The System of Economic Contradictions, or The Philosophy of Poverty

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The System of Economic Contradictions, or Philosophy of Poverty (French: Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère often erroneously referred to as The Philosophy of Misery) is a work by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon published in 1846 by Guillaumin et Cie, Paris. It inspired Karl Marx to write his rejoinder The Poverty of Philosophy.

According to George Litcheim, the "doctrine that emerged went something like this: what people really needed were use values, whereas they were actually being offered exchanges values by the market. These represented thesis and antithesis; Proudhon (having on this point misunderstood Hegel) looked for a synthesis which he termed 'constituted value.' This amounted to saying that goods should be exchanged in proportion to the amount of labour embodied in them - an arrangement that would do away with market fluctuations and at the same time satisfy the requirement of justice." (Litcheim, A Short History of Socialism, 1975, p.76).

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