing to the work of Proudhon himself, just as Proudhon's criticism has as its premise the criticism of the mercantile system by the Physiocrats, Adam Smith's criticism of the Physiocrats, Ricardo's criticism of Adam Smith, and the works of Fourier and Saint-Simon.
All treatises on political economy take private property for granted. This basic premise is for them an incontestable fact to which they devote no further investigation, indeed a fact which is spoken about only "accidentellement, as Say naively admits. But Proudhon makes a critical investigation — the first resolute, ruthless, and at the same time scientific investigation — of the basis of political economy, private property. This is the great scientific advance he made, an advance which revolutionizes political economy and for the first time makes a real science of political economy possible. Proudhon's treatise Qu'est-ce que la propriété? is as important for modern political economy as Sieyês' work Qu'est-ce que le tiers état? for modern politics.
Proudhon does not consider the further creations of private property, e.g., wages, trade, value, price, money, etc., as forms of private property in themselves, as they are considered, for example, in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (see Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy by F. Engels), but uses these economic premises in arguing against the political economists; this is fully in keeping with his historically justified standpoint to which we referred above.
Accepting the relationships of private property as human and rational, political economy operates in permanent contradiction to its basic premise, private property, a contradiction analogous to that of the theologian who continually gives a human interpretation to religious conceptions, and by that very fact comes into constant conflict with his basic premise, the superhuman character of religion. Thus in political economy wages appear at the beginning as the proportional share of the product due to labour. Wages and profit on capital stand in the most friendly, mutually stimulating, apparently most human relationship to each other. Afterwards it turns out that they stand in the most hostile relationship, in inverse proportion to each other. Value is determined at the beginning in an apparently rational way, by the cost of production of an object and by its social usefulness. Later it turns out that value is determined quite fortuitously and that it does not need to bear any relation to either the cost of production or social usefulness. The size of wages is determined at the beginning by free agreement between the free worker and the free capitalist. Later it turns out that the worker is compelled to allow the capitalist to determine it, just as the capitalist is compelled to fix it as low as possible. Freedom of the contracting parties has been supplanted by compulsion. The same holds good of trade and-all other economic relationships. The economists themselves occasionally feel these contradictions, the development of which is the main content of the conflict between them. When, however, the economists become conscious of these contradictions, they themselves attack private property in one or other particular form as the falsifier of what is in itself (i.e., in their imagination) rational wages, in itself rational value, in itself rational trade. Adam Smith, for instance, occasionally polemises against the capitalists, Destutt de Tracy against the money-changers, Simonde de Sismondi against the factory system, Ricardo against landed property, and nearly all modern economists against the non-industrial capitalists, among whom property appears as a mere consumer.
Thus, as an exception — when they attack some special abuse — the economists occasionally stress the semblance of humanity in economic relations, but sometimes, and as a rule, they take these relations precisely in their clearly pronounced difference from the human, in their strictly economic sense. They stagger about within this contradiction completely unaware of it.
Now Proudhon has put an end to this unconsciousness once for all. He takes the human semblance of the economic relations seriously and sharply opposes it to their inhuman reality. He forces them to be in reality what they imagine themselves to be, or rather to give up their own idea of themselves and confess their real inhumanity. He therefore consistently depicts as the falsifier of economic relations not this or that particular kind of private property, as other economists do, but private property as such and in its entirety. He has done all that criticism of political economy from the standpoint of political economy can do.
Herr Edgar, who wishes to characterise the standpoint of the treatise Qu'est-ce que la propriété?, naturally does not say a word either of political economy or of the distinctive character of this book, which is precisely that it has made the essence of private property the vital question of political economy and jurisprudence. This is all self-evident for Critical Criticism. Proudhon, it says, has done nothing new by his negation of private property. He has only let out a secret which Critical Criticism did not want to divulge.
"Proudhon," Herr Edgar continues immediately after his characterising translation, "therefore finds something absolute, an eternal foundation in history, a god that guides mankind — justice."
Proudhon's book, written in France in 1840, does not adopt the standpoint of German development in 1844. It is Proudhon's standpoint, a standpoint which is shared by countless diametrically opposed French writers, which therefore gives Critical Criticism the advantage of having characterized the most contradictory standpoints with a single stroke of the pen. Incidentally, to be relieved from this Absolute in history as well one has only to apply consistently the law formulated by Proudhon himself, that of the implementation of justice by its negation. If Proudhon does not carry consistency as far as that, it is only because he had the misfortune of being born a Frenchman, not a German.
For Herr Edgar, Proudhon has become a theological object by his Absolute in history, his belief in justice, and Critical Criticism, which is ex professo a criticism of theology, can now set to work on him in order to expatiate on "religious conceptions"
"It is a characteristic of every religious conception that it sets up as a dogma a situation in which at the end one of the opposites comes out victorious as the only truth."
We shall see how religious Critical Criticism sets up as a dogma a situation in which at the end one of the opposites, "Criticism", comes out victorious over the other, the "Mass", as the only truth. By seeing in mass-type justice an Absolute, a god of history, Proudhon committed an injustice that is all the greater because just Criticism has explicitly reserved for itself the role of that Absolute, that god in history.
Critical Comment No. 2[edit source]
"The fact of misery, of poverty, makes Proudhon one-sided in his considerations; he sees in it a contradiction to equality and justice; it provides him with a weapon. Hence this fact becomes for him absolute and justified, whereas the fact of property becomes unjustified."
