What Is Property?

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

What Is Property?, by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon - click to see full size image

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What is Property? is a philosophical work by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, first published in 1840. In this book, Proudhon critically examines the concept of property and its legitimacy in society. He distinguishes between two forms of possession: possession based on an individual's labor and possession based on legal ownership. Proudhon argues that while individuals have a legitimate right to possess and control the products of their own labor, the concept of absolute property, which allows individuals to own and control resources without any regard for labor or societal needs, is unjust and leads to inequality and exploitation. Proudhon famously declares that 'Property is theft', suggesting that the accumulation of property by a few leads to the deprivation of others. He also criticizes the state and legal systems for upholding this unjust system of property. Instead of absolute property, Proudhon proposes a system of mutualism, where individuals would exchange goods and services through a fair and equitable system based on the actual labor expended in their production. In essence, What is Property? is a foundational text of anarchist thought and a critique of both private property and the existing socio-economic systems of Proudhon's time. It laid the groundwork for his ideas on mutualism and inspired subsequent generations of anarchists and socialists.

This book has 153,686 words, 246 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1840. This translation by Benjamin Tucker was first published in 1876.

Production notes: This ebook of What Is Property? was published by Global Grey on the 5th September 2023. The artwork used for the cover is 'Proudhon and His Children' by Gustave Courbet.

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