Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The World War of Small Pastries by Charles Fourier, introduction by Hermetic Library Fellow Peter Lamborn Wilson.
This little book is a translated excerpt from Le Nouveau Monde Amoureux–a compendious early-19th-century envisioning of Harmony, i.e. the social conditions to supersede and abrogate Civilization. If Harmony had come quickly, the World Wars of European hegemony might have been replaced with the gargantuan conflict of petits patés described here. The ur-socialist Charles Fourier (called by his later detractors “utopian”) proposed the wholesale replacement of what we have come to know as the military-industrial complex by a gastronomic-passional enterprise, where food, sex, and humane service would be the channels by which “the omnimode play of the passions” might be developed in honorable competition among empires.
Peter Lamborn Wilson’s brief introduction supplies a sense of the relation of Fourier to the history of ideas, along with some information on the value of the present text (not published even in the original French for nearly a century and a half after his death). Translators Shawn P. Wilbur and Joan Roelofs offer a reasonably approachable English for this material that is somewhat mystifying regardless, taking for granted as it does the reader’s appreciation of Fourier’s passional calculus along with a future history in which the human population of the globe has reached an abundantly-supplied and sustainable four billion.
There are lacunae and interruptions in the text, which I take to be artifacts of the emergence from manuscript in 1967. These enhance its perversely oracular character with something like the documentary conceit common to older adventure fantasies and science fiction. The basic social unit of Harmony, known in other texts as a phalanstery, is here called a tourbillon. As the translator-editors note, this name “suggests the constant, restless movement by which communities in Harmony find the means of satisfying all the passions” (18 n.).