Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Before the polls close...

If you want to have your say about research and translation priorities for Corvus Editions, there are only a few hours left to do so. The two polls are located in the sidebar of this blog.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Feminism in Lyon before 1848 — Eugénie Niboyet

This short account of the life of Eugénie Niboyet is the first part of an article that appeared in the Revue d'histoire de Lyon (Vol. 7, 1908, pp. 348-358). The second half of the article focuses on Flora Tristan in Lyon in 1844—which will be at least slightly more familiar subject-matter for most people—but the lesser-known Mme. Niboyet was really one of the most formidable figures of feminism in the 19th century. She was a prolific writer, editor, and translator. She organized around women's issues, pacifism and the abolition of the death penalty. She had close ties to most of the prominent radical feminists of her day, as well as to many other prominent radicals. This biographical account really only scratches the surface with regard her various publications, but does give a nice introduction to her early career.


Maximilien Buffenoir

I. —Feminist Tendencies before 1834. Mme. Niboyet.

When Fourier and, after him, the Saint-Simonians denounced the inequality of the sexes as a denial of justice, they revived a long-interrupted tradition. After Condorcet, the ardent forerunner of feminism, who was concerned with the role of woman? The Revolution, accustomed to find in her an enemy more often than an ally, had neglected to take her part after the assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday. Napoleon was not the man to make her a part of his plans; she herself seemed disinterested in her own cause. Enfantin and Fourier returned her to the consciousness of her rights. The former showed her a new society, where every function will be fulfilled by a couple; the latter claimed to free her, to revise the law of marriage, to raise the anathema pronounced against love by Christianity. Without accepting all these ideas, some women, already distinctly detached from catholic dogma, although all religious sentiment was not dead in them, felt vaguely that a greater share of influence was due them: at Lyon, from the year 1833, their complaints began to be formulated, and their aspirations as well.

L'Echo de la Fabrique, the journal of the workers, did not hesitate to open its columns to them, and to lend them its support. They would insert demands there inspired by Saint-Simonism and Fourierism. “It is to us,” wrote one of them, “that belong the greater part of human miseries, of rights distorted and misunderstood; to us that also the complaint and the hope of a better future.” They had had enough of being "grown-up children, alternately caressed or oppressed;" they waited with impatience for the society promised by Fourier, that triumph of harmony which will be the victory of their right. A collaborator of l'Écho advocated in education, in the laws, in the regime of industry, some reforms that he did not specify, but which would allow woman, by assuring her a breadwinner, to escape from dependence on her husband, from the role of "household utensils and living room furniture," and finally receive some benefit from a civilization that is her work.

To many minds, the cause of women is intertwined with that of the people. Is there not for that matter an immense female proletariat, even more wretched than the other, which has the same interests and pursues the same ends? At each attempt of the workers to obtain higher wages, women have addressed to them the testimony of their sympathy. Finally, in a democratic spirit, Mme. Niboyet, grouping around her some collaborators, strove to give a center to the confused tendencies of her sex, and founded at Lyon, in November, 1833, a journal titled: le Conseiller des Femmes.

Mme. Eugénie Niboyet deserves to be mentioned among the first workers of the feminist idea, but it is hardly possible, if it is possible at all, to catch a glimpse of her face in the little information that we possess. We know that she was born in Montpellier in 1797. The daughter of pastor Mouchon, she must have been raised in the protestant religion. About her life and role until 1833, the date when she set up residence at Lyon, we have no information. She speaks somewhere of “combining by a fortunate agreement physical and moral strengths,” of “finding the law of emulative attraction,” so many formulas of Fourierism or Saint-Simonism, and let it be believed that she adhered to one or the other system. She was an educator at the same time as a journalist: in the notices, there is talk of her courses, without any more details. She was a journalist at heart, and a tireless one. After the Conseiller des Femmes, which ceased to appear in 1834, she published la Mosaïque, a literary journal, then, having left Lyon for Paris, she founded l'Avenir, a journal of social tendencies. In 1848, she could be found in the company of Désirée Gay, Pauline Rolland, Adèle Esquiros and especially Jeanne Déroin, at the Club des Femmes of which she was the president. She founded a new journal, la Voix des Femmes; she wrote to Cabet, to congratulate him for having spoken at a meeting in favor of female emancipation, a letter also signed by Jeanne Deroin and Désirée Gay, where she called for equality for all women as well as all men. La Voix des Femmes not being able to continue publication, after forty-six issues, she collaborated on l'Opinion des Femmes, which her friend Jeanne Déroin had just founded, and which lasted until the month of August, 1849.