The tranquillity of knowledge tells us that Proudhon sees in the fact of poverty a contradiction to justice, that is to say, finds it unjustified; yet in the same breath it assures us that this fact becomes for him absolute and justified. Hitherto political economy proceeded from wealth, which the movement of private property supposedly creates for the nations, to its considerations which are an apology for private property. Proudhon proceeds from the opposite side, which political economy sophistically conceals, from the poverty bred by the movement of private property to his considerations which negate private property. The first criticism of private property proceeds, of course, from the fact in which its contradictory essence appears in the form that is most perceptible and most glaring and most directly arouses man's indignation — from the fact of poverty, of misery.
"Criticism, on the other hand, joins the two facts, poverty and property, in a single unity, grasps the inner link between them and makes them a single whole, which it investigates as such to find the preconditions for its existence."
Criticism, which has hitherto understood nothing of the facts of property and of poverty, uses, "on the other hand", the deed which it has accomplished in its imagination as an argument against Proudhon' s real deed. It unites the two facts in a single one, and having made one out of two, grasps the inner link between the two. Criticism cannot deny that Proudhon, too, is aware of an inner link between the facts of poverty and of property, since because of that very link he abolishes property in order to abolish poverty. Proudhon did even more. He proved in detail how the movement of capital produces poverty. But Critical Criticism does not bother with such trifles. It recognizes that poverty and private property are opposites — a rather widespread recognition. It makes poverty and wealth a single whole, which it "investigates as such to find the preconditions for its existence" an investigation which is all the more superfluous since it has just made "the whole as such" and therefore its making is in itself the precondition for the existence of this whole.
By investigating "the whole as such" to find the preconditions for its existence, Critical Criticism is searching in the genuine theological manner outside the "whole" for the preconditions for its existence. Critical speculation operates outside the object which it pretends to deal with. Whereas the whole antithesis is nothing but the movement of both its sides, and the precondition for the existence of the whole lies in the very nature of the two sides. But Critical Criticism dispenses with the study of this real movement which forms the whole in order to be able to declare that it, Critical Criticism as the tranquillity of knowledge, is above both extremes of the antithesis, and that its activity, which has made "the whole as such", is now alone in a position to abolish the abstraction of which it is the maker.
Proletariat and wealth are opposites; as such they form a single whole. They are both creations of the world of private property. The question is exactly what place each occupies in the antithesis. It is not sufficient to declare them two sides of a single whole.
Private property as private property, as wealth, is compelled to maintain itself, and thereby its opposite, the proletariat, in existence. That is the positive side of the antithesis, self-satisfied private property.
The proletariat, on the contrary, is compelled as proletariat to abolish itself and thereby its opposite, private property, which determines its existence, and which makes it proletariat. It is the negative side of the antithesis, its restlessness within its very self, dissolved and self-dissolving private property.
The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former class feels at ease and strengthened in this self-estrangement, it recognizes estrangement as its own power and has in it the semblance of a human existence. The class of the proletariat feels annihilated in estrangement; it sees in it its own powerlessness and the reality of an inhuman existence. It is, to use an expression of Hegel, in its abasement the indignation at that abasement, an indignation to which it is necessarily driven by the contradiction between its human nature and its condition of life, which is the outright, resolute and comprehensive negation of that nature.
Within this antithesis the private property-owner is therefore the conservative side, the proletarian the destructive side. From the former arises the action of preserving the antithesis, from the latter the action of annihilating it.
Indeed private property drives itself in its economic movement towards its own dissolution, but only through a development which does not depend on it, which is unconscious and which takes place against the will of private property by the very nature of things, only inasmuch as it produces the proletariat as proletariat, poverty which is conscious of its spiritual and physical poverty, dehumanization which is conscious of its dehumanization, and therefore self-abolishing. The proletariat executes the sentence that private property pronounces on itself by producing the proletariat, just as it executes the sentence that wage-labour pronounces on itself by producing wealth for others and poverty for itself. When the proletariat is victorious, it by no means becomes the absolute side of society, for it is victorious only by abolishing itself and its opposite. Then the proletariat disappears as well as the opposite which determines it, private property.
When socialist writers ascribe this world-historic role to the proletariat, it is not at all, as Critical Criticism pretends to believe, because they regard the proletarians as gods. Rather the contrary. Since in the fully-formed proletariat the abstraction of all humanity, even of the semblance of humanity, is practically complete; since the conditions of life of the proletariat sum up all the conditions of life of society today in their most inhuman form; since man has lost himself in the proletariat, yet at the same time has not only gained theoretical consciousness of that loss, but through urgent, no longer removable, no longer disguisable, absolutely imperative need — the practical expression of necessity — is driven directly to revolt against this inhumanity, it follows that the proletariat can and must emancipate itself. But it cannot emancipate itself without abolishing the conditions of its own life. It cannot abolish the conditions of its own life without abolishing all the inhuman conditions of life of society today which are summed up in its own situation. Not in vain does it go through the stern but steeling school of labour. It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation as well as in the whole organization of bourgeois society today. There is no need to explain here that a large part of the English and French proletariat is already conscious of its historic task and is constantly working to develop that consciousness into complete clarity.
"Critical Criticism" can all the less admit this since it has proclaimed itself the exclusive creative element in history. To it belong the historical antitheses, to it belongs the task of abolishing them. That is why it issues the following notification through its incarnation, Edgar:
"Education and lack of education, property and absence of property, these antitheses, if they are not to be desecrated, must be wholly and entirely the concern of Criticism."
Property and absence of property have received metaphysical consecration as Critical speculative antitheses. That is why only the hand of Critical Criticism can touch them without committing a sacrilege. Capitalists and workers must not interfere in their mutual relationship. Far from having any idea that his Critical conception of antitheses could be touched, that this holy thing could be desecrated, Herr Edgar lets his opponent make an objection that he alone could make to himself.
