The Hierarchies of Cuckoldry and Bankruptcy
Admired by Marx and Engels, the Surrealists, the Situationists, Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes, the great utopian socialist Charles Fourier (1772-1837) has been many things to many people: a proto-feminist, a Surrealist ancestor, a cantankerous cosmologist, a social critic and humorist and to this day one of France’s truest visionary thinkers. He was also, as this volume demonstrates, a maniacal taxonomist. In this zoological guidebook to cuckoldry and commerce, Fourier offers a caustic critique of the bankruptcy of marriage and the prostitution of the economy, and the hypocrisies of a civilization that over-regulates sexual congress while allowing the financial sector to screw over the public. Gathered together here for the first time are Fourier’s two “Hierarchies” –humorously regimented parades of civilization’s cheaters and cheated-on in the domestic sphere of sex and the economic sphere of buying and selling commodities. “The Hierarchy of Cuckoldry” –translated into English for the first time–presents 72 species of the male cuckold, ranging from such “common class” cases as the Health-Conscious Cuckolds, to the short-horned Sympathetic, Optimist and Mystical Cuckolds, and the Long-horned varieties of the Irate, Disgraced and Posthumous Cuckolds. For Fourier, these amount to 72 manifestations of women’s “secret insurrection” against the institution of marriage. “The Hierarchy of Bankruptcy” presents 36 species of the fraudulent bankrupt: a range of Light, Grandiose, and Contemptible shades of financial manipulators who force creditors, cities and even nations to bail them out of ultimately profitable bankruptcies. In these attacks on the morality of monogamy and the perils of laissez-faire capitalism, Fourier’s “Hierarchies” resonate uncannily with our contemporary world.
“When satire is at its best, it will create ideas that come from the hilarity that we are provided, and this is what Fourier does best as he provides his accusations against modern bourgeois society.” (Ian Baran, New York Public Library)