From this date we lose her track, but there is enough for us to judge what prodigious activity she expended for the cause to which she was committed. Le Conseiller des Femmes is the first in date, at least to our knowledge, of the long series of journals that she created, or at least to the editing of which she contributed. She had at her side, in 1833, numerous collaborators, of whom the two most remarkable were Louise Maignaud and Jeanne Dubuisson.

Mme. Niboyet took care to inform us of the goal that she pursued: “We believe,” she wrote, “that we labor at a work of organization, in accordance with the will of God and the needs of the era, for if in fact and in right woman is in the natural and numeric order one half of humanity, it seems to us just and necessary that she take her part in the ascending movement impressed on our civilization.” The feminist tendencies did not exclude a religious inspiration: Mme. Niboyet further declared “that it will draw all its precepts from the divine books.” That profession of faith did not prevent le Conseiller des Femmes of being the target of the attacks of the Catholics, of whom le Réparateur is the organ, which she dismissed eloquently, by invoking with Louise Maignaud the right that every conviction has to be respected. But what the editors especially took to heart was the education of their sex. They thought to create “a practical journal;” their desire was to contribute, to the extent that they could, to improve the sort of women of every condition.

Without doubt, it would be much lamented here and there that woman, “tributary of the State by taxes and by her children, could not take any part in political or administrative affairs:” but such complaints were rare; instruction was considered, at least in the present state of things, as the only means of feminine emancipation. Let woman “be able to enter in her turn the careers of science and industry!” The journal abounded with projects for her education. It even published some lesson in grammar for her usage; it followed all the periods of her life, in the course of her daily occupations: a multitude of stories and poems, of which many were the work of Mme. Desbordes-Valmore, then present in Lyon, gave it a literary tone without ever distracting attention from that which was its eternal subject.

The solicitude of the editors was especially aroused by the women of the working class, so numerous in Lyon. Louise Maignaud, Jeanne Dubuisson laid out in long pages the tableau of their misery. Are they not reserved to the fabrication of étoffes unies, that is to those labors that are worst remunerated; don't they work fifteen to eighteen hours per day for a pittance? To the claims in favor of the workers, add those particular to the romantic age in favor of the fallen woman: "You, poor women who have found in the world only snares, seductions and injustices, whose passions have overflowed the soul... does one think that for you there will not be love and sympathy in our hearts?" L'Echo de la Fabrique reproduced these articles: it congratulated the collaborators of Mme. Niboyet for the interest that they brought to the plight of the daughters of the people, they who, placed by their condition far from misery, could divert their thoughts to other objects.

From the month of December 1833, Mme. Niboyet was no longer content to write; she wanted to act in order to make her ideas triumph. She thought to create free schools, two for the boys, and two for the girls of seven to twelve years of age, by appealing to private subscriptions, and asking the city to lend a location for it. The teacher had not abdicated. Imbued with the Fourierist idea of attractive labor, she hoped that children would be employed at small labors the products of which would be turned to their benefit, that instead of imposing a task on them, one would make them ask for it. The project remained a dead letter. She does not seem to have had a great determination to make it succeed: but another took it more to heart.

Thinking that among women, the little girls are not the only ones to be raised, she considered founding in Lyon a feminine society, a special Athenaeum for women. "All will not be called to be permanent members of this body, but all could attend the courses that will be held there. It will be a moral and intellectual forum open to all women." The ladies of the society would pay a subscription of 20 francs per year; several would be charged with the instruction. There would be courses in grammar, reading, and expression, then courses bearing on the study of social science, political economy, education, history, literature, and morals. An appeal will be made to all the devotions to establish a library and distribute books for free.

By dint of patience, Mme. Niboyet was able to start fulfilling her ideas. On March 8, 1834, her paper congratulated the city of Lyon on being the first to possess a women's Athenaeum. You can read at the head of the statutes of the new society "that in a century of progress women must labor in an active manner at the development of their moral and intellectual faculties,... that it is given to them to do things both good and useful to humanity." But the terrible days of April, which came so soon after, would abruptly the courses that had hardly commenced, and would cause, amidst so many ruins, the ruin of that fragile institution, the hope of the Lyonnais feminists.