"Is it then possible," the imaginary opponent of Critical Criticism asks, "to use other concepts than those already existing — liberty, equality, etc.? I answer" (note Herr Edgar's answer) "that Greek and Latin perished as soon as the range of thoughts that they served to express was exhausted."
It is now clear why Critical Criticism does not give a single thought in German. The language of its thoughts has not yet come into being in spite of all that Herr Reichardt by his Critical handling of foreign words, Herr Faucher by his handling of English, and Herr Edgar by his handling of French, have done to prepare the new Critical language.
Characterizing Translation No. 2[edit source]
The Critical Proudhon says:
"The husbandmen divided the land among themselves; equality consecrated only possession; on this occasion it consecrated property."
The Critical Proudhon makes landed property arise simultaneously with the division of land. He effects the transition from possession to property by the expression "on this occasion". The real Proudhon says:
"Husbandry was the basis of possession of the land.... It was not enough to ensure for the tiller the fruit of his labour without ensuring for him at the same time the instruments of production. To guard the weaker against the encroachments of the stronger ... it was felt necessary to establish permanent demarcation lines between owners."
On this occasion, therefore, it is possession that equality consecrated in the first place.
"Every year saw the population increase and the greed of the settlers grow; it was thought ambition should be checked by new insuperable barriers. Thus the land became property owing to the need for equality ... doubtless the division was never geographically equal ... but the principle nevertheless remained the same; equality had consecrated possession, equality consecrated property."
According to the Critical Proudhon
"the ancient founders of property, absorbed with concern for their needs, overlooked the fact that to the right of property corresponded at the same time the right to alienate, to sell, to give away, to acquire and to lose, which destroyed the equality from which they started out."
According to the real Proudhon it was not that the founders of property overlooked this course of its development in their concern for their needs. It was rather that they did not foresee it; but even if they had been able to foresee it, their actual need would have gained the upper hand. Besides, the real Proudhon is too mass-minded to counterpose the right to alienate, sell, etc., to the "right of property", i.e., to counterpose the varieties to the species. He contrasts the "right to keep one's heritage" to the "right to alienate it, etc.", which constitutes a real opposition and a real step forward.
Critical Comment No. 3[edit source]
"On what then does Proudhon base his proof of the impossibility of property? Difficult as it is to believe it — on the same principle of equality!"
A short consideration would have sufficed to arouse the belief of Herr Edgar. He must be aware that Herr Bruno Bauer based all his arguments on "infinite self-consciousness" and that he also saw in this principle the creative principle of the gospels which, by their infinite unconsciousness, appear to be in direct contradiction to infinite self-consciousness. In the same way Proudhon conceives equality as the creative principle of private property, which is in direct contradiction to equality. If Herr Edgar compares French equality with German "self-consciousness" for an instant, he will see that the latter principle expresses in German, i.e., in abstract thought, what the former says in French, that is, in the language of politics and of thoughtful observation. Self-consciousness is man's equality with himself in pure thought. Equality is man's consciousness of himself in the element of practice, i.e., man's consciousness of other men as his equals and man's attitude to other men as his equals. Equality is the French expression for the unity of human essence, for man's consciousness of his species and his attitude towards his species, for the practical identity of man with man, i.e., for the social or human relation of man to man. Hence, just as destructive criticism in Germany, before it had progressed in Feuerbach to the consideration of real man, tried to resolve everything definite and existing by the principle of self-consciousness, destructive criticism in France tried to do the same by the principle of equality.
"Proudhon is angry with philosophy, for which, in itself, we cannot blame him. But why is he angry? Philosophy, he maintains, has not yet been practical enough; it has mounted the high horse of speculation and from up there human beings have seemed much too small. I think that philosophy is over practical, i.e., it has so far been nothing but the abstract expression of the existing state of things; it has always been captive to the premises of the existing state of things, which it has accepted as absolute."
The opinion that philosophy is the abstract expression of the existing state of things does not belong originally to Herr Edgar. It belongs to Feuerbach, who was the first to describe philosophy as speculative and mystical empiricism and to prove it. But Herr Edgar manages to give this opinion an original, Critical twist. While Feuerbach concludes that philosophy must come down from the heaven of speculation to the depth of human misery, Herr Edgar, on the contrary, informs us that philosophy is over-practical. However, it seems rather that philosophy, precisely because it was only the transcendent, abstract expression of the actual state of things, by reason of its transcendentalism and abstraction, by reason of its imaginary difference from the world, must have imagined it had left the actual state of things and real human beings far below itself. On the other hand, it seems that because philosophy was not really different from the world it could not pronounce any real judgment on it, it could not bring any real differentiating force to bear on it and could therefore not interfere practically, but had to be satisfied at most with a practice in abstracto. Philosophy was over-practical only in the sense that it soared above practice. Critical Criticism, by lumping humanity together in a spiritless mass, gives the most striking proof how infinitely small real human beings seem to speculation. In this the old speculation agrees with Critical Criticism, as the following sentence out of Hegel's Rechtsphilosophie shows:
"From the standpoint of needs, it is the concrete object of the idea that is called man; therefore what we are concerned with here, and properly speaking only here, is man in this sense."
In other cases in which speculation speaks of man it does not mean the concrete, but the abstract, the idea, the spirit, etc. The way in which philosophy expresses the actual state of things is strikingly exemplified by Herr Faucher in connection with the actual English situation and by Herr Edgar in connection with the actual situation of the French language.
