The fundamental idea, the dominant category, of political economy is
Value reaches its positive determination by a series of oscillations
between SUPPLY and DEMAND.
Consequently, value appears successively under three aspects: useful
value, exchangeable value, and synthetic, or social, value, which is true value. The first
term gives birth to the second in contradiction to it, and the two together, absorbing
each other in reciprocal penetration, produce the third: so that the contradiction or
antagonism of ideas appears as the point of departure of all economic science, allowing us
to say of it, parodying the sentence of Tertullian in relation to the Gospel, Credo quia
absurdum: There is, in social economy, a latent truth wherever there is an apparent
contradiction, Credo quia contrarium.
From the point of view of political economy, then, social progress
consists in a continuous solution of the problem of the constitution of values, or of the
proportionality and solidarity of products.
But while in Nature the synthesis of opposites is contemporary with
their opposition, in society the antithetic elements seem to appear at long intervals, and
to reach solution only`after long and tumultuous agitation. Thus there is no example--the
idea even is inconceivable--of a valley without a hill, a left without a right, a north
pole without a south pole, a stick with but one end, or two ends without a middle, etc.
The human body, with its so perfectly antithetic dichotomy, is formed integrally at the
very moment of conception; it refuses to be put together and arranged piece by piece, like
the garment patterned after it which, later, is to cover it.
 A subtle philologist, M. Paul Ackermann, has shown, using the
French language as an illustration, that, since every word in a language has its opposite,
or, as the author calls it, its antonym, the entire vocabulary might be arranged in
couples, forming a vast dualistic system. (See Dictionary of Antonyms. By Paul Ackermann.
Paris: Brockhaus & Avenarius. 1842)
In society, on the contrary, as well as in the mind, so far from the
idea reaching its complete realization at a single bound, a sort of abyss separates, so to
speak, the two antinomical positions, and even when these are recognized at last, we still
do not see what the synthesis will be. The primitive concepts must be fertilized, so to
speak, by burning controversy and passionate struggle; bloody battles will be the
preliminaries of peace. At the present moment, Europe, weary of war and discussion, awaits
a reconciling principle; and it is the vague perception of this situation which induces
the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences to ask, "What are the general facts which
govern the relations of profits to wages and determine their oscillations?" in other
words, what are the most salient episodes and the most remarkable phases of the war
between labor and capital?
If, then, I demonstrate that political economy, with all its
contradictory hypotheses and equivocal conclusions, is nothing but an organization of
privilege and misery, I shall have proved thereby that it contains by implication the
promise of an organization of labor and equality, since, as has been said, every
systematic contradiction is the announcement of a composition; further, I shall have fixed
the bases of this composition. Then, indeed, to unfold the system of economical
contradictions is to lay the foundations of universal association; to show how the
products of collective labor COME OUT of society is to explain how it will be possible to
make them RETURN to it; to exhibit the genesis of the problems of production and
distribution is to prepare the way for their solution. All these propositions are
identical and equally evident.
1.--Antagonistic effects of the principle of division.
All men are equal in the state of primitive communism, equal in their
nakedness and ignorance, equal in the indefinite power of their faculties. The economists
generally look at only the first of these aspects; they neglect or overlook the second.
Nevertheless, according to the profoundest philosophers of modern times, La Rochefoucault,
Helvetius, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Jacotot, intelligence differs in individuals only
QUALITATIVELY, each having thereby his own specialty or genius; in its essence,--namely,
judgment,--it is QUANTITATIVELY equal in all. Hence it follows that, a little sooner or a
little later, according as circumstances shall be more or less favorable, general progress
must lead all men from original and negative equality to a positive equivalence of talents
I insist upon this precious datum of psychology, the necessary
consequence of which is that the HIERARCHY OF CAPACITIES henceforth cannot be allowed as a
principle and law of organization: equality alone is our rule, as it is also our ideal.
Then, just as the equality of misery must change gradually into equality of well-being, as
we have proved by the theory of value, so the equality of minds, negative in the
beginning, since it represents only emptiness, must reappear in a positive form at the
completion of humanity's education. The intellectual movement proceeds parallelly with the
economic movement; they are the expression, the translation, of each other; psychology and
social economy are in accord, or rather, they but unroll the same history, each from a
different point of view. This appears especially in Smith's great law, the DIVISION OF
Considered in its essence, the division of labor is the way in which
equality of condition and intelligence is realized. Through diversity of function, it
gives rise to proportionality of products and equilibrium in exchange, and consequently
opens for us the road to wealth; as also, in showing us infinity everywhere in art and
Nature, it leads us to idealize our acts, and makes the creative mind--that is, divinity
itself, mentem diviniorem--immanent and perceptible in all laborers.
Division of labor, then, is the first phase of economic evolution as
well as of intellectual development: our point of departure is true as regards both man
and things, and the progress of our exposition is in no wise arbitrary.
But, at this solemn hour of the division of labor, tempestuous winds
begin to blow upon humanity. Progress does not improve the condition of all equally and
uniformly, although in the end it must include and transfigure every intelligent and
industrious being. It commences by taking possession of a small number of privileged
persons, who thus compose the elite of nations, while the mass continues, or even buries
itself deeper, in barbarism. It is this exception of persons on the part of progress which
has perpetuated the belief in the natural and providential inequality of conditions,
engendered caste, and given an hierarchical form to all societies. It has not been
understood that all inequality, never being more than a negation, carries in itself the
proof of its illegitimacy and the announcement of its downfall: much less still has it
been imagined that this same inequality proceeds accidentally from a cause the ulterior
effect of which must be its entire disappearance.
Thus, the antinomy of value reappearing in the law of division, it is
found that the first and most potent instrument of knowledge and wealth which Providence
has placed in our hands has become for us an instrument of misery and imbecility. Here is
the formula of this new law of antagonism, to which we owe the two oldest maladies of
civilization, aristocracy and the proletariat: Labor, in dividing itself according to the
law which is peculiar to it, and which is the primary condition of its productivity, ends
in the frustration of its own objects, and destroys itself, in other words: Division, in
the absence of which there is no progress, no wealth, no equality, subordinates the
workingman, and renders intelligence useless, wealth harmful, and equality impossible. All
the economists, since Adam Smith, have pointed out the ADVANTAGES and the INCONVENIENCES
of the law of division, but at the same time insisting much more strenuously upon the
first than the second, because such a course was more in harmony with their optimistic
views, and not one of them ever asking how a LAW can have INCONVENIENCES. This is the way
in which J. B. Say summed up the question:--
"A man who during his whole life performs but one operation,
certainly acquires the power to execute it better and more readily than another; but at
the same time he becomes less capable of any other occupation, whether physical or moral;
his other faculties become extinct, and there results a degeneracy in the individual man.