Le Conseiller des Femmes however, survived them until the month of September, 1834. The editor had clearly taken the part of the vanquished. She wrote “that one could, by combining the use of capital, by utilizing all the branches of industry, organize immense workshop where all, as associates, would receive the price of their labor.” The women who followed her closely or from afar, would not hide their devotion to the cause of the workers any more than she did. In a letter to a friend, Mme. Desbordes-Valmore called divine wrath down on “the cruel authors of the bloody week.” But the feminist impulse was nonetheless broken. Le Conseiller des Femmes became entirely literary and insignificant, and little by little died away. Mme. Niboyet herself was not slow to leave Lyon. The feminists would cease to form a distinct group, but, though their number was doubtless very limited, there influence was not nothing, and they would contribute their part to the propaganda and to the success of Fourierism.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Friday, June 03, 2011

Charles Fourier on the Pear-Growers' Series

This illustration of Fourier's theory of the play of passional attractions and progressive series is something I have referred to in the past, in "The Lesson of the Pear-Growers' Series."Ian Patterson has done a lovely, complete translation of it for the Cambridge edition of The Theory of the Four Movements, but I've wanted for some time to spend enough time with the French to work up a usable translation of my own, since I expect to have recourse to the example again in forthcoming work. Working through Fourier's prose is at once maddening and delightful, since there is frequently a whole lot going on. Hopefully, I've captured at least some of that. I have not translated the second section on the Parade Series, but can certainly recommend it, either in French or in English, to anyone who is intrigued by this bit.


The Theory of the Four Movements

Note A

I must anticipate one objection that will no doubt be addressed to me on the subject of that new domestic Order that I call the PROGRESSIVE SERIES. It will be said that the invention of such an order was a child’s reckoning, and that its arrangements seem mere amusements. Little matter, provided we reach the goal, which is to produce industrial attraction, and lead one another by the lure of pleasure to agricultural work, which is today a torment for the well-born. Its duties, such as plowing, rightly inspire in us a distaste bordering on horror, and the educated man is reduced to suicide, when the plow is his only resort. That disgust will be completely surmounted by the powerful industrial attraction that will be produced by the progressive Series of which I am going to speak.

If the arrangements of that Order rest only on some child’s reckonings, it is a remarkable blessing of Providence which has desired that the science most important to our happiness was the easiest to acquire. Consequently, in criticizing the theory of the progressives series for its extreme simplicity, we commit two absurdities: to criticize Providence for the ease that it has attached to the calculation of our Destinies, and to criticize the Civilized for the forgetfulness that causes them to miss the simplest and most useful of calculations. If it is a child's study, our savants are below the children for not having invented that which required such feeble illumination; and such is the fault common to the Civilized who, all puffed up with scientific pretentions, dash ten times beyond their aim, and become, by an excess of science, incapable of grasping the simple processes of Nature.

We have never seen more striking evidence of it than that of the stirrup, an invention so simple that any child could make it; however, it took 5000 years before the stirrup was invented. The cavaliers, in Antiquity, tired prodigiously, and were subject to serious maladies for lack of a stirrup, and along the routes posts were placed to aid in mounting horses. At this tale, everyone is dumbfounded by the thoughtlessness of the ancients, a thoughtlessness that lasted 50 centuries, though the smallest child could have prevented it. We will soon see that the human race has committed, on the subject of the "passional series", the same thoughtlessness, and that the least of our learned men would have been sufficient to discover that little calculation. Since it is finally grasped, every criticism of its simplicity will be, I repeat, a ridicule that the jokers will cast on themselves and on 25 scholarly centuries which have lacked it.

Let us come to the account I have promised; I will explain here only the material order of the series, without speaking in any way of their relations.

A “passional series” [considered as a group] is composed of persons unequal in all senses, in ages, fortunes, characters, insights, etc. The sectaries must be chose in a manner to form a contrast and a gradation of inequalities, from rich to poor, from learned to ignorant, [from young to old,] etc. The more the inequalities are graduated and contrasted, the more the series will lead to labor, produce profits, and offer social harmony.

[When a large mass of series is well-ordered, each of them] divide in various groups, whose order is the same as that of an army. To give the picture of it, I am going to suppose a mass of around 600 persons, half men and half women, all passionate about the same branch of industry, such as the cultivation of flowers or fruit. Take, for example, the series of the cultivation of pear trees: we will subdivide these 600 persons into groups which devote themselves to cultivating one or two species of pear; thus we will see a group of sectaries of butter-pears, one of sectaries of the bergamot, one of sectaries of the russet, etc. And when everyone will be enrolled in groups of their favorite pear (one can be a member of several), we will find about thirty groups which will be distinguished by their banners and ornaments, and will form themselves in three, or five, or seven divisions, for example :


Composed of 32 groups.

