A new craze
swept France, as well as most of Europe, in the early nineteenth
century.

The oppressed society was exhausted from its continual battle
against itself.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

The
people sought change; they sought relief from the socio-economic labyrinth
they
had been
spinning themselves dizzy in for their entire lives, and the lives
of their
fathers, and their
fathers before them. Their minds wandered from
the monotony of changing
spools of
thread in a textile mill or hauling buckets
of water in that same mill to a
land of liberty and
equality– their land
of perfection.

Then suddenly a door opened. And above that door, in block
letters, read
the
word “SOCIALISM”. And standing beside, beckoning to all
to enter, stood
Francois
Marie Charles Fourier.


Charles Fourier was
born on April 7, 1772, in Besancon, France. The son of
a
prosperous cloth
merchant, he was encouraged from an early age to pursue
commerce.
His father
died when Charles was nine, leaving him an estate valuing in
excess of 80,000
francs.


Upon the advice of his family, Fourier entered the business world, despite
his
personal
interests in the arts and sciences. He pursued an apprenticeship in
Lyons’s
commercial
system for four years, returning to Besancon in early 1793. He
had spent
his
years wisely, traveling through much of France and exploring the “cultural
and
social
diversity” of the places he visited. However, due to the turmoil and
unstable
state of
France at the time, the Fourier family lost all their property.
These
unfortunate
circumstances brought Fourier’s return to Paris. (Taylor
100)
It was here where he founded the basic principles of his socio-economic
beliefs.


He was given a first-hand view into the functioning of the economy, and he
was
disgusted
by the corruption and deceit he discovered. Throughout his childhood,
and
adolescence,
then carried into adulthood, he witnessed the severity of
the distinctions
between classes.
He matured in the aftermath of the French
Revolution, perhaps the most
“socially
incorrect” period in history. He
witnessed the havoc the guillotine wreaked
on the
aristocracy while watching
the chaos created by the poverty that resulted
from over-
taxation of the
peasant class. He saw these two diametrically opposed groups
as the root
of
all evil and sought to weaken the force that drove them apart. An
enormous
chasm
existed between the upper and lower classes, and Fourier believed that
if he
could find a
way to eliminate that, he would find true Utopia. He
gradually began to
develop an
alternative social order.

In 1808 a book
was published. It was appropriately titled Theorie des
Quatre
Mouvements
et des Destinees Generales, or Theory of the Four Movements and
the
General
Destinies. Fourier was announcing to the world his discovery: not
only were
there
natural laws, and laws of physics or science, there were social laws.

He
described
the four “spheres”, his name for divisions of activity– the social,
animal,
organic and
material, each governed by strict mathematical laws.

(Taylor 101) However,
the only
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
this chaos
may be remedied.

His second book was a deeper version of his first, in which
he precisely
described
the stages of evolution, ranging from the formation
of man to the day of
reckoning.
Another followed, Traite de l’Association
Domestique-Agricole. In this work
he
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
small scale
communities
organized according to the scientific principles of human
association which
Fourier
claimed to have discovered.” (Taylor 103) He included detailed and
specific
instructions
for the institution of such a community. This publication was,
in essence,
a
plea to some wealthy patron to make a contribution for the foundation for
a
trial Phalanx.
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
work scorned
and ridiculed
it, and only in one newspaper, the Mercure de France du XIX
Siecle, offered
any
amount of praise:
Even when the author may appear to us lost in an imaginary
space, we have
doubts
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
exist,
the earth did turn round the sun.

(Taylor 104).

In
later years, Fourier attempted to establish ties with other Utopian
Socialists,
such
as Owen and Saint-Simon. He failed on both parts, but his following
grew
stronger
when the French government intervened and outlawed the teachings
of
Saint-Simon.
Many Saint-Simonians converted to Fourierism, due to their
many common bonds.

A
weekly journal was also put out during that time, helping
to increase social
awareness.
The popularity of Fourierism in Europe reached
a plateau at that point.

Charles Fourier died on October 10, 1837.


If
a single word was to be chosen to describe this man, it would certainly
be
“eccentric”.

He dazzles readers with his diversity of speech and thought,
and runs full
circle
with his writing. He came up with obscure views into the functioning
of the
human
mind, and tied mathematics with emotions with economics with sociology.

Fourier’s
underlying theory was based on his principles of emotions. He
named
twelve
human desires, or “passions”, as he preferred to call them, and
divided these
into
three categories. He saw these passions as the underlying forces behind
all
human
behavior. The first were the five sensual passions: taste, touch,
sight,
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
mechanizing passions:
passion for intrigue, passion for change and contrast,
and passion
for enjoyment
produced through simultaneous attainment of physical and
spiritual
pleasure.