That one has made only the eighteenth part of a pin is a sad account to give of one's
self: but let no one imagine that it is the workingman who spends his life in handling a
file or a hammer that alone degenerates in this way from the dignity of his nature; it is
the same with the man whose position leads him to exercise the most subtle faculties of
his mind. . . On the whole, it may be said that the separation of tasks is an advantageous
use of human forces; that it increases enormously the products of society; but that it
takes something from the capacity of each man taken individually."
 "Treatise on Political Economy."
What, then, after labor, is the primary cause of the multiplication of
wealth and the skill of laborers? Division.
What is the primary cause of intellectual degeneracy and, as we shall
show continually, civilized misery? Division.
How does the same principle, rigorously followed to its conclusions,
lead to effects diametrically opposite? There is not an economist, either before or since
Adam Smith, who has even perceived that here is a problem to be solved. Say goes so far as
to recognize that in the division of labor the same cause which produces the good
engenders the evil; then, after a few words of pity for the victims of the separation of
industries, content with having given an impartial and faithful exhibition of the facts,
he leaves the matter there. "You know," he seems to say, "that the more we
divide the workmen's tasks, the more we increase the productive power of labor; but at the
same time the more does labor, gradually reducing itself to a mechanical operation,
In vain do we express our indignation against a theory which, creating
by labor itself an aristocracy of capacities, leads inevitably to political inequality; in
vain do we protest in the name of democracy and progress that in the future there will be
no nobility, no bourgeoisie no pariahs. The economist replies, with the impassibility of
destiny: You are condemned to produce much, and to produce cheaply; otherwise your
industry will be always insignificant, your commerce will amount to nothing, and you will
drag in the rear of civilization instead of taking the lead.--What! among us, generous
men, there are some predestined to brutishness; and the more perfect our industry becomes,
the larger will grow the number of our accursed brothers! . . . . . --Alas! . . . . . That
is the last word of the economist.
We cannot fail to recognize in the division of labor, as a general fact
and as a cause, all the characteristics of a LAW; but as this law governs two orders of
phenomena radically opposite and destructive of each other, it must be confessed also that
this law is of a sort unknown in the exact sciences,--that it is, strange to say, a
contradictory law, a counter-law an antinomy. Let us add, in anticipation, that such
appears to be the identifying feature of social economy, and consequently of philosophy.
Now, without a RECOMPOSITION of labor which shall obviate the
inconveniences of division while preserving its useful effects, the contradiction inherent
in the principle is irremediable. It is necessary,--following the style of the Jewish
priests, plotting the death of Christ,--it is necessary that the poor should perish to
secure the proprietor his for tune, expedit unum hominem pro populo mori. I am going to
demonstrate the necessity of this decree; after which, if the parcellaire laborer still
retains a glimmer of intelligence, he will console himself with the thought that he dies
according to the rules of political economy.
Labor, which ought to give scope to the conscience and render it more
and more worthy of happiness, leading through parcellaire division to prostration of mind,
dwarfs man in his noblest part, minorat capitis, and throws him back into animality.
Thenceforth the fallen man labors as a brute, and consequently must be treated as a brute.
This sentence of Nature and necessity society will execute.
The first effect of parcellaire labor, after the depravation of the
mind, is the lengthening of the hours of labor, which increase in inverse proportion to
the amount of intelligence expended. For, the product increasing in quantity and quality
at once, if, by any industrial improvement whatever, labor is lightened in one way, it
must pay for it in another. But as the length of the working-day cannot exceed from
sixteen to eighteen hours, when compensation no longer can be made in time, it will be
taken from the price, and wages will decrease. And this decrease will take place, not, as
has been foolishly imagined, because value is essentially arbitrary, but because it is
essentially determinable. Little matters it that the struggle between supply and demand
ends, now to the advantage of the employer, now to the benefit of the employee; such
oscillations may vary in amplitude, this depending on well-known accessory circumstances
which have been estimated a thousand times. The certain point, and the only one for us to
notice now, is that the universal conscience does not set the same price upon the labor of
an overseer and the work of a hod-carrier. A reduction in the price of the day's work,
then, is necessary: so that the laborer, after having been afflicted in mind by a
degrading function, cannot fail to be struck also in his body by the meagreness of his
reward. This is the literal application of the words of the Gospel: HE THAT HATH NOT, FROM
HIM SHALL BE TAKEN EVEN THAT WHICH HE HATH.
There is in economic accidents a pitiless reason which laughs at
religion and equity as political aphorisms, and which renders man happy or unhappy
according as he obeys or escapes the prescriptions of destiny. Certainly this is far from
that Christian charity with which so many honorable writers today are inspired, and which,
penetrating to the heart of the bourgeoisie, endeavors to temper the rigors of the law by
numerous religious institutions. Political economy knows only justice, justice as
inflexible and unyielding as the miser's purse; and it is because political economy is the
effect of social spontaneity and the expression of the divine will that I have been able
to say: God is man's adversary, and Providence a misanthrope. God makes us pay, in weight
of blood and measure of tears, for each of our lessons; and to complete the evil, we, in
our relations with our fellows, all act like him. Where, then, is this love of the
celestial father for his creatures? Where is human fraternity?
Can he do otherwise? say the theists. Man falling, the animal remains:
how could the Creator recognize in him his own image? And what plainer than that he treats
him then as a beast of burden? But the trial will not last for ever, and sooner or later
labor, having been PARTICULARIZED, will be synthetized.
Such is the ordinary argument of all those who seek to justify
Providence, but generally succeed only in lending new weapons to atheism. That is to say,
then, that God would have envied us, for six thousand years, an idea which would have
saved millions of victims, a distribution of labor at once special and synthetic! In
return, he has given us, through his servants Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Mahomet, etc.,
those insipid writings, the disgrace of our reason, which have killed more men than they
contain letters! Further, if we must believe primitive revelation, social economy was the
cursed science, the fruit of the tree reserved for God, which man was forbidden to touch!
Why this religious depreciation of labor, if it is true, as economic science already
shows, that labor is the father of love and the organ of happiness? Why this jealousy of
our advancement? But if, as now sufficiently appears, our progress depends upon ourselves
alone, of what use is it to adore this phantom of divinity, and what does he still ask of
us through the multitude of inspired persons who pursue us with their sermons? All of you,
Christians, protestant and orthodox, neo-revelators, charlatans and dupes, listen to the
first verse of the humanitarian hymn upon God's mercy: "In proportion as the
principle of division of labor receives complete application, the worker becomes weaker,
narrower, and more dependent. Art advances: the artisan recedes!"
 Tocqueville, "Democracy in America."
Then let us guard against anticipating conclusions and prejudging the
latest revelation of experience. At present God seems less favorable than hostile: let us
confine ourselves to establishing the fact.
