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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
George Woodcock

Black Rose Books

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Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: A Biography

George Woodcock


Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65) was one of he most important social thinkers of the nineteenth century. A considerable amount has been written about him in French. The present work, however, is the first full-scale biography in English.

Proudhon has been called the father of anarchism, and he attained a certain notoriety during the nineteenth century for such aphoristic statements as “property is theft” and “God is evil.” But Proudhon was much more than philosopher and literary iconoclast. His influence in France was immense, and his theories played a great part in the First International and the Paris Commune, in French syndicalism and in contemporary movements for currency reform. As a writer he was admired by Baudelaire, Saint-Beuve, and Victor Hugo; as a thinker he was respected by Tolstoy, Amiel, and Madame d’Agoult. Marx knew him, and it was around the rivalry of these two strong personalities that the leverage between libertarian and authoritarian socialism, developed in the First International, was crystallized.

Proudhon’s significance also reaches forward into our own day, when his distrust of the State and his teachings of the need for world federation take on a new importance in a world that is threatened by explosive rivalries of great nationalistic States.

“A solid and workmanlike effort.”
- Times Literary Supplement

“Woodcock makes a very good case for the consistency of (Proudhon’s) teaching.”
- New York Times

“…essential reading for a true appreciation of economic history and thought.” 
- Small Press

About the Author

George Woodcock is one of Canada’s most distinguished men of letters- journalist, poet, and author of more than forty books, among them Gandhi; Dawn and Darkest Hour; A Study of Aldous Huxley; Canada and Canadians; and The Crystal Spirit, a biography of George Orwell. In 1951-52, he held a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, under which research for the present book was carried out.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • A Personal Preface to the Third Edition
  • I. The Hills of the Jura
  • II. The Critic of Property
  • III. The Man of Affairs
  • IV. The Voice of the People
  • V. The Prisoner
  • VI. The Paladin of Justice
  • VII. The Exile
  • VIII. The Stricken Years
  • IX. Epilogue
  • Bibliography to the First Edition
  • Bibliographical Supplement to the Third Edition
  • Index

1987, 295 pages

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