Mutualism: The Philosophy of Anarchy Reply

By Will Schnack

Evolution of Consent

This was composed for a speech given to the East Texas Freethinkers
on February 18th, 2017 in Tyler, Texas.
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Mutualism is an anarchist social philosophy first established in print by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. While often considered to be the father of mutualism (something I have repeated and am apt to do again), Proudhon was actually more of its first philosopher, because mutualism already existed to some degree, long before Proudhon would write about it in his works. Proudhon had spent time among the workman’s associations in Lyon, France, where he witnessed fraternal organizations and guilds functioning in mutualistic manners, involving member control from voluntary participants. When he wrote in favor of mutualism, he probably had these cooperative associations in mind. Nonetheless, Proudhon can be considered to be the first philosophical exponent of mutualism as a school of thought.

Along with being the first philosophical proponent of mutualism, Proudhon is the first to call himself an anarchist. Yet, again, the sentiment against government and the state long preceded Proudhon. Some have traced it back to Ancient Greek or Chinese thinkers, such as Zeno or Lao Tzu. Others suggest that others much closer to Proudhon’s time were the first, such as William Godwin or Josiah Warren. Proudhon maintains the title of the first anarchist simply for being the first to call himself such on record.

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