Just as political economy, then, at its point of departure, has made us
understand these mysterious and dismal words: IN PROPORTION AS THE PRODUCTION OF UTILITY
INCREASES, VENALITY DECREASES; so arrived at its first station, it warns us in a terrible
voice: IN PROPORTION AS ART ADVANCES, THE ARTISAN RECEDES. To fix the ideas better, let us
cite a few examples.
In all the branches of metal-working, who are the least industrious of
the wage-laborers? Precisely those who are called MACHINISTS. Since tools have been so
admirably perfected, a machinist is simply a man who knows how to handle a file or a
plane: as for mechanics, that is the business of engineers and foremen. A country
blacksmith often unites in his own person, by the very necessity of his position, the
various talents of the locksmith, the edge-tool maker, the gunsmith, the machinist, the
wheel-wright, and the horse-doctor: the world of thought would be astonished at the
knowledge that is under the hammer of this man, whom the people, always inclined to jest,
nickname brule-fer. A workingman of Creuzot, who for ten years has seen the grandest and
finest that his profession can offer, on leaving his shop, finds himself unable to render
the slightest service or to earn his living. The incapacity of the subject is directly
proportional to the perfection of the art; and this is as true of all the trades as of
The wages of machinists are maintained as yet at a high rate: sooner or
later their pay must decrease, the poor quality of the labor being unable to maintain it.
I have just cited a mechanical art; let us now cite a liberal industry.
Would Gutenburg and his industrious companions, Faust and Schoffer, ever
have believed that, by the division of labor, their sublime invention would fall into the
domain of ignorance--I had almost said idiocy? There are few men so weak-minded, so
UNLETTERED, as the mass of workers who follow the various branches of the typographic
industry,-- compositors, pressmen, type-founders, book-binders, and paper-makers. The
printer, as he existed even in the days of the Estiennes, has become almost an
abstraction. The employment of women in type-setting has struck this noble industry to the
heart, and consummated its degradation. I have seen a female compositor--and she was one
of the best--who did not know how to read, and was acquainted only with the forms of the
The whole art has been withdrawn into the hands of foremen and
proof-readers, modest men of learning whom the impertinence of authors and patrons still
humiliates, and a few workmen who are real artists. The press, in a word, fallen into mere
mechanism, is no longer, in its PERSONNEL, at the level of civilization: soon there will
be left of it but a few souvenirs.
I am told that the printers of Paris are endeavoring by association to
rise again from their degradation: may their efforts not be exhausted in vain empiricism
or misled into barren utopias!
After private industries, let us look at public administration.
In the public service, the effects of parcellaire labor are no less
frightful, no less intense: in all the departments of administration, in proportion as the
art develops, most of the employees see their salaries diminish. A letter-carrier receives
from four hundred to six hundred francs per annum, of which the administration retains
about a tenth for the retiring pension. After thirty years of labor, the pension, or
rather the restitution, is three hundred francs per annum, which, when given to an
alms-house by the pensioner, entitles him to a bed, soup, and washing. My heart bleeds to
say it, but I think, nevertheless, that the administration is generous: what reward would
you give to a man whose whole function consists in walking? The legend gives but FIVE SOUS
to the Wandering Jew; the letter-carriers receive twenty or thirty; true, the greater part
of them have a family. That part of the service which calls into exercise the intellectual
faculties is reserved for the postmasters and clerks: these are better paid; they do the
work of men.
Everywhere, then, in public service as well as free industry, things are
so ordered that nine-tenths of the laborers serve as beasts of burden for the other tenth:
such is the inevitable effect of industrial progress and the indispensable condition of
all wealth. It is important to look well at this elementary truth before talking to the
people of equality, liberty, democratic institutions, and other utopias, the realization
of which involves a previous complete revolution in the relations of laborers.
The most remarkable effect of the division of labor is the decay of
In the Middle Ages and in antiquity the man of letters, a sort of
encyclopaedic doctor, a successor of the troubadour and the poet, all-knowing, was
almighty. Literature lorded it over society with a high hand; kings sought the favor of
authors, or revenged themselves for their contempt by burning them,--them and their books.
This, too, was a way of recognizing literary sovereignty.
Today we have manufacturers, lawyers, doctors, bankers, merchants,
professors, engineers, librarians, etc.; we have no men of letters. Or rather, whoever has
risen to a remarkable height in his profession is thereby and of necessity lettered:
literature, like the baccalaureate, has become an elementary part of every profession. The
man of letters, reduced to his simplest expression, is the PUBLIC WRITER, a sort of
writing commissioner in the pay of everybody, whose best-known variety is the journalist.
It was a strange idea that occurred to the Chambers four years ago,--
that of making a law on literary property! As if henceforth the idea was not to become
more and more the all-important point, the style nothing. Thanks to God, there is an end
of parliamentary eloquence as of epic poetry and mythology; the theatre rarely attracts
business men and savants; and while the connoisseurs are astonished at the decline of art,
the philosophic observer sees only the progress of manly reason, troubled rather than
rejoiced at these dainty trifles. The interest in romance is sustained only as long as it
resembles reality; history is reducing itself to anthropological exegesis; everywhere,
indeed, the art of talking well appears as a subordinate auxiliary of the idea, the fact.
The worship of speech, too mazy and slow for impatient minds, is neglected, and its
artifices are losing daily their power of seduction. The language of the nineteenth
century is made up of facts and figures, and he is the most eloquent among us who, with
the fewest words, can say the most things. Whoever cannot speak this language is
mercilessly relegated to the ranks of the rhetoricians; he is said to have no ideas.
In a young society the progress of letters necessarily outstrips
philosophical and industrial progress, and for a long time serves for the expression of
both. But there comes a day when thought leaves language in the rear, and when,
consequently, the continued preeminence of literature in a society becomes a sure symptom
of decline. Language, in fact, is to every people the collection of its native ideas, the
encyclopaedia which Providence first reveals to it; it is the field which its reason must
cultivate before directly attacking Nature through observation and experience. Now, as
soon as a nation, after having exhausted the knowledge contained in its vocabulary,
instead of pursuing its education by a superior philosophy, wraps itself in its poetic
mantle, and begins to play with its periods and its hemistichs, we may safely say that
such a society is lost. Everything in it will become subtle, narrow, and false; it will
not have even the advantage of maintaining in its splendor the language of which it is
foolishly enamored; instead of going forward in the path of the geniuses of transition,
the Tacituses, the Thucydides, the Machiavels, and the Montesquieus, it will be seen to
fall, with irresistible force, from the majesty of Cicero to the subtleties of Seneca, the
antitheses of St. Augustine, and the puns of St. Bernard.
Let no one, then, be deceived: from the moment that the mind, at first
entirely occupied with speech, passes to experience and labor, the man of letters,
properly speaking, is simply the puny personification of the least of our faculties; and
literature, the refuse of intelligent industry, finds a market only with the idlers whom
it amuses and the proletaires whom it fascinates, the jugglers who besiege power and the
charlatans who shelter themselves behind it, the hierophants of divine right who blow the
trumpet of Sinai, and the fanatical proclaimers of the sovereignty of the people, whose
few mouth-pieces, compelled to practise their tribunician eloquence from tombs until they
can shower it from the height of rostrums, know no better than to give to the public
parodies of Gracchus and Demosthenes.
