“The Hierarchies of Cuckoldry and Bankruptcy” – By Charles Fourier – book review

I saw this book mentioned in some pieces about the early utopian socialist named Charles Fourier, who I recently wrote a RationalWiki article about. Charles is interesting to me because his writing is a juxtaposition of a number of things that would seem very odd today, including full-throated feminism, being the first person to coin the word “feminism”, half-satirical rape apology, and a sympathy for incels. But the book wasn’t online despite being in the public domain!, so I shelled out $13 for one of a small stock of physical copies left for purchase. It may not even be printed anymore.

Fourier thought traditional marriage was only bad for some

After reading this short book, I can say most bloggers have the book wrong. The book is not a, “total evisceration of marriage”, as even the blurbs on the back suggest. Fourier instead half-jokingly proposes that long term monogamous marriage works for only certain people (he proposes particularly for native Germans due to their “monotony”).

However, the book is not particularly ideological. It’s mostly a humorous and satirical work of autistic labeling, similar to the sort of thing many Incel Wiki and Encyclopedia Dramatica writers do.

To the extent the book is ideological, it takes a number of other positions, namely:

  • An objective of marriage is to provide partners to poor men
  • Marriage is innately bankrupt for large groups of people, but not all people
  • Cuckoldry is evil. And by, “cuckoldry”, he means infidelity while under a vow of monogamous marriage, never outside of a vow of monogamous marriage.
  • Certain groups of people, and even entire nations should abandon marriage altogether because it is not in their nature to be lifelong monogamous partners
  • Feminism makes men and women more honest, and would lead to a better future for both after a period of uncomfortable or destructive anarchy

This combination of positions may seem bad for incels, after all why propose getting rid of marriage if an objective of marriage is to reduce inceldom?

Well Fourier in the second half of his book draws implicit comparisons of failed marriages to bankruptcy. He also states explicitly that it is simply not in the nature of many people to be in a long term monogamous union, and therefore for those people, marriage does not fulfill it’s objectives (ever heard of r/deadbedrooms?) and some other sexual mating pattern should replace it for those people.

He doesn’t provide a remedy for inceldom that his feminism he proposes in his book would cause. He simply lays down a problem that he later ‘solves’ in various other works, portions of which is available in a hastily dumped archive of his works online. This incel-sympathy portion of his work was formally published much later than most of his work, in that it took until 1967-1971 for this portion of Fourier to be more widely read.

Fourier’s remedy for inceldom was basically close communal communities where servicing incels would be part of the social contract, either as a punishment or out of good will, but would be part of the script of the society regardless. Fourier’s sexual entitlement stance doesn’t initially fit squarely in the mind with the libertarianism Fourier loves to characterize himself as. But Fourier doesn’t see many people objecting to such an incel-reduction program if it it were scripted into society.

These quotes explains Fourier’s stance on incels:

“In 1816 a young man was prosecuted in the French courts for having raped six women whose ages ranged from sixty to eighty. (No doubt he raped a good many others who were not heard of.) His trial was discussed in all the journals. . . . The man was found guilty and sentenced. Yet it might have been wiser to distribute pieces of his clothing as religious relics to inspire imitation of his fine example. It is evident that this young paragon was acting out of need, and it is also evident that the sexual needs of men and women can become just as urgent as their need for food.

It follows that society should grant a minimum of satisfaction to the two senses of taste and touch. For the needs of these two senses can become much more urgent than those of the other three. The body may suffer if they are not gratified, whereas a lack of pleasures appealing to the eyes, the ears and the nose will do it no harm.”

“Let us take note of the supreme injustice of our civilized legislators and the noxious spirit which inspires their secret policies. They are not unaware that the sense of taste, the need for subsistence, is the guiding force in the lives of the common people. They know that when food is lacking, the common people and simple soldiers will rebel and overthrow their government.[…]

Oblivious of their obligation to provide a minimum of subsistence, the law-makers are even less willing to grant a minimum of sexual gratification. They suppose that the sexual needs are less urgent than the need for food. This is an error. Even though a person can do without sexual intercourse but not without food, it is certain that the need for tactile or sensual pleasures causes as many social disorders as does the need for subsistence. […]”

The two senses react to deprivation in very different ways. While the sense of taste goes into open rebellion, the sense of touch protests silently. But if the ravages it causes are less obvious, they are no less real. The failure to gratify men’s tactile needs, their need for physical love, has led to the corruption of the whole system of amorous relations and the consequent erosion of the family system. Thus both minor affective passions —love and familism—have been perverted. […]”

This concealed mutiny is the inevitable result of our ignorant and vexatious legislation which does not wish to recognize the need of guaranteeing a minimum of satisfaction to the two senses of taste and touch, which are the two links between the physical and spiritual realms. When either of these senses is denied gratification, deprived of its necessary minimum, all spiritual relations are falsified. The result is that our social system is completely false in both amorous relations and in relations based on ambition.”

I am well aware that these abstractions will be incomprehensible to civilized law-makers. For they have absolutely no means of guaranteeing a minimum of food and comfort to the common people. They would be even less capable of establishing an amorous minimum, of forming groups intended to provide everyone with a minimum of physical satisfaction in love. My purpose is simply to demonstrate the incompatibility of civilization with the designs of nature and the necessity of escaping at once from this disastrous social order. The means of escape has been discovered. . . . […]”

“We are going to discuss a new amorous order in which sentiment, which is the noble side of love, will enjoy an unparalleled prestige and will endow all social relations with a unique charm. How will sentimental love maintain this dominion? Through the fact that the physical impulses, far from being fettered, will be fully satisfied. Through the fact that the need for physical gratification will no longer be regarded as any more indecent than the appetites of the other senses, the love of feasts, concerts, perfumes, finery, etc. Only by satisfying the need for physical love, will it become possible to guarantee the development of the noble element in love.” –The Utopian vision of Charles Fourier; Selected texts on work, love, and passionate attraction by Fourier

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