Nothing is more false than the way in which society has been treated both by economists and by socialists in relation to economic conditions. For example Proudhon says, against Bastiat (XVI 29): ‘There is no difference, for society, between capital and product. This difference is a purely subjective one dependent upon the individual.’ Thus he calls precisely the social subjective; and he terms the subjective abstraction society. The difference between product and capital is precisely that the product, as capital, expresses a distinct relationship belonging to a historical form of society. The so-called ‘consideration from the standpoint of society’ means only the overlooking of precisely those differences which express the social relationships (the relationship of bourgeois society). Society does not consist of individuals; it expresses the sum of connections and relationships in which individuals find themselves. It is as though one were to say: from the standpoint of society there are neither slaves nor citizens: both are men. Rather they are so outside society. To be a slave or to be a citizen are social determinations, the relationships of Man A and Man B. Man A is not a slave as such. He is a slave within society and because of it.
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