Monday, July 23, 2012

Terrence, "A Short Introduction to the Works of Charles Fourier" (1848)

[Excerpt; full text at Splendors of the Combined Order]
It is manifest that in a society where all its members, men, women, and children, are guaranteed a respectable maintenance through their own industry, the condition of woman will be materially altered, and that the gentler half of humanity will cease to be held in thraldom by the physically stronger. But there would be so much to say on this subject, that we prefer reserving it for a special article. Suffice it to say, that even in marriage, woman would still retain her individuality and independence, and no longer be absorbed in the person of her husband, and often brutalized by his power. Her property, her earnings, her inheritances, all would remain indisputably her own, and be subject to no marital influences. The great equalizer, Love, would of course make all things common between those whose union originated in the heart; and in the Phalanstery there would be no other unions; but the law would not step in and say to the wife, “All that was yours belongs henceforth to your husband; your duty is for the future resignation and obedience to his will and his caprices.” And let it be observed, that every step towards the complete emancipation of woman is likewise a step in the progress of humanity; and that, were civilised nations suddenly to exchange monogamy and the civil rights of the wife for polygamy, or the seraglio, they would in a short period relapse into barbarianism. Independence and the general education of the mind and heart of woman will do more towards the extirpation of vice than all the moral treatises that were ever penned by hoary-headed men; and modesty and virtue will reign universally, when woman, the protecting angel of our infancy, the fairest dream of our youth, the companion of our life, being fully emancipated and conscious of her supreme worth, shall universally receive that esteem, love, and reverence, to which she is so eminently entitled.
Then will the chivalrous sentiments which cast such a charm and lustre over the early parts of modern times, and which were, alas! rather the creation of poetic minds than a genuine picture of the social habits, be in truth realised; for when woman, becoming free, no longer depends upon marriage to obtain a certain standing in life, a feeling which but too often induces her to form a union against the inspirations of her heart, man will be aware that to obtain her, he must win her affections, deserve her esteem, and far from commanding and tyrannising in what is essentially the dominion of woman, must in Love subject himself to her will. These principles will no doubt seem far from orthodox to the stronger sex, who in framing the laws of marriage, have been careful to reserve for themselves the lion’s share; but let them consider well that they may yet be the gainers by the change; for woman, restored to her rights and dignity, will no longer have recourse to the cunning and duplicity by which she now but too frequently regains the influence of which she has been so unjustly deprived. If any man doubt this influence. obtained by double dealing and deceit, let him but examine attentively the domestic circle of his neighbours and friends, though it were better he shut his eyes against his own. 
While on this subject we will briefly state that the few pages in which Fourier treats of matrimonial doctrines have called forth the most bitter and no doubt virtuous animadversions of our modern Tartuffes, who instead of attentively studying the system as a whole, in order to be able to judge fairly, even though unfavourably, of its parts, act like boys with a book of medical or natural science, seeking out certain passages with the help of the index, and then, taking their own impure minds and our corrupt civilisation as a standard, build thereon a system of turpitude and vice by which they alarm innocent and unsuspecting minds, and thus deter them from the study of a science which bears in it the germs of the future regeneration of mankind. But, to pacify the pure minded, thus alarmed by mere sophisms, we will simply assert that Fourier has striven to introduce into the relations of love that same truthfulness and sincerity which he makes the basis of all-our other relations in life; and though he foresaw that in a purer state of society, in which all impediments are removed from genuine unions of the heart, and in which that monstrous legal prostitution, that infamy of infamies, the “mariage de convenance” is utterly unknown, some modifications may without danger take place in matrimonial institutions. Though he foresaw this, still, unlike Plato, Owen, and St. Simon, he always strenuously maintained that the present conjugal institutions should be most religiously preserved for three or four generations after the general establishment of harmony upon earth; and even then only altered when all those whom the question most vitally interests, viz., husbands, fathers, magistrates, and the clergy, shall have agreed, after due consideration, that a change would be desirable and unattended with peril. Still, unlike the above-named philosophers, he lays down no positive or dogmatic rule on this subject, but merely states that such and such forms of conjugal relations, which he describes, may possibly, and in all probability will be, the result of the serial or natural organization of labour, which is alone proposed by him as an absolute rule. The pertinacity with which all his opponents-attack him on this point only betrays their utter ignorance of his works; and more than one has been surprised in perusing them carefully, neither to find as the rule of this new social order the polygamy of the Patriarchs, nor the revolting community of women paired off yearly by lots, proposed by the divine Plato.

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