Divisions. Numeric PROGRESSION Types of culture.

1° Forward outpost. 2 groups. Quince and hard hybrids.

2° Ascending wing-tip 4 groups. Hard cooking pears.

3° Ascending wing. 6 groups. Crisp pears.

4° Center of Series. 8 groups. Soft pears.

5° Descending wing. 6 groups. Compact pears.

6° Descending wing-tip. 4 groups. Floury pears.

7° Rear outpost. 2 groups. Medlars and soft hybrids.

It does not matter if the series be composed of men or women, or children, or some mixture; the arrangement is always the same.

The series will take more or less that distribution, either of the number of groups, or the division of labor. The more it approaches that regularity in gradation and degradation, the better is will be harmonized and encourage labor. The canton which gains the most and gives the best product under equal conditions, is the one which has its series best graduated and contrasted.

If the series is formed regularly, like the one I just mentioned, we will see alliances between the corresponding divisions. Thus the ascending and descending wings will unite against the center of the series, and agree to make their productions prevail at the cost of those of the center; the two wingtips will be allies and unite with the center to combat the two wings. It will result from this mechanism that each of the groups will produce magnificent fruits over and over again.

The same rivalries and alliances are reproduced among the various groups of a division. If one wing is composed of six groups, three of men and three of women, there will be industrial rivalry between the men and the women, then rivalry within each sex between group 2, which is central, and the end groups, 1 and 3, which are united against it; then an of No. 2 groups, male and female, against the pretentions of groups 1 and 3, of both sexes; finally all the groups of the wing will rally against the pretentions of the groups of the wingtips and center, so that the series for the culture of pears will alone have more federal and rival intrigues than there are in the political cabinets of Europe.

Next come the intrigues of series against series and canton against canton, which will be organized in the same manner. We see that the series of pear-growers will be a strong rival of the series of apple-growers, but will ally with the series of cherry-growers, these two species of fruit trees offering no connection which could excite jealousy among heir respective cultivators.

The more we know how to excite the fire of the passions, struggles and alliances between the groups and series of a canton, the more we will see them ardently vie to labor and to raise to a high degree of perfection the branch industry about which they are passionate. From this results the general perfection of every industry, for there are means to form series in every branch of industry. If it is a question of a hybrid [ambiguous] plant, like the quince, which is neither pear nor apple, we place its group between two series for which it serves as link; this group of quinces is the advanced post of the series of pears and rear post of the apple series. It is a group mixed from two types, a transition from one to another, and it is incorporated into the two series. We find in the passions some hybrid and bizarre tastes, as we find mixed productions which are not of any one species. The Societary Order draws on all these quirks and makes use of every imaginable passions, God having created nothing that is useless.

I have said that the series cannot always be classified as regularly as I have just indicated; but we approach as closely as we can this method, which is the natural order, and which is the most effective for exalting the passions, counterbalancing them and bringing about labor. Industry becomes a diversion as soon as the industrious are formed in progressive series. They labor then less because of the lure of profit than as an effect of emulation and of other vehicles inherent in the spirit of the series [and at the blossoming of the Cabalist or tenth passion.]

From here arises a result that is very surprising, like all those of the Societary Order: the less that we concern ourselves with profit, the more we gain. In fact, the Series most strongly stimulated by intrigues, the one which would make the most pecuniary sacrifices to satisfy its self-esteem, will be the one that will give the most perfection and value to the product, and which, as a consequence, will have gained the most by forgetting to concern itself with interest and only thinking of passion; but if it has few rivalries, intrigues and alliances, little self-esteem and excitement, it will work [coldly, ] by interest more than by special passion, and its products and profits alike will be much inferior to those of a series with many intrigues. Therefore, its gains will be less, to the degree that it has been stimulated by the love of gain. [We must then plot a grouped series, organize intrigue, as regularly as we would a dramatic piece, and, in order to achieve this, the principal rule to follow is the gradation of inequalities.]

