This article reconsiders the economic history of mutualism from the period 1789–1947 through the lens of its relationship to capitalism. Throughout the period from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune, mutualism’s relationship to capitalism was ambiguous: it was partly subversive of and partly integrated into capitalism. Since 1871, however, mutualism has largely been incorporated into capitalism. It was during this post-1871 period that the mutualist and syndicalist movements split. Under the Second Empire and the Third Republic, the French government sought to integrate mutualism in order to strip it of its anti-establishment content. In contrast to traditional interpretations, this article argues that the establishment of social security in France, in 1945, should be read not as the syndicalists’ revenge over the mutualists, but rather that of one form of mutualism over another.
Nicolas Da Silva
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