Introduction to Pierre Ansart’s "PROUDHON’S SOCIOLOGY"

Pierre Ansart (Author) ; Cayce Jamil (Editor) ; Shaun Murdock (Translator) ; René Berthier (Translator/Introduction) ; Jesse S. Cohn (Translator)

Article mis en ligne le 8 janvier 2024

par Eric Vilain

An introduction to the thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first person to declare themself an anarchist.

Available in English for the first time, Proudhon’s Sociology is the landmark statement on Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s thought. While interest in Proudhon’s work has undergone a revival in the last couple of decades in the English-speaking world, his theories about society remain little known. Ansart’s book renders the complexity of Proudhon’s thought intelligible and emphasizes how Proudhonian ideas remain relevant today.

Ansart explores the similarities between Proudhon and Marx’s thought, including the influence that Proudhon’s economic writings and theories of the state had on Marx. A year before the publication of Sociologie de Proudhon (1967), Henri Lefebvre published Sociologie de Marx as part of the same academic series. Both indispensable books, which were available to French students at the time of the strikes of May–June 1968, had a real impact on the theoretical education of that generation—and on generations since.

This English-language edition contains an introduction by René Berthier, annotations by the translators and editor, and an additional piece by Ansart titled “Proudhon Throughout History.”

“Pierre Ansart’s book, commissioned by Georges Balandier for a series that included Henri Lefebvre’s Sociology of Marx, is a clear and authoritative guide to its subject by one of the most important commentators on Proudhon. It is excellent news that the book is to be made available in English, and that a book by Pierre Ansart has finally been translated. Anyone wanting to learn about Proudhon but perhaps daunted by the sheer bulk of Iain McKay’s wonderful Property is Theft ! Proudhon anthology now has a book to read in advance that will light their way to engaging with Proudhon.” —Dr. Michael Tyldesley, Emeritus Honorary Fellow, Department of History, Politics, and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University

Pierre Ansart (1922–2016) taught at Université Paris-Diderot and made contributions to the field of sociology with a multidisciplinary approach that incorporated history and psychology as well as Western and Eastern intellectual traditions. Ansart is the author of over twenty books.

Cayce Jamil (he/him) has a PhD in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His research focuses on developing social theory, and he has written on Proudhonian thought and its implications for sociology.

Shaun Murdock (he/him) translates texts on the themes of economy, society, and environment from French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Catalan into English.

René Berthier (he/him) is a French libertarian and anarcho-syndicalist activist. In 1972, he joined the CGT trade union confederation in the printing industry. It was while working in a large Parisian printing house that he completed a master’s degree in English (thesis on William Godwin) at the Sorbonne in 1974. Now retired, he devotes himself to writing in the theoretical and historical field.

Jesse S. Cohn (he/him) is the author of Underground Passages : Anarchist Resistance Culture, 1848–2011 and the translator of Daniel Colson’s Little Philosophical Lexicon of Anarchism From Proudhon to Deleuze. A board member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, he teaches English at Purdue University Northwest.

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When I told Edward Castleton that I intended to translate a few chapters of Pierre Ansart’s Sociologie de Proudhon, he asked me : why not translate Proudhon ? Basically he was right, but he was
reasoning like an academic. Castleton is an American researcher and teacher of philosophy and history at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, Proudhon’s hometown. He is one of the leading specialists on the author of What Is Property ? and is the current president of the Société Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. His remark, however, ignored one fact : Proudhon, more than anyone else, needs his thought to be synthesized so that it is accessible to readers who cannot devote twenty years to reading his complete works. This is all the more true since he is often difficult to read, even for a French reader.

This is where Pierre Ansart comes in. Sociologie de Proudhon is the perfect tool to lead the reader through the arcana of the thought of an author I have come to consider as one of the greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century.