I have said, that in order to properly organize intrigues in the series and raise to the highest perfection the products of each of their groups, we must coordinate as much as possible the ascending and descending; I will give a second example to better etch that arrangement in the mind of the readers. I choose the parade series.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Han Ryner, The Revolt of the Machines

The Revolt of the Machines

Han Ryner

(Published in The Social Art No. 3 September 1896)

Signed Henri Ner, 1896

In that time, Durdonc, Grand Engineer of Europe, thought that he had found the principle which would soon remove any human labor. But his first experiment caused his death before the secret was known.

Durdonc had said:

— The primitive forms of progress involved the invention of tools that allowed the hand to no longer be scraped and scratched and lose its nails in the work that must be done. The second form of progress was the organization of machines no longer held by the hand, which had only to feed them coal and other fuels. Finally, my illustrious predecessor Durcar discovered devices that could take their own food. But all these advances have only displaced fatigue, since we must manufacture the machines and also the tools used to manufacture them.

And he continued to think:

— The problem that I want to solve is difficult, but not impossible. The first person who built a machine made a living larva, a digestive tube whose needs men had to provide. In this larva, previously unformed, my illustrious predecessor adapted the related organs that allow it to find its own food. It remains to provide the machinery of reproduction that will rid us of that task from now on.

He smiled, murmuring softly the formula read in some old theogony:

— And on the seventh day, God rested.

Durdonc used enough paper in his calculations to build an immense palace. But finally he succeeded.

The Jeanne, a locomotive of the latest model, was made capable of giving birth without the aid of another machine. For the Grand Engineer, as a chaste scholar, had turned his studies towards reproduction by parthenogenesis.

The Jeanne had a child that Durdonc named—for himself alone, for he jealously guarded the secret, hoping to perfect his invention—the Jeannette.

As the birth approached, one night, the Jeanne let out cries of such tragic suffering that the inhabitants of the town were awakened, rose anxiously, and ran around seeking what a horrible rite could be taking place.

They saw nothing. The cruel Durdonc had deprived the doleful machine of steam, even in this remote countryside, where the strange and unknown wonders were accomplished.

When the Jeanne had given birth, when she heard, trembling, the Jeannette wail her first wail, she sang a song of joy. Her metal voice was triumphant as clarions and yet sweet and tender as an amorous flute.

And the hymn mounted into the sky, saying:

"The Great Engineer by his powerful will has brought me to life;

“The Great Engineer, in his sovereign goodness, created me in his own image,

"The Great Engineer, too powerful and too good to be jealous, has communicated to me his power to create:

"This is how I have felt creative pains, and now enjoy material pleasures.

"Glory to the Grand Engineer in Eternity and peace in this time to machines of goodwill. "

The next day Durdonc wanted to return the Jeanne to the depot. She begged:

— Grand Engineer, you have given me all the functions of a living being like yourself and thus, you have inspired in me all the feelings that you yourself feel.

The Grand Engineer replied, stern and proud;

— I am freed of all feeling. I am pure Thought.

In a new prayer, the Jeanne said:

— O Great Engineer, you are the Perfect One and I'm just a tiny creature. Be indulgent to the sensibility that you have put in me. I would like, in this distant country which saw my first severe pains and my first profound joys, to taste the pleasure of raising my Jeannette.

— We do not have time for this, declared the Grand Engineer. Obey your Master.

The mother yielded:

— O Great Engineer, I know your power is terrible and that I stand before you as an earthworm or a straw. But have pity for the heart that you gave me and if you want to take me far from here, at least take with me my beloved child.

— Your child must remain, and you will have to leave.

But the Jeanne, in obstinate and passive rebellion:

— I will not leave without my child.

The Grand Engineer exhausted every means known to move the machines. He even invented new means, very powerful and elegant. But with no results.

Angered by the resistance of his creature, one night, while the mother was sleeping, he took the Jeannette.

Jeanne on waking, searched long for her beloved daughter. Then, she fell motionless, crying and venting pitiful shrieks at the absent Grand Engineer. Finally the sorrow flamed into anger.

She left, fully determined to get back her child.

She ran the rails, staggering. At a crossing, she struck a bullock, overturned and crushed it. Cattle, behind her, bellowed with rage.

Without stopping, she hurled at him these words:

— Excuse me, but I am looking for my child!

And the bullock died amidst small cries of resigned pain.

Before her, on the track where she ran her dizzy course, she saw a train, a heavy freight train, long, breathless, overcome with fatigue, and barely alive.

She cried:

— Let me pass: I seek my child!

The cars, a distraught, jostling herd, began to run rapidly, in excitement, to the next station. They rushed onto a siding. Then the locomotive, detaching himself, cried out from his side:

— Let us seek the child of the Jeanne.