"Thus Proudhon also is practical because, finding that the concept of equality is the basis of the proofs in favour of property, he argues from the same concept against property."
Proudhon here does exactly the same thing as the German critics who,, finding that the proofs of the existence of God are based on the idea of man, argue from that idea against the existence of God.
"If the consequences of the principle of equality are more powerful than equality itself, how does Proudhon intend to help that principle to acquire its sudden power?"
Self-consciousness, according to Herr Bruno Bauer, lies at the basis of all religious ideas. It is, he says, the creative principle of the gospels. Why, then, were the consequences of the principle of self-consciousness more powerful than self-consciousness itself? Because, the answer comes after the German fashion, self-consciousness is indeed the creative principle of religious ideas, but only as self-consciousness outside itself, in contradiction to itself, alienated and estranged. Self-consciousness that has come to itself, that understands itself, that apprehends its essence, therefore governs the creations of its self-alienation. Proudhon finds himself in exactly the same case, with the difference, of course, that he speaks French whereas we speak German, and he therefore expresses in a French way what we express in a German way.
Proudhon asks himself why equality, although as the creative principle of reason it underlies the institution of property and as the ultimate rational foundation is the basis of all arguments in favour of property, nevertheless does not exist, while its negation, private property, does. He accordingly considers the fact of property in itself. He proves "that, in truth, property, as an institution and a principle, is impossible" (p. 34), i.e., that it contradicts itself and abolishes itself in all points; that, to put it in the German way, it is the existence of alienated, self-contradicting, self-estranged equality. The real state of things in France, like the recognition of this estrangement, suggests correctly to Proudhon the necessity of the real abolition of this estrangement.
While negating private property, Proudhon feels the need to justify the existence of private property historically. His argument, like all first arguments of this kind, is pragmatic, i.e., he assumes that earlier generations wished consciously and with reflection to realised in their institutions that equality which for him represents the human essence.
"We always come back to the same thing.... Proudhon writes in the interest of the proletarians."
He does not write in the interest of self-sufficient Criticism or out of any abstract, self-made interest, but out of a mass-type, real, historic interest, an interest that goes beyond criticism, that will go as far as a crisis. Not only does Proudhon write in the interest of the proletarians, he is himself a proletarian, an ouvrier. His work is a scientific manifesto of the French proletariat and therefore has quite a different historical significance from that of the literary botch-work of any Critical Critic.
"Proudhon writes in the interest of those who have nothing; to have and not to have are for him absolute categories. To have is for him the highest, because at the same time not to have is for him the highest object of thought. Every man ought to have, but no more or less than another, Proudhon thinks. But one should bear in mind that of all I have, only what I have exclusively, or what I have more of than other people have, is interesting for me. With equality, both to have and equality itself will be a matter of indifference to me.
According to Herr Edgar, having and not having are for Proudhon absolute categories. Critical Criticism sees nothing but categories everywhere. Thus, according to Herr Edgar, having and not having, wages, salary, want and need, and work to satisfy that need, are nothing but categories.
If society had to free itself only from the categories of having and not having, how easy would the "overcoming" and "abolition" of those categories be made for it by any dialectician, even if he were weaker than Herr Edgar! Indeed, Herr Edgar considers this such a trifle that he does not think it worth the trouble to give even an explanation of the categories of having and not having as an argument against Proudhon. But not having is not a mere category, it is a most dismal reality; today the man who has nothing is nothing, for he is cut off from existence in general, and still more from a human existence, for the condition of not having is the condition of the complete separation of man from his objectivity. Therefore not having seems quite justified in being the highest object of thought for Proudhon; all the more since so little thought had been given to this subject prior to him and the socialist writers in general. Not having is the most despairing spiritualism, a complete unreality of the human being, a complete reality of the dehumanized being, a very positive having, a having of hunger, of cold, of disease, of crime, of debasement, of hebetude, of all inhumanity and abnormity. But every object which for the first time is made the object of thought with full consciousness of its importance is the highest object of thought.
Proudhon's wish to abolish not having and the old way of having is quite identical with his wish to abolish the practically estranged relation of man to his objective essence and the economic expression of human self-estrangement. But since his criticism of political economy is still captive to the premises of political economy, the re-appropriation of the objective world itself is still conceived in the economic form of possession.
Proudhon does not oppose having to not having, as Critical Criticism makes him do; he opposes possession to the old way of having, to private property. He proclaims possession to be a "social function". What is "interesting" in a function, however, is not to "exclude" the other person, but to affirm and to realised the forces of my own being.
Proudhon did not succeed in giving this thought appropriate development The idea of "equal possession" is the economic and therefore itself still estranged expression for the fact that the object as being for man, as the objective being of man, is at the same time the existence of man for other men, his human relation to other men, the social behaviour of man to man. Proudhon abolishes economic estrangement within economic estrangement.
Characterising Translation No. 3[edit source]
The Critical Proudhon has a Critical property-owner, too, according to whose
"own admission those who had to work for him lost what he appropriated."
The mass-type Proudhon says to the mass-type property-owner:
"You have worked! Ought you never to have let others work for you! How, then, have they lost while working for you, what you were able to acquire while not working for them!"
By "richesse naturelle"," the Critical Proudhon makes Say understand "natural possessions" although Say, to preclude any error, states explicitly in the Épitom;é to his Traité d'économie politique that by richesse he understands neither property nor possession, but a "sum of values". Of course, the Critiàcal Proudhon reforms Say just as he himself is reformed by Herr Edgar. He makes Say "infer immediately a right to take a field as property" because land is easier to appropriate than air or water. But Say, far from inferring from the greater possibility of appropriating land a property right to it, says instead quite explicitly:
"Les droits des propritaires de terres — remontent une spoliation." (Traité d'conomie politique, edition III. t. I., p. 136, Nota.)
