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The Rise And Fall Of Charles Fourier Essay, Research Paper
A new craze
swept France, as well as most of Europe, in the early nineteenth
The oppressed society was exhausted from its continual battle
people sought change; they sought relief from the socio-economic labyrinth
spinning themselves dizzy in for their entire lives, and the lives
fathers, and their
fathers before them. Their minds wandered from
the monotony of changing
thread in a textile mill or hauling buckets
of water in that same mill to a
land of liberty and
equality– their land
Then suddenly a door opened. And above that door, in block
word "SOCIALISM". And standing beside, beckoning to all
to enter, stood
Marie Charles Fourier.
Charles Fourier was
born on April 7, 1772, in Besançon, France. The son of
merchant, he was encouraged from an early age to pursue
died when Charles was nine, leaving him an estate valuing in
excess of 80,000
Upon the advice of his family, Fourier entered the business world, despite
interests in the arts and sciences. He pursued an apprenticeship in
system for four years, returning to Besançon in early 1793. He
years wisely, traveling through much of France and exploring the "cultural
diversity" of the places he visited. However, due to the turmoil and
France at the time, the Fourier family lost all their property.
circumstances brought Fourier’s return to Paris. (Taylor
It was here where he founded the basic principles of his socio-economic
He was given a first-hand view into the functioning of the economy, and he
by the corruption and deceit he discovered. Throughout his childhood,
then carried into adulthood, he witnessed the severity of
He matured in the aftermath of the French
Revolution, perhaps the most
incorrect" period in history. He
witnessed the havoc the guillotine wreaked
aristocracy while watching
the chaos created by the poverty that resulted
taxation of the
peasant class. He saw these two diametrically opposed groups
as the root
all evil and sought to weaken the force that drove them apart. An
existed between the upper and lower classes, and Fourier believed that
could find a
way to eliminate that, he would find true Utopia. He
gradually began to
alternative social order.
In 1808 a book
was published. It was appropriately titled Théorie des
et des Destinées Générales, or Theory of the Four Movements and
Destinies. Fourier was announcing to the world his discovery: not
natural laws, and laws of physics or science, there were social laws.
the four "spheres", his name for divisions of activity– the social,
material, each governed by strict mathematical laws.
(Taylor 101) However,
sphere that any discoveries had been made
in so far was the material sphere,
and this is
where the fault in civilized
society lay. If we could uncover the remaining
three, some of
may be remedied.
His second book was a deeper version of his first, in which
the stages of evolution, ranging from the formation
of man to the day of
Another followed, Traité de l’Association
Domestique-Agricole. In this work
introduced the Phalanx, from the Greek
word meaning an orderly body of
persons, and his
theory that "mankind could
begin to establish conditions of social harmony in
organized according to the scientific principles of human
claimed to have discovered." (Taylor 103) He included detailed and
for the institution of such a community. This publication was,
plea to some wealthy patron to make a contribution for the foundation for
His radical ideas were, to say the least, not very well
received. He was
rejected time and
again by publishers, magazine editors,
and basically anyone else who had
anything to do
with the literary community.
The critics who did actually bother to read his
it, and only in one newspaper, the Mercure de France du XIX
amount of praise:
Even when the author may appear to us lost in an imaginary
space, we have
of our own reason quite as much as his: we call to
mind that Columbus was
treated as a visionary, Galileo condemned as a heretic,
and yet America did
the earth did turn round the sun.
later years, Fourier attempted to establish ties with other Utopian
as Owen and Saint-Simon. He failed on both parts, but his following
when the French government intervened and outlawed the teachings
Many Saint-Simonians converted to Fourierism, due to their
many common bonds.
weekly journal was also put out during that time, helping
to increase social
The popularity of Fourierism in Europe reached
a plateau at that point.
Charles Fourier died on October 10, 1837.
a single word was to be chosen to describe this man, it would certainly
He dazzles readers with his diversity of speech and thought,
and runs full
with his writing. He came up with obscure views into the functioning
mind, and tied mathematics with emotions with economics with sociology.
underlying theory was based on his principles of emotions. He
human desires, or "passions", as he preferred to call them, and
three categories. He saw these passions as the underlying forces behind
behavior. The first were the five sensual passions: taste, touch,
hearing, and smell.
The second group included the affective passions:
friendship, love, paternity
or family, and
corporation or ambition. These
were distinctive of things urging men towards
relationships, in his own words,
"simple appetites of the soul". The third
group was the
passion for intrigue, passion for change and contrast,
produced through simultaneous attainment of physical and
He also named a thirteenth passion–a passion to relate one’s
He believed that happiness was achieved through the correct
and the fault of society was that social and economic
interfering with the
ability to reach these passions. He believed
that man, if presented with the
circumstances, would create his own
Another major problem Fourier saw was the structure of the family
worked on individual basis, often having menial tasks completed
far exceed their use. He sighted a specific example:
our societies the healthiest men may often be seen performing tasks fit
year-old girls. In the streets of our large cities you can see strong
shelling peas, peeling vegetables, and cutting paper to make candy
His opinion of labor was parallel to that of Karl Marx. He saw the
becoming wealthier and the poor becoming poorer as time progressed.
nothing but reduce already low wages in effort to cut costs.