All the powers of society, then, agree in indefinitely deteriorating the
condition of the parcellaire laborer; and experience, universally confirming the theory,
proves that this worker is condemned to misfortune from his mother's womb, no political
reform, no association of interests, no effort either of public charity or of instruction,
having the power to aid him.
The various specifics proposed in these latter days, far from being able
to cure the evil, would tend rather to inflame it by irritation; and all that has been
written on this point has only exhibited in a clear light the vicious circle of political
This we shall demonstrate in a few words.
2.--Impotence of palliatives.--MM. Blanqui, Chevalier, Dunoyer, Rossi,
All the remedies proposed for the fatal effects of parcellaire division
may be reduced to two, which really are but one, the second being the inversion of the
first: to raise the mental and moral condition of the workingman by increasing his comfort
and dignity; or else, to prepare the way for his future emancipation and happiness by
We will examine successively these two systems, one of which is
represented by M. Blanqui, the other by M. Chevalier.
M. Blanqui is a friend of association and progress, a writer of
democratic tendencies, a professor who has a place in the hearts of the proletariat. In
his opening discourse of the year 1845, M. Blanqui proclaimed, as a means of salvation,
the association of labor and capital, the participation of the working man in the
profits,--that is, a beginning of industrial solidarity. "Our century," he
exclaimed, "must witness the birth of the collective producer." M. Blanqui
forgets that the collective producer was born long since, as well as the collective
consumer, and that the question is no longer a genetic, but a medical, one. Our task is to
cause the blood proceeding from the collective digestion, instead of rushing wholly to the
head, stomach, and lungs, to descend also into the legs and arms. Besides, I do not know
what method M. Blanqui proposes to employ in order to realize his generous
thought,--whether it be the establishment of national workshops, or the loaning of capital
by the State, or the expropriation of the conductors of business enterprises and the
substitution for them of industrial associations, or, finally, whether he will rest
content with a recommendation of the savings bank to workingmen, in which case the
participation would be put off till doomsday.
However this may be, M. Blanqui's idea amounts simply to an increase of
wages resulting from the copartnership, or at least from the interest in the business,
which he confers upon the laborers. What, then, is the value to the laborer of a
participation in the profits?
A mill with fifteen thousand spindles, employing three hundred hands,
does not pay at present an annual dividend of twenty thousand francs. I am informed by a
Mulhouse manufacturer that factory stocks in Alsace are generally below par and that this
industry has already become a means of getting money by STOCK-JOBBING instead of by LABOR.
To SELL; to sell at the right time; to sell dear,--is the only object in view; to
manufacture is only to prepare for a sale. When I assume, then, on an average, a profit of
twenty thousand francs to a factory employing three hundred persons, my argument being
general, I am twenty thousand francs out of the way. Nevertheless, we will admit the
correctness of this amount. Dividing twenty thousand francs, the profit of the mill, by
three hundred, the number of persons, and again by three hundred, the number of working
days, I find an increase of pay for each person of twenty-two and one-fifth centimes, or
for daily expenditure an addition of eighteen centimes, just a morsel of bread. Is it
worth while, then, for this, to expropriate mill-owners and endanger the public welfare,
by erecting establishments which must be insecure, since, property being divided into
infinitely small shares, and being no longer supported by profit, business enterprises
would lack ballast, and would be unable to weather commercial gales. And even if no
expropriation was involved, what a poor prospect to offer the working class is an increase
of eighteen centimes in return for centuries of economy; for no less time than this would
be needed to accumulate the requisite capital, supposing that periodical suspensions of
business did not periodically consume its savings!
The fact which I have just stated has been pointed out in several ways.
M. Passy himself took from the books of a mill in Normandy where the laborers
were associated with the owner the wages of several families for a period of ten years,
and he found that they averaged from twelve to fourteen hundred francs per year. He then
compared the situation of mill-hands paid in proportion to the prices obtained by their
employers with that of laborers who receive fixed wages, and found that the difference is
almost imperceptible. This result might easily have been foreseen. Economic phenomena obey
laws as abstract and immutable as those of numbers: it is only privilege, fraud, and
absolutism which disturb the eternal harmony.
 Meeting of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences,
M. Blanqui, repentant, as it seems, at having taken this first step
toward socialistic ideas, has made haste to retract his words. At the same meeting in
which M. Passy demonstrated the inadequacy of cooperative association, he exclaimed:
"Does it not seem that labor is a thing susceptible of organization, and that it is
in the power of the State to regulate the happiness of humanity as it does the march of an
army, and with an entirely mathematical precision? This is an evil tendency, a delusion
which the Academy cannot oppose too strongly, because it is not only a chimera, but a
dangerous sophism. Let us respect good and honest intentions; but let us not fear to say
that to publish a book upon the ORGANIZATION OF LABOR is to rewrite for the fiftieth time
a treatise upon the quadrature of the circle or the philosopher's stone."
Then, carried away by his zeal, M. Blanqui finishes the destruction of
his theory of cooperation, which M. Passy already had so rudely shaken, by the following
example: "M. Dailly, one of the most enlightened of farmers, has drawn up an account
for each piece of land and an account for each product; and he proves that within a period
of thirty years the same man has never obtained equal crops from the same piece of land.
The products have varied from twenty-six thousand francs to nine thousand or seven
thousand francs, sometimes descending as low as three hundred francs. There are also
certain products--potatoes, for instance--which fail one time in ten. How, then, with
these variations and with revenues so uncertain, can we establish even distribution and
uniform wages for laborers? . . . ."
It might be answered that the variations in the product of each piece of
land simply indicate that it is necessary to associate proprietors with each other after
having associated laborers with proprietors, which would establish a more complete
solidarity: but this would be a prejudgment on the very thing in question, which M.
Blanqui definitively decides, after reflection, to be unattainable,--namely, the
organization of labor. Besides, it is evident that solidarity would not add an obolus to
the common wealth, and that, consequently, it does not even touch the problem of division.
In short, the profit so much envied, and often a very uncertain matter
with employers, falls far short of the difference between actual wages and the wages
desired; and M. Blanqui's former plan, miserable in its results and disavowed by its
author, would be a scourge to the manufacturing industry. Now, the division of labor being
henceforth universally established, the argument is generalized, and leads us to the
conclusion that MISERY IS AN EFFECT OF LABOR, as well as of idleness.
The answer to this is, and it is a favorite argument with the people:
Increase the price of services; double and triple wages.