That is why, in Say's opinion, there must be "concours de la législation" and "droit positif" to provide a basis for the right to landed property. The real Proudhon does not make Say "immediately" infer the right of landed property from the easier appropriation of land. He reproaches him with basing himself on possibility instead of right and confusing the question of possibility with the question of right:
"Say prend la possibilité pour le droit. On ne demande pas pourquoi la terre a été plutt appropriée que la mer et les airs; on veut savoir, en vertu de quel droit I'homme s'est approprié cette richesse.
The Critical Proudhon continues:
"The only remark to be made on this is that with the appropriation of a piece of land the other elements — air, water and fire — are also appropriated: terra, aqua, aëre et igne interdicti sumus."
Far from making "only" this remark, the real Proudhon says, on the contrary, that he draws "attention", to the appropriation of air and water incidentally (en passant). The Critical Proudhon makes an unaccountable use of the Roman formula of banishment. He forgets to say who the "we" are who have been banished. The real Proudhon addresses the non-property-owners :
"Proletarians... property excommunicates us: terra, etc. interdicti sumus."
The Critical Proudhon polemises against Charles Comte as follows:
"Charles Comte thinks that, in order to live, man needs air, food and clothing. Some of these things, like air and water, are inexhaustible and therefore always remain common property; but others are available in smaller quantities and become private property. Charles Comte therefore bases his proof on the concepts of limitedness and unlimitedness; he would perhaps have come to a different conclusion had he made the concepts of dispensability and indispensability his main categories."
How childish the Critical Proudhon's polemic is! He expects Charles Comte to give up the categories he uses for his proof and to jump over to others so as to come, not to his own conclusions, but "perhaps" to those of the Critical Proudhon.
The real Proudhon does not make any such demands on Charles Comte; he does not dispose of him with a "perhaps", but defeats him with his own categories.
Charles Comte, Proudhon says, proceeds from the indispensability of air, food, and, in certain climates, clothing, not in order to live, but in order not to stop living. Hence (according to Charles Comte) in order to maintain himself, man constantly needs to appropriate things of various kinds. These things do not all exist in the same proportion.
"The light of the heavenly bodies, air and water exist in such quantities that man can neither increase nor decrease them appreciably; hence everyone can appropriate as much of them as his needs require, without prejudice to the enjoyment of others".
Proudhon proceeds from Comte's own definitions. First of all he proves to him that land is also an object of primary necessity, the usufruct of which must therefore remain free to everyone, within the limits of Comte's clause, namely: "without prejudice to the enjoyment of others." Why then has land become private property? Charles Comte answers: because it is not unlimited. He should have concluded, on the contrary, that because land is limited it may not be appropriated. The appropriation of air and water causes no prejudice to anybody because, as they are unlimited, there is always enough left. The arbitrary appropriation of land, on the other hand, prejudices the enjoyment of others precisely because the land is limited. The use of the land must therefore be regulated in the interests of all. Charles Comte's method of proving refutes his own thesis.
"Charles Comte, so Proudhon" (the Critical one, of course) "reasons, proceeds from the view that a nation can be the owner of a land; yet if property involves the right to use and misuse — jus utendi et abutendi re sua — even a nation cannot be adjudged the right to use and misuse a land."
The real Proudhon does not speak of jus utendi et abutendi that the right of property "involves". He is too mass-minded to speak of a right of property that the right of property involves. Jus utendi et abutendi re sua is, in fact, the right of property itself. Hence Proudhon directly refuses a people the right of property over its territory. To those who find that exaggerated, he replies that in all epochs the imagined right of national property gave rise to suzerainty, tribute, royal prerogatives, corvée, etc.
The real Proudhon reasons against Charles Comte as follows: Comte wishes to expound how property arises and he begins with the hypothesis of a nation as owner. He thus falls into a petitio principii. He makes the state sell lands, he lets industrialists buy those estates, that is to say, he presupposes the property relations that he wishes to prove.
The Critical Proudhon scraps the French decimal system. He keeps the franc but replaces the centime by the "Dreier'.
"If I cede a piece of land, Proudhon" (the Critical one) "continues, I not only rob myself of one harvest; I deprive my children and children's children of a lasting good. Land has value not only today, it has also the value of its capacity and its future."
The real Proudhon does not speak of the fact that land has value not only today but also tomorrow: he contrasts the full present value to the value of its capacity and its future, which depends on my skill in exploiting the land. He says:
"Destroy the land, or, what comes to the same thing for you, sell it; you not only deprive yourself of one, two or more harvests; you annihilate all the produce you could have obtained from it, you, your children and your children's children."
For Proudhon the question is not one of stressing the contrast between one harvest and the lasting good — the money I get for the field can, as capital, also become a "lasting good" — but the contrast between the present value and the value the land can acquire through continuous cultivation.
"The new value, Charles Comte says, that I give to a thing by my work is my property. Proudhon" (the Critical one) "thinks he can refute him in the following way: Then a man must cease to be a property-owner as soon as he ceases to work. Ownership of the product can by no means involve ownership of the material from which the product was made."
The real Proudhon says:
"Let the worker appropriate the products of his work, but I do not understand how ownership of the products involves ownership of the matter. Does the fisherman who manages to catch more fish than the others on the same bank become by this skill the owner of the place where he fishes! Was the skill of a hunter ever considered a title to ownership of the game in a canton! The same applies to agriculture. In order to transform possession into property, another condition is necessary besides work, or a man would cease to be a property-owner as soon as he ceased to be a worker."
