Publisher: AK Press
Released: August 23, 2022
Proudhon's anarchist theory of international relations, a 19th-century vision of what might have been and could still be.
War and Peace by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, originally published in 1861, is still one of the only extended accounts of anarchist international theory and is one of the earliest in the history of socialist thought. It is a profound contribution to the traditions of jus gentium and just war theory, that puts force and power at the centre of analysis. Alex Prichard’s introduction describes both its specificity and the multiple lines of influence War and Peace had on thinkers as diverse as Tolstoy, Sorel, French sociology more broadly, and post-1945 Anglo-American International Relations theory.
Praise for War and Peace
★ "We are treated to a new translation and the first one in decades of Pierre-Joseph Proundhon masterpiece War and Peace. This work printed in the mid-1800s in Europe after decades of upheaval, conservative blowback, and the failed revolutions of the 1840s is a product of its time and place. Readers today might view some of the ideas espoused by the author as a combination of sexist, racist or both at the same time. But the impact the work had on literature and socialist thought can not be overestimated. Proundhon tried to grasp together anarchism, power and war. He tried to explain why war happens, what makes a just war and why do people get caught up in the frenzy even though the war generally only benefits the rich and their companies. Alex Prichard does a wonderful job in the introduction explaining the world of Proundhon, how he came to his ideas, and the impact the thinking had on nineteenth-century anarchists, though, which is confusing enough in itself but was born in a Europe that had seen the horrors of constant warfare."
—Kevin Winter, Seattle Book Review (4/5 starred review)
"War and Peace is one of Proudhon’s most fascinating books. While the phenomenon of war is analysed through the lens of the right of force, the book is no justification for violence. Proudhon’s obsession with law leads to a challenging opposition of war’s horrors with war’s ideals, where the clash or balance of antagonistic forces produces justice ... Alex Prichard explores Proudhon's opus with his knowledge of modern debates and the latest work in International Relations. Thanks to this translation, English readers will rediscover one of Europe's leading socialist thinkers, someone Faguet once said was 'impossible not to take into account and ridiculous to disdain.'"
—Anne-Sophie Chambost, author of Proudhon: L’enfant terrible du socialisme
"This fascinating text broadens and deepens the history of international thought and just war theory and adds to recent recoveries and reassessments of the international thought of Hobbes, Grotius, Kant, and others. Prichard's introduction offers the novice and expert reader a new way into the text and will help bring this work into existing debates on the relationship of war and justice."
—Jonathan Havercroft, author of Captives of Sovereignty
"A fascinating study for scholars of the just war tradition, Proudhon’s writings straddle both classical and contemporary articulations of the right to war. On the one hand, Proudhon’s thinking illuminates otherwise obscure historical debates about the right of conquest that we could learn much from today. On the other, it offers a critique of just war as a thinly mannered variant of the 'might is right' doctrine that speaks powerfully to present-day controversies. This, then, is quite the find—one that is likely to lead scholars to view just war tradition with new old eyes."
—Cian O’Driscoll, author of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Just War Theory
“This new translation of Proudhon’s War and Peace is going to be of great interest for Political Thought and International Relations. Proudhon’s sociological study complements the more common legal and political approaches to questions of war and peace. Moreover, as Alex Prichard’s wide ranging introduction shows, re-introducing Proudhon into the canon of modern European thought rectifies some of its political and intellectual biases and limitations and recovers important influences on authors from Michel Foucault through Raymond Aron to Stanley Hoffman.“
—Beate Jahn, professor of International Relations, University of Sussex, and editor of Classical Theory in International Relations
“War and Peace is an eye opener, crammed with quotable lines, provocative historical insights—about America and the state of European politics—and Proudhon’s characteristically incisive critiques of his rivals: Kant, Grotius, and Hobbes. Alex Prichard’s informative, warm introduction is the perfect guide to the core concepts—the right of peoples, right of force, collectivity and war—and their interrelation and resonance for contemporary international relations. Paul Sharkey’s translation transforms the whole into a highly readable page-turner.”
—Ruth Kinna, professor of Political Theory, Loughborough University, and author of The Government of No One
“When it comes to just war theory, Proudhon is the missing link between Kant and Comte on the one hand and Tolstoy and Foucault on the other. Yet, overlooked by the Left and selectively appropriated by the Right, his War and Peace (1861) has largely eluded capture within conventional political categories. This fresh translation, with a substantial introduction, makes Proudhon’s ethical masterwork accessible to a wider readership and should help to place it accurately on the map of modern international thought.”
—David Armitage, Lloyd C. Blankfein professor of History, Harvard University, author of Foundations of Modern International Thought
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) was one of Europe’s most well-known socialists during his lifetime. His complete works span over sixty volumes. From his opening salvo on the social origins of the Sabbath, to the claim that “all property is theft!,” to his final writings on international relations, federalism, and the political capacity of the working class, his works shaped European socialism for a generation, and continue to act as the intellectual spine of modern anarchism.
Paul Sharkey has made a vast body of anarchist works available in English, including those of Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Nestor Makhno, and many more. He lives in Ireland.
Alex Prichard is the author of Justice, Order and Anarchy: The International Political Theory of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction. He is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Exeter and resides in England.