I confess that if such an increase was possible it would be a complete
success, whatever M. Chevalier may have said, who needs to be slightly corrected on this
According to M. Chevalier, if the price of any kind of merchandise
whatever is increased, other kinds will rise in a like proportion, and no one will benefit
This argument, which the economists have rehearsed for more than a
century, is as false as it is old, and it belonged to M. Chevalier, as an engineer, to
rectify the economic tradition. The salary of a head clerk being ten francs per day, and
the wages of a workingman four, if the income of each is increased five francs, the ratio
of their fortunes, which was formerly as one hundred to forty, will be thereafter as one
hundred to sixty.
The increase of wages, necessarily taking place by addition and not by
proportion, would be, therefore, an excellent method of equalization; and the economists
would deserve to have thrown back at them by the socialists the reproach of ignorance
which they have bestowed upon them at random.
But I say that such an increase is impossible, and that the supposition
is absurd: for, as M. Chevalier has shown very clearly elsewhere, the figure which
indicates the price of the day's labor is only an algebraic exponent without effect on the
reality: and that which it is necessary first to endeavor to increase, while correcting
the inequalities of distribution, is not the monetary expression, but the quantity of
products. Till then every rise of wages can have no other effect than that produced by a
rise of the price of wheat, wine, meat, sugar, soap, coal, etc.,--that is, the effect of a
scarcity. For what is wages?
It is the cost price of wheat, wine, meat, coal; it is the integrant
price of all things. Let us go farther yet: wages is the proportionality of the elements
which compose wealth, and which are consumed every day reproductively by the mass of
laborers. Now, to double wages, in the sense in which the people understand the words, is
to give to each producer a share greater than his product, which is contradictory: and if
the rise pertains only to a few industries, a general disturbance in exchange
ensues,--that is, a scarcity. God save me from predictions! but, in spite of my desire for
the amelioration of the lot of the working class, I declare that it is impossible for
strikes followed by an increase of wages to end otherwise than in a general rise in
prices: that is as certain as that two and two make four. It is not by such methods that
the workingmen will attain to wealth and--what is a thousand times more precious than
wealth--liberty. The workingmen, supported by the favor of an indiscreet press, in
demanding an increase of wages, have served monopoly much better than their own real
interests: may they recognize, when their situation shall become more painful, the bitter
fruit of their inexperience!
Convinced of the uselessness, or rather, of the fatal effects, of an
increase of wages, and seeing clearly that the question is wholly organic and not at all
commercial, M. Chevalier attacks the problem at the other end. He asks for the working
class, first of all, instruction, and proposes extensive reforms in this direction.
Instruction! this is also M. Arago's word to the workingmen; it is the
principle of all progress. Instruction! . . . . It should be known once for all what may
be expected from it in the solution of the problem before us; it should be known, I say,
not whether it is desirable that all should receive it,--this no one doubts,--but whether
it is possible.
To clearly comprehend the complete significance of M. Chevalier's views,
a knowledge of his methods is indispensable.
M. Chevalier, long accustomed to discipline, first by his polytechnic
studies, then by his St. Simonian connections, and finally by his position in the
University, does not seem to admit that a pupil can have any other inclination than to
obey the regulations, a sectarian any other thought than that of his chief, a public
functionary any other opinion than that of the government. This may be a conception of
order as respectable as any other, and I hear upon this subject no expressions of approval
or censure. Has M. Chevalier an idea to offer peculiar to himself? On the principle that
all that is not forbidden by law is allowed, he hastens to the front to deliver his
opinion, and then abandons it to give his adhesion, if there is occasion, to the opinion
of authority. It was thus that M. Chevalier, before settling down in the bosom of the
Constitution, joined M. Enfantin: it was thus that he gave his views upon canals,
railroads, finance, property, long before the administration had adopted any system in
relation to the construction of railways, the changing of the rate of interest on bonds,
patents, literary property, etc.
M. Chevalier, then, is not a blind admirer of the University system of
instruction,--far from it; and until the appearance of the new order of things, he does
not hesitate to say what he thinks. His opinions are of the most radical.
M. Villemain had said in his report: "The object of the higher
education is to prepare in advance a choice of men to occupy and serve in all the
positions of the administration, the magistracy, the bar and the various liberal
professions, including the higher ranks and learned specialties of the army and
"The higher education," thereupon observes M. Chevalier,
"is designed also to prepare men some of whom shall be farmers, others manufacturers,
these merchants, and those private engineers. Now, in the official programme, all these
classes are forgotten. The omission is of considerable importance; for, indeed, industry
in its various forms, agriculture, commerce, are neither accessories nor accidents in a
State: they are its chief dependence. . . . If the University desires to justify its name,
it must provide a course in these things; else an INDUSTRIAL UNIVERSITY will be
established in opposition to it. . . . We shall have altar against altar, etc. . . ."
 Journal des Economistes," April, 1843.
And as it is characteristic of a luminous idea to throw light on all
questions connected with it, professional instruction furnishes M. Chevalier with a very
expeditious method of deciding, incidentally, the quarrel between the clergy and the
University on liberty of education.
"It must be admitted that a very great concession is made to the
clergy in allowing Latin to serve as the basis of education. The clergy know Latin as well
as the University; it is their own tongue. Their tuition, moreover, is cheaper; hence they
must inevitably draw a large portion of our youth into their small seminaries and their
schools of a higher grade. . . ."
The conclusion of course follows: change the course of study, and you
decatholicize the realm; and as the clergy know only Latin and the Bible, when they have
among them neither masters of art, nor farmers, nor accountants; when, of their forty
thousand priests, there are not twenty, perhaps, with the ability to make a plan or forge
a nail,--we soon shall see which the fathers of families will choose, industry or the
breviary, and whether they do not regard labor as the most beautiful language in which to
pray to God.
Thus would end this ridiculous opposition between religious education
and profane science, between the spiritual and the temporal, between reason and faith,
between altar and throne, old rubrics henceforth meaningless, but with which they still
impose upon the good nature of the public, until it takes offence.
M. Chevalier does not insist, however, on this solution: he knows that
religion and monarchy are two powers which, though continually quarrelling, cannot exist
without each other; and that he may not awaken suspicion, he launches out into another
"France is in a position to furnish the polytechnic school with
twenty times as many scholars as enter at present (the average being one hundred and
seventy-six, this would amount to three thousand five hundred and twenty). The University
has but to say the word. . . . If my opinion was of any weight, I should maintain that
mathematical capacity is MUCH LESS SPECIAL than is commonly supposed. I remember the
success with which children, taken at random, so to speak, from the pavements of Paris,
follow the teaching of La Martiniere by the method of Captain Tabareau."
If the higher education, reconstructed according to the views of M.