Cessante causa cessat effectus. When the owner is owner only as a worker, he ceases to be an owner as soon as he ceases to be a worker.
"According to law, it is prescription which creates ownership; work is only the perceptible sign, the material act by which occupation is manifested."
"The system of appropriation through work," Proudhon goes on, "is therefore contrary to law; and when the supporters of that system put it forward as an explanation of the laws they are contradicting themselves."
To say further, according to this opinion, that the cultivation of the land, for example, "creates full ownership of the same" is a petitio principii. It is a fact that a new productive capacity of the matter has been created. But what has to be proved is that ownership of the matter itself has thereby been created. Man has not created the matter itself. And he cannot even create any productive capacity if the matter does not exist beforehand.
The Critical Proudhon makes Gracchus Babeuf a partisan of freedom, but for the mass-minded Proudhon he is a partisan of equality (partisan de l'égalité).
The Critical Proudhon, who wanted to estimate Homer's fee for the Iliad, says:
"The fee which I pay Homer should be equal to what he gives me. But how is the value of what he gives to be determined!"
The Critical Proudhon is too superior to the trifles of political economy to know that the value of an object and what that object gives somebody else are two different things. The real Proudhon says:
"The fee of the poet should be equal to his product: what then is the value of that product?"
The real Proudhon supposes that the Iliad has an infinite price (or exchange value, prix), while the Critical Proudhon supposes that it has an infinite value. The real Proudhon counterposes the value of the Iliad, its value in the economic sense (valeur intrinsque), to its exchange value (valeur changeable); the Critical Proudhon counterposes its "value for exchange" to its "intrinsic value", i,e., its value as a poem. The real Proudhon says:
"Between material reward and talent there is no common measure. In this respect the situation of all producers is the same. Consequently any comparison between them, any classification according to fortune is impossible." ("Entre une récompense matérielle et le talent il n'existe pas de commune mesure; sous ce rapport la condition de tous les producteurs est égale; conséquemment toute comparaison entre eux et toute distinction de fortunes est impossible.")
The Critical Proudhon says:
"Relatively, the position of all producers is the same. Talent cannot be weighed materially .... Any comparison of the producers among themselves, any external distinction is impossible."
In the Critical Proudhon we read that
"the man of science must feel himself equal in society, because his talent and his insight are only a product of the insight of society".
The real Proudhon does not speak anywhere about the feelings of talent. He says that talent must lower itself to the level of society. Nor does he at all assert that the man of talent is only a product of society. On the contrary, he says:
"The man of talent has contributed to produce in himself a useful instrument .... There exist in him a free worker and an accumulated social capital."
The Critical Proudhon goes on to say:
"Besides, he must be thankful to society for releasing him from other work so that he can apply himself to science."
The real Proudhon nowhere resorts to the gratitude of the man of talent. He says:
"The artist, the scientist, the poet, receive their just reward by the mere fact that society allows them to apply themselves exclusively to science and art."
Finally, the Critical Proudhon achieves the miracle of making a society of 150 workers able to maintain a "marshal" and, therefore, probably, an army. In the real Proudhon the marshal is a "farrier" (maréchal).
Critical Comment No. 4[edit source]
"If he" (Proudhon) "retains the concept of wages, if he sees in society an institution that gives us work and pays us for it, he has all the less right to recognize time as the measure for payment as he but shortly before, agreeing with Hugo Grotius, professed that time has no bearing on the validity of an object."
This is the only point on which Critical Criticism attempts to solve its problem and to prove to Proudhon that from the standpoint of political economy he is arguing wrongly against political economy. Here Criticism disgraces itself in truly Critical fashion. Proudhon agrees with Hugo Grotius in arguing that prescription is no title to change possession into property or a "legal principle" into another principle, any more than time can change the truth that the three angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles into the truth that they are equal to three right angles.
"Never," exclaims Proudhon, "will you succeed in making length of time, which of itself creates nothing, changes nothing, modifies nothing, able to change the user into a proprietor."
Herr Edgar's conclusion is: since Proudhon said that mere time cannot change one legal principle into another, that by itself it cannot change or modify anything, he is inconsistent when he makes labour time the measure of the economic value of the product of labour. Herr Edgar achieves this Critically Critical remark by translating "valeur"" by "Geltung" so that he can use the word for validity of a legal principle in the same sense as for the commercial value of a product of labour. He achieves it by identifying empty length of time with time filled with labour. Had Proudhon said that time cannot change a fly into an elephant, Critical Criticism could have said with the same justification: he has therefore no right to make labour time the measure of wages.
Even Critical Criticism must be capable of grasping that the labour time expended on the production of an object is included in the cost of production of that object, that the cost of production of an object is what it costs, and therefore what it can be sold for, abstraction being made of the influence of competition. Besides the labour time and the material of labour, economists include in the cost of production the rent paid to the owner of the land, interest and the profit of the capitalist. The latter are excluded by Proudhon because he excludes private property. Hence there remain only the labour time and the expenses. By making labour time, the immediate existence of human activity as activity, the measure of wages and the determinant of the value of the product, Proudhon makes the human side the decisive factor. In old political economy, on the other hand, the decisive factor was the material power of capital and of landed property. In other words, Proudhon reinstates man in his rights, but still in an economic and therefore contradictory way. How right he is from the standpoint of political economy can be seen from the fact that Adam Smith, the founder of modern political economy, in the very first pages of his book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, develops the idea that before the invention of private property, that is to say, presupposing the non-existence of private property, labour time was the measure of wages and of the value of the product of labour, which was not yet distinguished from wages.