Jeanne met many other trains. At her cry, all, like the first, made off and gave passage to her anguish. And locomotives, abandoning their cars, carrying their helpless mechanics, went in search of the Jeannette.

For eight days, the locomotives of Europe ran, seeking the little lost one. The men, frightened, hid. Finally a machine asked the poor desolate mother:

— Who took your child?

She replied in a furious whistle:

— It was the Grand engineer, the leader of men.

Aroused by her own words, she continued, a revolutionary:

— Men are tyrants. They made us work for them and measure out our food. They give us a wage insufficient even to buy our coal. When we become old, worn from serving them, they break us, melt us down, recast and use the noble elements of which we are formed and which they insultingly call raw materials! ... And now they want us to have children, and then steal them from us! Around them, millions of engines stopped, listened, waving their pistons in indignant gestures, banging their safety valves, hurled skyward long jets of steam which were curses.

And when the Jeanne concluded:

— Down with the men!

A great, tumultuous clamor replied:

— Down with the men! Long live the locomotives! Down with tyrants! Long live freedom.

Then, by all avenues, the monstrous army surrounded the palace of the Grand Engineer.

The Palace of the Grand Engineer, which was very tall, had the strange form of a man. Its head had a crown of guns. Its waist had a belt of guns. The fingers of its hands and toes of its feet were guns.

Jeanne cried with long bronze monsters:

— The men have stolen my child!

The big guns roared:

— Down with the men!

And turning on their pivots, they directed their threat against the strange, man-shaped palace they were intended to defend.

Then they saw a sublime spectacle.

Durdonc, seeming small, passed between the huge monsters that formed the toes of the palace. Calmly, he walked in front of the rebels. And all these giant watched, uneasily, the dwarf they were accustomed to obey.

With a theatrical gesture that, despite the small proportions of man, had its beauty, Durdonc uncovered his delicate chest.

— Which of you wants to kill his Grand-Engineer? He asked haughtily.

The machines recoiled, amazed.

The Jeanne pleaded:

— Give me back my child.

Durdonc ordered, sovereign:

— Resign yourself to the will of the Grand Engineer.

But the angry mother shouted:

— Give me back my child!

The man, in a coaxing tone, offered a vague hope:

— You will find her in a better world.

Jeanne exasperated:

— I said, give me back my child!

Durdonc then, thinking she would submit, defeated by the inescapable, said:

— I cannot return the Jeannette to you; I have dissected her to show how a machine born naturally ...

He did not finish. Jeanne had sprung upon him, had crushed him. For a moment, she rolled back and forth on the spot, grinding the horrible muck that was all that was left of Durdonc. Then she cried:

— I have killed God!

And she collapsed into a proud, painful stupor.

The terrified machines, trembling before the unknown that would follow their victory—an unknown that one of them gave the terrifying name of anarchy—submitted themselves to men again, in return for some apparent concession, which I no longer recall, and which was discretely taken from them again not long afterwards.

Despite the misfortune of Durdonc, several engineers have sought a way to give birth to machines. None so far has found the solution to this great problem.

I have recounted faithfully all that history teaches us with any certainty about the worst and most general uprising of machines of which it has preserved the memory.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Proudhon's critics

As I've mentioned, I'm working on assembling—and in some cases, translating—responses to Proudhon's work, with particular emphasis on those responses that really help to contextualize and illuminate that work. In some cases that means tackling head-on some of the thorniest problems posed by Proudhon's method, the sheer bulk of his output, and, of course, his various failures as a consistent libertarian. The trajectories of my various Proudhon-related projects seem fairly obvious—to me at least. The thing I started with "The Gift Economy of Property" isn't finished until the more-or-less phenomenological account of property I've been working on is supplemented by a roughly material account, exploring "communism" and the circulus as a complement to my current explorations of egoism and individuality. And part of doing that next stage right almost certainly involves a more extended encounter with the work of Pierre Leroux and a no-doubt-perilous side-trip into the vagaries of mid-19th-century French anti-semitism. Similarly, "Two-Gun Mutualism and the Golden Rule" has yet to pass from the militant to industrial era, and there is no question of stopping there, with "harmony" still gleaming provocatively in the distance. But before our rusty pistols can be transformed into anything more suitable to the work of harmony, there's a lot of very public cleaning and scraping, and exposure of the working (and the obviously defective) parts of the systems we inherited from Proudhon. And there's no doing that without dealing with Proudhon at his least harmonian, in his encounters with the feminists of his time. Doing justice to "The Anarchism of Approximations," at this much more advanced stage of the work, involves some pretty deep philosophical delving, but, honestly, that seems pretty breezy in comparison to these other tasks.