Chevalier, was sought after by all young French men instead of by only ninety thousand as
commonly, there would be no exaggeration in raising the estimate of the number of minds
mathematically inclined from three thousand five hundred and twenty to ten thousand; but,
by the same argument, we should have ten thousand artists, philologists, and philosophers;
ten thousand doctors, physicians, chemists, and naturalists; ten thousand economists,
legists, and administrators; twenty thousand manufacturers, foremen, merchants, and
accountants; forty thousand farmers, wine-growers, miners, etc.,--in all, one hundred
thousand specialists a year, or about one-third of our youth. The rest, having, instead of
special adaptations, only mingled adaptations, would be distributed indifferently
It is certain that so powerful an impetus given to intelligence would
quicken the progress of equality, and I do not doubt that such is the secret desire of M.
Chevalier. But that is precisely what troubles me: capacity is never wanting, any more
than population, and the problem is to find employment for the one and bread for the
other. In vain does M. Chevalier tell us: "The higher education would give less
ground for the complaint that it throws into society crowds of ambitious persons without
any means of satisfying their desires, and interested in the overthrow of the State;
people without employment and unable to get any, good for nothing and believing themselves
fit for anything, especially for the direction of public affairs. Scientific studies do
not so inflate the mind. They enlighten and regulate it at once; they fit men for
practical life. . . ." Such language, I reply, is good to use with patriarchs: a
professor of political economy should have more respect for his position and his audience.
The government has only one hundred and twenty offices annually at its disposal for one
hundred and seventy-six students admitted to the polytechnic school: what, then, would be
its embarrassment if the number of admissions was ten thousand, or even, taking M.
Chevalier's figures, three thousand five hundred?
And, to generalize, the whole number of civil positions is sixty
thousand, or three thousand vacancies annually; what dismay would the government be thrown
into if, suddenly adopting the reformatory ideas of M. Chevalier, it should find itself
besieged by fifty thousand office- seekers! The following objection has often been made to
republicans without eliciting a reply: When everybody shall have the electoral privilege,
will the deputies do any better, and will the proletariat be further advanced? I ask the
same question of M. Chevalier: When each academic year shall bring you one hundred
thousand fitted men, what will you do with them?
To provide for these interesting young people, you will go down to the
lowest round of the ladder. You will oblige the young man, after fifteen years of lofty
study, to begin, no longer as now with the offices of aspirant engineer, sub-lieutenant of
artillery, second lieutenant, deputy, comptroller, general guardian, etc., but with the
ignoble positions of pioneer, train-soldier, dredger, cabin-boy, fagot- maker, and
exciseman. There he will wait, until death, thinning the ranks, enables him to advance a
step. Under such circumstances a man, a graduate of the polytechnic school and capable of
becoming a Vauban, may die a laborer on a second class road, or a corporal in a regiment
Oh! how much more prudent Catholicism has shown itself, and how far it
has surpassed you all, St. Simonians, republicans, university men, economists, in the
knowledge of man and society! The priest knows that our life is but a voyage, and that our
perfection cannot be realized here below; and he contents himself with outlining on earth
an education which must be completed in heaven. The man whom religion has moulded, content
to know, do, and obtain what suffices for his earthly destiny, never can become a source
of embarrassment to the government: rather would he be a martyr. O beloved religion! is it
necessary that a bourgeoisie which stands in such need of you should disown you? . . .
Into what terrible struggles of pride and misery does this mania for universal instruction
plunge us! Of what use is professional education, of what good are agricultural and
commercial schools, if your students have neither employment nor capital? And what need to
cram one's self till the age of twenty with all sorts of knowledge, then to fasten the
threads of a mule-jenny or pick coal at the bottom of a pit? What! you have by your own
confession only three thousand positions annually to bestow upon fifty thousand possible
capacities, and yet you talk of establishing schools! Cling rather to your system of
exclusion and privilege, a system as old as the world, the support of dynasties and
patriciates, a veritable machine for gelding men in order to secure the pleasures of a
caste of Sultans. Set a high price upon your teaching, multiply obstacles, drive away, by
lengthy tests, the son of the proletaire whom hunger does not permit to wait, and protect
with all your power the ecclesiastical schools, where the students are taught to labor for
the other life, to cultivate resignation, to fast, to respect those in high places, to
love the king, and to pray to God. For every useless study sooner or later becomes an
abandoned study: knowledge is poison to slaves.
Surely M. Chevalier has too much sagacity not to have seen the
consequences of his idea. But he has spoken from the bottom of his heart, and we can only
applaud his good intentions: men must first be men; after that, he may live who can.
Thus we advance at random, guided by Providence, who never warns us
except with a blow: this is the beginning and end of political economy.
Contrary to M. Chevalier, professor of political economy at the College
of France, M. Dunoyer, an economist of the Institute, does not wish instruction to be
organized. The organization of instruction is a species of organization of labor;
therefore, no organization. Instruction, observes M. Dunoyer, is a profession, not a
function of the State; like all professions, it ought to be and remain free. It is
communism, it is socialism, it is the revolutionary tendency, whose principal agents have
been Robespierre, Napoleon, Louis XVIII, and M. Guizot, which have thrown into our midst
these fatal ideas of the centralization and absorption of all activity in the State. The
press is very free, and the pen of the journalist is an object of merchandise; religion,
too, is very free, and every wearer of a gown, be it short or long, who knows how to
excite public curiosity, can draw an audience about him. M. Lacordaire has his devotees,
M. Leroux his apostles, M. Buchez his convent. Why, then, should not instruction also be
free? If the right of the instructed, like that of the buyer, is unquestionable, and that
of the instructor, who is only a variety of the seller, is its correlative, it is
impossible to infringe upon the liberty of instruction without doing violence to the most
precious of liberties, that of the conscience. And then, adds M. Dunoyer, if the State
owes instruction to everybody, it will soon be maintained that it owes labor; then
lodging; then shelter. . . . Where does that lead to?
The argument of M. Dunoyer is irrefutable: to organize instruction is to
give to every citizen a pledge of liberal employment and comfortable wages; the two are as
intimately connected as the circulation of the arteries and the veins. But M. Dunoyer's
theory implies also that progress belongs only to a certain select portion of humanity,
and that barbarism is the eternal lot of nine-tenths of the human race. It is this which
constitutes, according to M. Dunoyer, the very essence of society, which manifests itself
in three stages, religion, hierarchy, and beggary. So that in this system, which is that
of Destutt de Tracy, Montesquieu, and Plato, the antinomy of division, like that of value,
is without solution.
It is a source of inexpressible pleasure to me, I confess, to see M.
Chevalier, a defender of the centralization of instruction, opposed by M. Dunoyer, a
defender of liberty; M. Dunoyer in his turn antagonized by M. Guizot; M. Guizot, the
representative of the centralizers, contradicting the Charter, which posits liberty as a
principle; the Charter trampled under foot by the University men, who lay sole claim to
the privilege of teaching, regardless of the express command of the Gospel to the priests:
GO AND TEACH. And above all this tumult of economists, legislators, ministers,
academicians, professors, and priests, economic Providence giving the lie to the Gospel,
and shouting: Pedagogues! what use am I to make of your instruction?