But even let Critical Criticism suppose for an instant that Proudhon did not proceed from the premise of wages. Does it believe that the time which the production of an object requires will ever not be an essential factor in the "validity" of the object! Does it believe that time will lose its costliness?
As far as immediate material production is concerned, the decision whether an object is to be produced or not, i.e., the decision on the value of the object, will depend essentially on the labour time required for its production. For it depends on time whether society has time to develop in a human way.
And even as far as intellectual production is concerned, must I not, if I proceed reasonably in other respects, consider the time necessary for the production of an intellectual work when I determine its scope, its character and its plan? Otherwise I risk at least that the object that is in my idea will never become an object in reality, and can therefore acquire only the value of an imaginary object, i.e., an imaginary value.
The criticism of political economy from the standpoint of political economy recognizes all the essential determinants of human activity, but only in an estranged, alienated form. Here, for example, it converts the importance of time for human labour into its importance for wages, for wage-labour.
Herr Edgar continues:
"In order to force talent to accept that measure, Proudhon misuses the concept of free contract and asserts that society and its individual members have the right to reject the products of talent."
Among the followers of Fourier and Saint-Simon, talent puts forward exaggerated fee claims on an economic basis and makes its imagined notion of its infinite value the measure of the exchange value of its products. Proudhon answers it in exactly the same way as political economy answers any claim for a price much higher than the so-called natural price, that is, higher than the cost of production of the object offered. He answers by freedom of contract. But Proudhon does not misuse this relation in the sense of political economy; on the contrary, he assumes that to be real which the economists consider to be only nominal and illusory-the freedom of the contracting parties.
Characterizing Translation No. 4[edit source]
The Critical Proudhon finally reforms French society by as deep a transformation of the French proletarians as of the French bourgeoisie.
He denies the French proletarians "strength" because the real Proudhon reproaches them with a lack of virtue (vertu). He makes their skill in work problematic — "you are perhaps skilled in work" — because the real Proudhon unconditionally recognizes it ("prompts au travail vous êtes", etc.). He converts the French bourgeoisie into dull burghers whereas the real Proudhon counterposes the ignoble bourgeois (bourgeois ignobles) to the blemished nobles (nobles flétris). He converts the bourgeois from happy-medium burghers (bourgeois juste-milieu) into "our good burghers", for which the French bourgeoisie can be grateful. Hence, where the real Proudhon says the "ill will" of the French bourgeoisie (la malveillance de nos bourgeois) is growing, the Critical Proudhon consistently makes the "carefreeness of our burghers" grow. The real Proudhon's bourgeois is so far from being carefree that he calls out to himself: "N'ayons pas peur! N'ayons pas peur!" Those are the words of a man who wishes to reason himself out of fear and worry.
By creating the Critical Proudhon through its translation of the real Proudhon, Critical Criticism has revealed to the Mass what a Critically perfect translation is. It has given directions for "translation as it ought to be". It is therefore rightly against bad, mass-type translations.
"The German public wants the booksellers' wares ridiculously cheap, so the publisher needs a cheap translation; the translator does not want to starve at his work, he cannot even perform it with mature reflection" (with all the tranquillity of knowledge) "because the publisher must anticipate rivals by quick delivery of translations; even the translator has to fear competition, has to fear that someone else will produce the ware cheaper and quicker; he therefore dictates his manuscript offhand to some poor scribe — as quickly as he can in order not to pay the scribe his hourly wage for nothing. He is more than happy when he can next day adequately satisfy the harassing type-setter. For the rest, the translations with which we are flooded are but a manifestation of the present-day impotence of German literature", etc. (Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, Heft VIII, p.54.)
Critical Comment No. 5[edit source]
"The proof of the impossibility of property that Proudhon draws from the fact that mankind ruins itself particularly by the interest and profit system and by the disproportion between consumption and production lacks its counterpart, namely, the proof that private property is historically possible."
Critical Criticism has the fortunate instinct not to go into Proudhon's reasoning on the interest and profit system, etc., i.e., into the most important part of his argument. The reason is that on this point not even a semblance of criticism of Proudhon can be offered without absolutely positive knowledge of the movement of private property. Critical Criticism tries to make up for its impotence by observing that Proudhon has not proved the historical possibility of property. Why does Criticism, which has nothing but words to give, expect others to give it everything?
"Proudhon proves the impossibility of property by the fact that the worker cannot buy back the product of his work out of his wage. Proudhon does not give an exhaustive proof of this by expounding the essence of capital. The worker cannot buy back his product because it is always a joint product, whereas he is never anything but an individual paid man."
Herr Edgar, in contrast to Proudhon's deduction, could have expressed himself still more exhaustively to the effect that the worker cannot buy back his product because in general he must buy it back. The definition of buying already implies that he regards his product as an object that is no longer his, an estranged object. Among other things, Herr Edgar's exhaustive argument does not exhaust the question why the capitalist, who himself is nothing but an individual man, and what is more, a man paid by profit and interest, can buy back not only the product of labour, but still more than this product. To explain this Herr Edgar would have to explain the relationship between labour and capital, that is, to expound the essence of capital. The above quotation from Criticism shows most palpably how Critical Criticism immediately makes use of what it has learnt from a writer to pass it off as wisdom it has itself discovered and use it with a Critical twist against the same writer. For it is from Proudhon himself that Critical Criticism drew the argument that it says Proudhon did not give and that Herr Edgar did. Proudhon says:
"Divide et impera ... separate the workers from one another, and it is quite possible that the daily wage paid to each one may exceed the value of each individual product; but that is not the point at issue.... Although you have paid for all the individual powers you have still not paid for the collective power."
