“The Straight Path That Leads to Sodom”: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s Sexual Politics and 19th Century French Feminist Responses




Sozen, Gizem

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Despite the emphasis Proudhon placed on the significance of his ideas on women’s status within society, the patriarchal family, and the conjugal couple for his political thought, scholars of Proudhon display a tendency to bracket off Proudhon’s sexual politics from his general political philosophy. This dissertation comes to grips with Proudhon’s sexism and anti-feminism by first taking Proudhon at his word regarding its importance to his whole political project. I treat Proudhon as a strategist of patriarchal domination in the face of emerging feminist challenges and I argue that his ideas, all of them, should be examined in the light of his own claims about their relation to his anti-feminism. His was a vision of a new patriarchate in which men held full authority within their individual households and, beyond the household, freely associated and federated with each other—in other words, what Proudhon demanded was an anarchism of patriarchs. Proudhon erected the sovereignty of each man out of their absolute mastery over women and crafted mutualism and federalism in order to prevent any intrusion into that sovereignty, making apologetic readings that separate Proudhon’s revolutionary political thought from his patriarchalism difficult to accept. In addition to my engagement with Proudhon’s anti-feminism, this dissertation situates him in the context of 19th century debates around the so-called woman question in French socialism. I have chosen to directly engage with Proudhon’s feminist opponents such as Jeanne Deroin, Jenny d’Héricourt, and Juliette Lambert. On the basis of this feminist literature, this dissertation reconstructs Proudhon’s anti-feminist ideas and agenda dialogically by placing them in opposition to the women whose ideas and movement had actually motivated his writing on the subject in the first place.



Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Jenny d'Héricourt, Juliette Lambert, 19th Century French Feminism, Anarchism, Romantic Socialism