WHAT IS PROPERTY? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (Translated by Benjamin R. Tucker) LOOK INSIDE
Proudhon’s work is a classic for many reasons. Not only did it put a name to a tendency within socialism (“I am an Anarchist”) and raise a battle-cry against inequality (“Property is Theft!”), it also sketched a new, free, society: anarchy.
The bulk of the book contains Proudhon’s searing critique of property. This rests on two key concepts. Firstly, property allowed the owner to exploit its user (“property is theft”). Secondly, that property created authoritarian social relationships between the two (“property is despotism”). These are interrelated, as it is the oppression that property creates which ensures exploitation while the appropriation of our common heritage by the few gives the rest little alternative but to agree to such domination and let the owner appropriate the fruits of their labour. The notion that workers are free when capitalism forces them to seek employment was demonstrably false: “We who belong to the proletarian class, property excommunicates us!”