Proudhon was the first to draw attention to the fact that the sum of the wages of the individual workers, even if each individual labour be paid for completely, does not pay for the collective power objectified in its product, that therefore the worker is not paid as a part of the collective labour power [gemeinschaftlichen Arbeitskraft]. Herr Edgar twists this into the assertion that the worker is nothing but an individual paid man. Critical Criticism thus opposes a general thought of Proudhon's to the further concrete development that Proudhon himself gives to the same thought. It takes possession of this thought after the fashion of Criticism and expresses the secret of Critical socialism in the following sentence:
"The modern worker thinks only of himself, i.e., he allows himself to be paid only for his own person. It is he himself who fails to take into account the enormous, the immeasurable power which arises from his co-operation with other powers."
According to Critical Criticism, the whole evil lies only in the workers' "thinking". It is true that the English and French workers have formed associations in which they exchange opinions not only on their immediate needs as workers, but on their needs as human beings. In their associations, moreover, they show a very thorough and comprehensive consciousness of the "enormous" and "immeasurable" power which arises from their co-operation. But these mass-minded, communist workers, employed, for instance, in the Manchester or Lyons workshops, do not believe that by "pure thinking" they will be able to argue away their industrial masters and their own practical debasement. They are most painfully aware of the difference between being and thinking, between consciousness and life. They know that property, capital, money, wage-labour and the like are no ideal figments of the brain but very practical, very objective products of their self-estrangement and that therefore they must be abolished in a practical, objective way for man to become man not only in thinking, in consciousness, but in mass being, in life. Critical Criticism, on the contrary, teaches them that they cease in reality to be wage-workers if in thinking they abolish the thought of wage-labour; if in thinking they cease to regard themselves as wage-workers and, in accordance with that extravagant notion, no longer let themselves be paid for their person. As absolute idealists, as ethereal beings, they will then naturally be able to live on the ether of pure thought. Critical Criticism teaches them that they abolish real capital by overcoming in thinking the category Capital, that they really change and transform themselves into real human beings by changing their "abstract ego" in consciousness and scorning as an un-Critical operation all real change of their real existence, of the real conditions of their existence, that is to say, of their real ego. The "spirit", which sees in reality only categories, naturally reduces all human activity and practice to the dialectical process of thought of Critical Criticism. That is what distinguishes its socialism from mass-type socialism and communism. After his great argumentation, Herr Edgar must, of course, declare Proudhon's criticism "devoid of consciousness".
"Proudhon, however, wishes to be practical too." "He thinks he has grasped." "And nevertheless," cries the tranquillity of knowledge triumphantly, "we cannot even now credit him with the tranquillity of knowledge." "We quote a few passages to show how little he has thought out his attitude to society."
Later we shall also quote a few passages from the works of Critical Criticism (see the Bank for the Poor and the Model Farm) to show that it has not yet become acquainted with the most elementary economic relationships, let alone thought them out, and hence with its characteristic Critical tact has felt itself called upon to pass judgment on Proudhon.
Now that Critical Criticism as the tranquillity of knowledge has "made" all the mass-type "antitheses its concern", has mastered all reality in the form of categories and dissolved all human activity into speculative dialectics, we shall see it produce the world again out of speculative dialectics. It goes without saying that if the miracles of the Critically speculative creation of the world are not to be "desecrated", they can be presented to the profane mass only in the form of mysteries. Critical Criticism therefore appears in the incarnation of Vishnu-Szeliga as a mystery-monger.
- In this section Engels analyzes and quotes E. Bauer’s review of Flora Tristan’s I'Union Ouvrière (The Workers’ Union), Paris, 1843, which was published in No. V of Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (April 1844).
- From Schiller’s Das Madchen aus der Fremde (The Maid from Abroad).
- The reference is to P. J. Proudhon’s Qu'est-ce que la propriete? ou Recherches sur le principe du droit et du gouvernement, (What is Property? or Studies on the Principle of Law and of Government), first published in Paris in 1840. Marx quotes the Paris edition of 1841. Qu'est-ce que la propriété was written from the contradictory standpoint of the petty bourgeoisie. The sharp attacks it made on private property produced a profound impression. Marx gave an exhaustive critical appraisal of the book in his article “On Proudhon,” published in the form of a letter to Schweitzer, editor of Social-Demokrat, in 1865 (see Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, two-vol. edition, Vol. 1, pp. 390-398). Edgar Bauer’s article “Proudhon,” which Marx criticizes in this section of The Holy Family was published in No. V of Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (April 1844).
- Marx here means the political grouping formed around the Paris paper La Réforme, consisting of petty-bourgeois Democratic-Republicans and petty-bourgeois Socialists.
- Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (German-French Year-Book) was published in German in Paris and edited by K. Marx and A. Ruge. The only issue was a double number in February 1844, carrying Marx’s articles “On the Jewish Question” and Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law. Introduction and Engels’ works, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and “The Position of England. Thomas Carlyle. ‘Past and Present.'” These works mark the final transition of Marx and Engels to materialism and communism. Publication of the journal was discontinued chiefly because of differences of principle between Marx and the bourgeois Radical Ruge.
- The reference is to a review published by Szeliga in No. VII of Allgemeine Lileratur-Zeitung (June 1844) on the French writer Eugene Sue’s novel Mystères de Paris. The novel is written in the spirit of petty-bourgeois sentimentality and social fantasy. It was published in Paris in 1842-1843 and was popular in France and abroad.