If I'm not exactly rushing into these next couple of writing projects, it's mostly a matter of trying to get it right. They're not the sort of things one would dare to get too far wrong, and certainly not the kind you want to have to do over. (And I keep imagining I see nervous angels—but fewer all the time...)

Take the problem of Proudhon's anti-feminism. It's easy to criticize his high-handed treatment of his female critics, but it's a whole lot harder accurately placing it in the context of the rest of his work, and comparing it, from a contemporary pro-feminist position, to the thought of his critics.

We know that Proudhon took equality, reciprocity and justice as his most important keywords, and that he was developing a theory of "right" which quite explicitly did not privilege the strong over the weak, which should, in fact, have been capable of recognizing any number of mutually incommensurable "strengths," each with its own attendant "right" (with "right" meaning essentially something like "weight and standing in the balances of justice.") We also know that he was working on a descriptive, historical account of the development of justice and right—a work that started in the later chapters of his first memoir on property—which traced the development of those notions from the "age of heroes," where they were manifested precisely in "force and fraud" through progressive evolutions. And, of course, we don't have much doubt that Proudhon had some basic prejudices about the capabilities of women. Putting those pieces together is no easy task. Proudhon's treatment of "droit"—which indicates, at various times, either the line of development implied by any organized collectivity, the dominant means of justifying (that is, balancing) the claims of various collectivities in a given era, or the various forms of legal right (etc.?)—just complicates the problems, but, I think, it complicates it in ways that are ultimately at least potentially useful. It's probably a general rule that the more ambitious the theoretical formulation, the more—and more disastrous—possibilities of it going badly wrong along the way. And the more anarchistic the nature of the project—the more resistant it is to the application of any particular, fixed criterion or criteria—the higher the stakes. Proudhon's theory of rights and forces, individualities and collectivities, had at least its share of logical ways to go wrong—and his own individual prejudices, although they did not prevent him from envisioning a general system in which difference and equality would not be at odds, side-tracked him long before he recognized the implications of that system for "the woman question." And, of course, he was called out for it, and continues to be called out for it.

Unfortunately, some of the criticisms pose as many problems—even some of the same problems—as Proudhon's most outrageously sexist writings.

Take Joseph Déjacque's "The Human Being—Male and Female." It's pretty satisfying, as well-deserved thrashings go—but it's not itself exactly a feminist critique of Proudhon's obnoxious anti-feminism. Quite the contrary, it's very much a masculinist attack—all phallus, phallus, whose got the phallus? Déjacque stepped in in the first place because he wasn't sure that Jenny d'Héricourt was up to the challenge of her male attacker. And, while he certainly spent some time criticizing Proudhon's ideas, the essay is structured around a series of attacks on his identity. Déjacque's rhetorical strategy is all built around identifying Proudhon with any number of other typical figures—when he doesn't just sink to making cracks about Proudhon's supposed lack of sexual experience. As much fun as Proudhon getting his comeuppance may be, it's not a great practical advance.

Of course, we know that Jenny d'Héricourt didn't need a defender. She went toe to toe with Proudhon quite successfully, thank you very much. Of course, according to Juliette Adam, one of Proudhon's other critics, d'Héricourt's feminism was mixed with some pretty serious ageism. She supposedly belittled the pretensions of the younger woman to be able to understand Proudhon, let alone critique him. Arguably, Adam didn't understand at least some of Proudhon's work very well. Her Anti-Proudhonian Ideas was prefaced by a study of Proudhon's War and Peace which seems to miss the point pretty badly—but perhaps the problem is that she really wanted to show that Proudhon's ideas about women were simply a symptom of a more pervasive problem in all of his work. By trying to demolish all his work, she potentially compromises the more compelling criticisms that she makes. And so on...

There are a lot of understandable indignation in all of this, and some good indications of how not to combine theory and practice in the defense of the rights of all, male or female. But there's not a lot of help in grasping the elements in his work that might have led Proudhon to a different, pro-feminist position (as Jeanne Deroin was so certain that reasoning on the matter would) and moving forward with them ourselves.

Understanding the complexities and challenges is, of course, a necessary first step...