Alex Prichard, Justice, Order and Anarchy. The International Political Theory of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
London and New York: Routledge, 2013, 226pp; ISBN-13: 978-0-415596-88-6.
Proudhon's international thought is not well known in the English-speaking world. In fact, we could probably go further and say that this statement was true for all of Proudhon's work. His masterpiece War and Peace, for example, still lacks an English translation. At the outset Alex Prichard's book does a great service to both international relations (IR) and political theory by making available an intelligent summary of Proudhon's international thought. Yet, this book is much more than a summary. It is also a well-crafted argument for rethinking the way that we look at the international, and especially at our conception of the international anarchy. Here it lays out a clear and well-researched case for taking Proudhon seriously as an international theorist, and offers an intriguing hint at how we can approach the study of IR from an anarchist perspective. In short, this book and its argument should be warmly welcomed by both IR scholars and by those interested in the political philosophy behind anarchism.
The argument of the book has three strands to it. The first is an appraisal of the commonalities between anarchist ideas of anarchy and the international anarchy in IR; the second charts the Republican tradition of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from which Proudhon's ideas emerged; while the third develops Proudhon's analysis of the international within the context of his ideas about federation and war. Prichard deftly shows how Proudhon's work needs to be understood as a product of the Republican tradition, especially as it manifests itself in the France of the middle of the nineteenth century. Read in this way Proudhon's thinking makes sense as both a product of the work of Rousseau, Kant, Comte and others, and as an anti-statist departure from this tradition.
Perhaps, though, the most rewarding chapters are those that provide a critical analysis of Proudhon's work. Here there is something new and instructive for several different readerships. For the anarchist political theorists there is a valuable reappraisal of Proudhon's philosophy that makes a compelling argument for the relevance of Proudhon's ideas to the anarchist movement of the twenty-first century. For the...