Who will relieve us of this anxiety? M. Rossi leans toward eclecticism:
Too little divided, he says, labor remains unproductive; too much divided, it degrades
man. Wisdom lies between these extremes; in medio virtus. Unfortunately this intermediate
wisdom is only a small amount of poverty joined with a small amount of wealth, so that the
condition is not modified in the least. The proportion of good and evil, instead of being
as one hundred to one hundred, becomes as fifty to fifty: in this we may take, once for
all, the measure of eclecticism. For the rest, M. Rossi's juste-milieu is in direct
opposition to the great economic law: TO PRODUCE WITH THE LEAST POSSIBLE EXPENSE THE
GREATEST POSSIBLE QUANTITY OF VALUES. . . . Now, how can labor fulfil its destiny without
an extreme division? Let us look farther, if you please.
"All economic systems and hypotheses," says M. Rossi,
"belong to the economist, but the intelligent, free, responsible man is under the
control of the moral law. . . Political economy is only a science which examines the
relations of things, and draws conclusions therefrom. It examines the effects of labor; in
the application of labor, you should consider the importance of the object in view. When
the application of labor is unfavorable to an object higher than the production of wealth,
it should not be applied. . . Suppose that it would increase the national wealth to compel
children to labor fifteen hours a day: morality would say that that is not allowable. Does
that prove that political economy is false? No; that proves that you confound things which
should be kept separate."
If M. Rossi had a little more of that Gallic simplicity so difficult for
foreigners to acquire, he would very summarily have THROWN HIS TONGUE TO THE DOGS, as
Madame de Sevigne said. But a professor must talk, talk, talk, not for the sake of saying
anything, but in order to avoid silence. M. Rossi takes three turns around the question,
then lies down: that is enough to make certain people believe that he has answered it.
It is surely a sad symptom for a science when, in developing itself
according to its own principles, it reaches its object just in time to be contradicted by
another; as, for example, when the postulates of political economy are found to be opposed
to those of morality, for I suppose that morality is a science as well as political
economy. What, then, is human knowledge, if all its affirmations destroy each other, and
on what shall we rely? Divided labor is a slave's occupation, but it alone is really
productive; undivided labor belongs to the free man, but it does not pay its expenses. On
the one hand, political economy tells us to be rich; on the other, morality tells us to be
free; and M. Rossi, speaking in the name of both, warns us at the same time that we can be
neither free nor rich, for to be but half of either is to be neither. M. Rossi's doctrine,
then, far from satisfying this double desire of humanity, is open to the objection that,
to avoid exclusiveness, it strips us of everything: it is, under another form, the history
of the representative system.
But the antagonism is even more profound than M. Rossi has supposed. For
since, according to universal experience (on this point in harmony with theory), wages
decrease in proportion to the division of labor, it is clear that, in submitting ourselves
to parcellaire slavery, we thereby shall not obtain wealth; we shall only change men into
machines: witness the laboring population of the two worlds. And since, on the other hand,
without the division of labor, society falls back into barbarism, it is evident also that,
by sacrificing wealth, we shall not obtain liberty: witness all the wandering tribes of
Asia and Africa. Therefore it is necessary--economic science and morality absolutely
command it--for us to solve the problem of division: now, where are the economists? More
than thirty years ago, Lemontey, developing a remark of Smith, exposed the demoralizing
and homicidal influence of the division of labor. What has been the reply; what
investigations have been made; what remedies proposed; has the question even been
Every year the economists report, with an exactness which I would
commend more highly if I did not see that it is always fruitless, the commercial condition
of the States of Europe. They know how many yards of cloth, pieces of silk, pounds of
iron, have been manufactured; what has been the consumption per head of wheat, wine,
sugar, meat: it might be said that to them the ultimate of science is to publish
inventories, and the object of their labor is to become general comptrollers of nations.
Never did such a mass of material offer so fine a field for investigation. What has been
found; what new principle has sprung from this mass; what solution of the many problems of
long standing has been reached; what new direction have studies taken?
One question, among others, seems to have been prepared for a final
judgment,--pauperism. Pauperism, of all the phenomena of the civilized world, is today the
best known: we know pretty nearly whence it comes, when and how it arrives, and what it
costs; its proportion at various stages of civilization has been calculated, and we have
convinced ourselves that all the specifics with which it hitherto has been fought have
been impotent. Pauperism has been divided into genera, species, and varieties: it is a
complete natural history, one of the most important branches of anthropology. Well I the
unquestionable result of all the facts collected, unseen, shunned, covered by the
economists with their silence, is that pauperism is constitutional and chronic in society
as long as the antagonism between labor and capital continues, and that this antagonism
can end only by the absolute negation of political economy. What issue from this labyrinth
have the economists discovered?
This last point deserves a moment's attention.
In primitive communism misery, as I have observed in a preceding
paragraph, is the universal condition.
Labor is war declared upon this misery.
Labor organizes itself, first by division, next by machinery, then by
Now, the question is whether it is not in the essence of this
organization, as given us by political economy, at the same time that it puts an end to
the misery of some, to aggravate that of others in a fatal and unavoidable manner. These
are the terms in which the question of pauperism must be stated, and for this reason we
have undertaken to solve it.
What means, then, this eternal babble of the economists about the
improvidence of laborers, their idleness, their want of dignity, their ignorance, their
debauchery, their early marriages, etc.? All these vices and excesses are only the cloak
of pauperism; but the cause, the original cause which inexorably holds four-fifths of the
human race in disgrace,--what is it? Did not Nature make all men equally gross, averse to
labor, wanton, and wild? Did not patrician and proletaire spring from the same clay? Then
how happens it that, after so many centuries, and in spite of so many miracles of
industry, science, and art, comfort and culture have not become the inheritance of all?
How happens it that in Paris and London, centres of social wealth, poverty is as hideous
as in the days of Caesar and Agricola? Why, by the side of this refined aristocracy, has
the mass remained so uncultivated? It is laid to the vices of the people: but the vices of
the upper class appear to be no less; perhaps they are even greater. The original stain
affected all alike: how happens it, once more, that the baptism of civilization has not
been equally efficacious for all? Does this not show that progress itself is a privilege,
and that the man who has neither wagon nor horse is forced to flounder about for ever in
the mud? What do I say? The totally destitute man has no desire to improve: he has fallen
so low that ambition even is extinguished in his heart.