He saw the
women being the bleakest. The only options for
survival for working class
either marriage or prostitution., and
then he referred to marriage as
So he decided that
the only liberation from these hellish lives would be
of small communities. He recommended that each have a population
1500 and 1800, specifically 1620. A central building would be
homes, recreational facilities, and various other edifices. Possessions
materials, tools, and livestock would be maintained by the
community as a
each member would hold an equal share. Fourier
"maintained that social, or
ownership of the means of production
was the only way to halt capital
exploitation of the
130) Seven-eighths of the members should be agrarian or
the remainder being capitalists, artists, or savants. All members would
All members would share tasks. Another major Fourian
principle is his
Attractive Industry, stating that each person
works better when the work is
the program varied. In other
words, a man tires after two hours of intense
but is able
to work long hours if his work is varied. And in order for this
work to be
fulfilling, it must satisfy man’s basic passionate drives.
Fourier took all
perspectives into account, categorizing to the last
that some tasks were seasonal, such as vegetable work, and made
this to be dealt with. He also recognized that the most repugnantly
adults, such as tending manure piles, or hunting reptiles, are looked
favorably by young
boys who generally enjoy wallowing in dirt.
of partaking in manual labor and reaping the harvests of hard
bring half of the fulfillment Fourier envisioned, and the other half
love. His own words said it best, "Without love life would lose
When love has
gone man can only vegetate and seek distractions
or illusions to hide the
emptiness of his
soul." He believed that man’s
nature led him to desire to partake in amorous
with a wide variety
of partners, but society had infringed upon this, calling
it immoral and
He wanted to toss aside these preconceptions about monogamous
and allow people to experiment freely. A Court of Love was set
up to insure
all members be allowed sufficient "affection", under the views that a
sexual fulfillment just as it needs food. So, just as food was distributed,
distributed, as to eliminate physical longings, thus removing much
The liberation of work and love were to become the basis for Fourierism.
Although these ideas did not take hold especially strongly in Europe, in
wave of socialism was forming, and Charles Fourier’s principles were
in along with
In 1841, a group of eight men and their families
traveled to West Roxbury,
Massachusetts. They assembled themselves as a "group
of like-minded people
to found a
community, where labor would be, in Emerson’s
words, ‘honored and united with
development of the intellect and
the heart’". (Curtis 61)
Once there, they set up a community that sought
to structurize labor. The
which they were living, once Ellis Farm,
was renamed Brook Farm, and with
month, the community grew closer.
Their frequent visitors included the likes
Fuller, Bronson Alcott,
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Albert
Brisbane. In fact, Hawthorne’s
novel Blithedale Romance was written about
experiences at Brook Farm.
it was Brisbane, ironically the least known, who had the most profound
this tiny agrarian society. Brisbane had just come over from Paris, and
written an exposition into the ideals of Fourier. So, when Brisbane
he saw not a simple group of farmers seeking ways to
maintain their simple
lives, but the
potential for an experiment in Utopian
Socialism, in other words, a Fourian
Brisbane successfully convinced
George Ripley, founder, as well as the other
directors, that a conversion
to Fourierism would bring much need capital and
By 1844, Brook Farm was the Brook Farm Phalanx and by 1845,
reorganized according to Fourier’s principles.
But tragedy struck in 1848
when a massive fire destroyed the main building
many of the surrounding
structures. It was never rebuilt because the funds
were not there,
neither was the interest. The ideas behind it were far too radical
living in America in that time, and they were hesitant to
Charles Fourier saw a problem in society, and he sought not
to change it
but to offer a solution to the public. He had very
liberal and radical
ideals, both increasing
and decreasing his popularity.
He opened a door for France and America, and
door was once again
shut, he made a profound impact on history.
Cole, GDH. A History of Socialist
Thought, Volume I: The Forerunners.
Macmillan, 1965. pp. 62-75.
encyclopedia style reference provided a general overview of socialism
Curtis, Edith Roelker. "A Season in Utopia." American
Heritage, Vol. X, No.
1959). pp. 58-63, 98-100.
gives a history of Brook Farm and its ties with Fourierism.
B. Ideals and Ideologies. Cleveland: The World Publishing
This book told of Hawthorne’s role in Brook Farm and also described
view on the economy.
Engels, Friedrich. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
[The Essential Works of
Engels gives a commentary on the work
Lichtheim, George. The Origins of Socialism. New York: Praeger
This book discussed Fourier’s role as compared
to others such as Owen
Lichtheim, George. A Short
History of Socialism. New York: Praeger
book went into greater depth than Lichtheim’s first, discussing
in greater detail.
Manuel, Frank E. and Fritzie P. French Utopias.
New York: The Free Press,
The editors translated
the work of many French thinkers. Fourier’s System
of Passionate Attraction
Manuel, Frank E. Utopias and Utopian Thought. Boston: Houghton
This book described the foundations of Utopian
Taylor, Keith. The Political Ideas of the Utopian Socialists.
Company, Limited, 1982. pp. 100-131
went into great detail on Fourier, including biographical sketch
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