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Mutualism is an economic theory based on the political philosophy of Pierre Joseph Proudhoun, a French anarchist, and later elaborated by Benjamin Tucker. Mutualism is a form of individualist anarchism which is opposed to both capitalism and mandatory collective ownership. While it is often interpreted as being anti-socialist, it has also been described as a form of socialism since it advocates a classless society.



Mutualists believe that ownership should be based on use and occupation. They view absentee landlordism as exploitive, and believe that once property is abandoned, it should be up for grabs. They join Georgists in opposing the land monopoly, but offer a different solution, namely that of redefining ownership such that they are based on use and occupation.

Intellectual property (copyrights, trademarks) are opposed on the grounds that they allow one person to put restraints on the behavior of another person.

The Cost Principle

Mutualists believe in what they call the "cost principle," which is based on the labor theory of value. Essentially, mutualists believe that the value of labor is the value of what it produces. As such, some see wage labor as a violation of the cost principle, since the employer recieves some of the value of the worker's labor. Others argue that wage employment may be appropriate under some circumstances, but without state-enforced monopolies, the worker would be able to command a wage that is equal to the full value of his work.

Free Association

Mutualists believe in association only where it is necessary or beneficial, such as in a factory, where many workers are required to create a product. Peasant farmers, on the other hand, need no association to create their products, and, according to Proudhoun, only feigned association because the state required it of them.

Mutual Credit

Mutualists advocate free banking to end what they call the "money monopoly." They seek to establish democratically run mutual banks so as to issue free credit, or credit with no interest. Some theorists believe that the banks would charge just enough interest to cover the operating expenses of the banks, but not provide returns to pre-existing capital. These systems would separate currency from assets.


Mutualists advocate a system of trade between producers which utilizes the cost principle in a system of contract. These contracts would take into account factors such as labor hours, labor intensity, and the nature of the labor, and so on.

Gradualism/Dual Power

Unlike other anarchists who advocate revolution, mutualists support a gradual overtaking of the system from within by creating worker cooperatives using mutualist principles, which would grow and eventually outcompete capitalist enterprises, once state-enforced monopolies have been eliminated.

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