"Of all the private virtues," observes M. Dunoyer with
infinite reason, "the most necessary, that which gives us all the others in
succession, is the passion for well-being, is the violent desire to extricate one's self
from misery and abjection, is that spirit of emulation and dignity which does not permit
men to rest content with an inferior situation. . . . But this sentiment, which seems so
natural, is unfortunately much less common than is thought. There are few reproaches which
the generality of men deserve less than that which ascetic moralists bring against them of
being too fond of their comforts: the opposite reproach might be brought against them with
infinitely more justice. . . . There is even in the nature of men this very remarkable
feature, that the less their knowledge and resources, the less desire they have of
acquiring these. The most miserable savages and the least enlightened of men are precisely
those in whom it is most difficult to arouse wants, those in whom it is hardest to inspire
the desire to rise out of their condition; so that man must already have gained a certain
degree of comfort by his labor, before he can feel with any keenness that need of
improving his condition, of perfecting his existence, which I call the love of
 "The Liberty of Labor," Vol. II, p. 80.
Thus the misery of the laboring classes arises in general from their
lack of heart and mind, or, as M. Passy has said somewhere, from the weakness, the inertia
of their moral and intellectual faculties. This inertia is due to the fact that the said
laboring classes, still half savage, do not have a sufficiently ardent desire to
ameliorate their condition: this M. Dunoyer shows. But as this absence of desire is itself
the effect of misery, it follows that misery and apathy are each other's effect and cause,
and that the proletariat turns in a circle.
To rise out of this abyss there must be either well-being,--that is, a
gradual increase of wages,--or intelligence and courage,--that is, a gradual development
of faculties: two things diametrically opposed to the degradation of soul and body which
is the natural effect of the division of labor. The misfortune of the proletariat, then,
is wholly providential, and to undertake to extinguish it in the present state of
political economy would be to produce a revolutionary whirlwind.
For it is not without a profound reason, rooted in the loftiest
considerations of morality, that the universal conscience, expressing itself by turns
through the selfishness of the rich and the apathy of the proletariat, denies a reward to
the man whose whole function is that of a lever and spring. If, by some impossibility,
material well-being could fall to the lot of the parcellaire laborer, we should see
something monstrous happen: the laborers employed at disagreeable tasks would become like
those Romans, gorged with the wealth of the world, whose brutalized minds became incapable
of devising new pleasures. Well-being without education stupefies people and makes them
insolent: this was noticed in the most ancient times. Incrassatus est, et recalcitravit,
says Deuteronomy. For the rest, the parcellaire laborer has judged himself: he is content,
provided he has bread, a pallet to sleep on, and plenty of liquor on Sunday. Any other
condition would be prejudicial to him, and would endanger public order.
At Lyons there is a class of men who, under cover of the monopoly given
them by the city government, receive higher pay than college professors or the head-clerks
of the government ministers: I mean the porters. The price of loading and unloading at
certain wharves in Lyons, according to the schedule of the Rigues or porters'
associations, is thirty centimes per hundred kilogrammes. At this rate, it is not seldom
that a man earns twelve, fifteen, and even twenty francs a day: he only has to carry forty
or fifty sacks from a vessel to a warehouse. It is but a few hours' work. What a favorable
condition this would be for the development of intelligence, as well for children as for
parents, if, of itself and the leisure which it brings, wealth was a moralizing principle!
But this is not the case: the porters of Lyons are today what they always have been,
drunken, dissolute, brutal, insolent, selfish, and base. It is a painful thing to say, but
I look upon the following declaration as a duty, because it is the truth: one of the first
reforms to be effected among the laboring classes will be the reduction of the wages of
some at the same time that we raise those of others. Monopoly does not gain in
respectability by belonging to the lowest classes of people, especially when it serves to
maintain only the grossest individualism. The revolt of the silk-workers met with no
sympathy, but rather hostility, from the porters and the river population generally.
Nothing that happens off the wharves has any power to move them. Beasts of burden
fashioned in advance for despotism, they will not mingle with politics as long as their
privilege is maintained. Nevertheless, I ought to say in their defence that, some time
ago, the necessities of competition having brought their prices down, more social
sentiments began to awaken in these gross natures: a few more reductions seasoned with a
little poverty, and the Rigues of Lyons will be chosen as the storming-party when the time
comes for assaulting the bastilles.
In short, it is impossible, contradictory, in the present system of
society, for the proletariat to secure well-being through education or education through
well-being. For, without considering the fact that the proletaire, a human machine, is as
unfit for comfort as for education, it is demonstrated, on the one hand, that his wages
continually tend to go down rather than up, and, on the other, that the cultivation of his
mind, if it were possible, would be useless to him; so that he always inclines towards
barbarism and misery. Everything that has been attempted of late years in France and
England with a view to the amelioration of the condition of the poor in the matters of the
labor of women and children and of primary instruction, unless it was the fruit of some
hidden thought of radicalism, has been done contrary to economic ideas and to the
prejudice of the established order. Progress, to the mass of laborers, is always the book
sealed with the seven seals; and it is not by legislative misconstructions that the
relentless enigma will be solved.
For the rest, if the economists, by exclusive attention to their old
routine, have finally lost all knowledge of the present state of things, it cannot be said
that the socialists have better solved the antinomy which division of labor raised. Quite
the contrary, they have stopped with negation; for is it not perpetual negation to oppose,
for instance, the uniformity of parcellaire labor with a so-called variety in which each
one can change his occupation ten, fifteen, twenty times a day at will?
As if to change ten, fifteen, twenty times a day from one kind of
divided labor to another was to make labor synthetic; as if, consequently, twenty
fractions of the day's work of a manual laborer could be equal to the day's work of an
artist! Even if such industrial vaulting was practicable,--and it may be asserted in
advance that it would disappear in the presence of the necessity of making laborers
responsible and therefore functions personal,--it would not change at all the physical,
moral, and intellectual condition of the laborer; the dissipation would only be a surer
guarantee of his incapacity and, consequently, his dependence. This is admitted, moreover,
by the organizers, communists, and others. So far are they from pretending to solve the
antinomy of division that all of them admit, as an essential condition of organization,
the hierarchy of labor,--that is, the classification of laborers into parcellaires and
generalizers or organizers,--and in all utopias the distinction of capacities, the basis
or everlasting excuse for inequality of goods, is admitted as a pivot. Those reformers
whose schemes have nothing to recommend them but logic, and who, after having complained
of the SIMPLISM, monotony, uniformity, and extreme division of labor, then propose a
PLURALITY as a SYNTHESIS,--such inventors, I say, are judged already, and ought to be sent
back to school.
But you, critic, the reader undoubtedly will ask, what is your solution?
Show us this synthesis which, retaining the responsibility, the personality, in short, the
specialty of the laborer, will unite extreme division and the greatest variety in one
complex and harmonious whole.
My reply is ready: Interrogate facts, consult humanity: we can choose no
better guide. After the oscillations of value, division of labor is the economic fact
which influences most perceptibly profits and wages. It is the first stake driven by
Providence into the soil of industry, the starting-point of the immense triangulation
which finally must determine the right and duty of each and all. Let us, then, follow our
guides, without which we can only wander and lose ourselves.
Tu longe sequere, et vestigia semper adora.