Loughborough University
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Justice, order and anarchy: the international political theory of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)

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posted on 2013-04-22, 11:40 authored by Alex Prichard
This thesis provides a contextualised exegesis and re-evaluation of the anarchist Pierre- Joseph Proudhon’s writings on war and peace. The thesis has two claims to originality. The first lies in shedding new light on Proudhon’s voluminous writings on international politics. These texts have been relatively marginalised in the broader secondary literature on Proudhon’s thinking, and the thesis seeks to correct this important lacuna. In International Relations (IR), the academic discipline to which this thesis will make its most obvious original contribution, Proudhon’s writings on war and peace have been almost completely ignored. By providing an anarchist approach to world politics, the thesis will also contribute to IR’s historiographical and critical theoretical literature. The second claim to originality lies in using these writings and the context from which they emerged to tell a story about the evolution of the nineteenth century, the origins of the twentieth century and provide possible ways of thinking beyond the twenty first. The thesis employs a contextualist methodology that works in four ways. First, I have contextualised Proudhon’s thought geo-politically, in relation to the dynamics of the balance of power in nineteenth-century Europe. Secondly, I have sought to understand Proudhon’s ideas against the backdrop of the evolution of the French nation state in the mid to late nineteenth century. Third, I have shown how Proudhon’s thought emerges out of the dominant intellectual currents of his day – ideas that range from the inspiration for the activism of Fourierist and Saint-Simonian feminists, to the epochal influence of Rousseau and Kant. Finally, I argue that Proudhon’s thinking on world politics needs to be understood in relation to the evolution of his own thinking after Napoleon III’s coup d’état of the 2nd of December 1851. I will show that Proudhon’s mature anarchism, his mutualist federalism, was an engaged response to each of these social and intellectual contexts. I will argue that his critiques of these processes, and their intellectual champions, have been given an added poignancy given that he campaigned in large part against those very processes that culminated in two world wars.



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies


© W.A.L. Prichard

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Doctoral Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en