He also named a thirteenth passion–a passion to relate one’s
happiness to
others.

(Fourier 301)
He believed that happiness was achieved through the correct
balance of
passions,
and the fault of society was that social and economic
affairs were
interfering with the
ability to reach these passions. He believed
that man, if presented with the
ideal
circumstances, would create his own
Utopia.

Another major problem Fourier saw was the structure of the family
unit.

Families
worked on individual basis, often having menial tasks completed
by those
whose abilities
far exceed their use. He sighted a specific example:
In
our societies the healthiest men may often be seen performing tasks fit
for
four-
year-old girls. In the streets of our large cities you can see strong
men
bust
shelling peas, peeling vegetables, and cutting paper to make candy
wrappers…

(Taylor
110).

His opinion of labor was parallel to that of Karl Marx. He saw the
wealthy
becoming wealthier and the poor becoming poorer as time progressed.


Competition did
nothing but reduce already low wages in effort to cut costs.

He saw the
situation for
women being the bleakest. The only options for
survival for working class
women were
either marriage or prostitution., and
then he referred to marriage as
“conjugal slavery”.
So he decided that
the only liberation from these hellish lives would be
through the
formation
of small communities. He recommended that each have a population
of
between
1500 and 1800, specifically 1620. A central building would be
surrounded
by
homes, recreational facilities, and various other edifices. Possessions
such
as land,
materials, tools, and livestock would be maintained by the
community as a
whole, and
each member would hold an equal share. Fourier
“maintained that social, or
public,
ownership of the means of production
was the only way to halt capital
exploitation of the
workingman.” (Ellis
130) Seven-eighths of the members should be agrarian or
industrial,
with
the remainder being capitalists, artists, or savants. All members would
be
educated
equally.

All members would share tasks. Another major Fourian
principle is his
Theory of
Attractive Industry, stating that each person
works better when the work is
congenial and
the program varied. In other
words, a man tires after two hours of intense
concentration,
but is able
to work long hours if his work is varied. And in order for this
work to be
completely
fulfilling, it must satisfy man’s basic passionate drives.

Fourier took all
perspectives into account, categorizing to the last
detail,. He
recognized
that some tasks were seasonal, such as vegetable work, and made
provisions
for
this to be dealt with. He also recognized that the most repugnantly
filthy
tasks for
adults, such as tending manure piles, or hunting reptiles, are looked
on
favorably by young
boys who generally enjoy wallowing in dirt.

The pleasure
of partaking in manual labor and reaping the harvests of hard
work
would
bring half of the fulfillment Fourier envisioned, and the other half
would
come from
love. His own words said it best, “Without love life would lose
it’s charm.

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
activities
with a wide variety
of partners, but society had infringed upon this, calling
it immoral and
distasteful.

He wanted to toss aside these preconceptions about monogamous
relationships
and allow people to experiment freely. A Court of Love was set
up to insure
that
all members be allowed sufficient “affection”, under the views that a
body
needs
sexual fulfillment just as it needs food. So, just as food was distributed,
sex
would be
distributed, as to eliminate physical longings, thus removing much
tension.

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
America,
a tidal
wave of socialism was forming, and Charles Fourier’s principles were
riding
in along with
it.

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
the free
development of the intellect and
the heart'”. (Curtis 61)
Once there, they set up a community that sought
to structurize labor. The
land on
which they were living, once Ellis Farm,
was renamed Brook Farm, and with
each passing
month, the community grew closer.

Their frequent visitors included the likes
of Margaret
Fuller, Bronson Alcott,
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Albert
Brisbane. In fact, Hawthorne’s
novel Blithedale Romance was written about
his
experiences at Brook Farm.

But
it was Brisbane, ironically the least known, who had the most profound
impact
on
this tiny agrarian society. Brisbane had just come over from Paris, and
while
there had
written an exposition into the ideals of Fourier. So, when Brisbane
visited
Brook Farm,
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
Phalanx.

Brisbane successfully convinced
George Ripley, founder, as well as the other
directors, that a conversion
to Fourierism would bring much need capital and
prosperity to
their community.

By 1844, Brook Farm was the Brook Farm Phalanx and by 1845,
it was
completely
reorganized according to Fourier’s principles.

But tragedy struck in 1848
when a massive fire destroyed the main building
and
many of the surrounding
structures. It was never rebuilt because the funds
were not there,
but also,
neither was the interest. The ideas behind it were far too radical
for the
conservatives
living in America in that time, and they were hesitant to
resist the
conformity
of society.


Charles Fourier saw a problem in society, and he sought not
to change it
himself,
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
though that
door was once again
shut, he made a profound impact on history.


Cole, GDH. A History of Socialist
Thought, Volume I: The Forerunners.

London:
Macmillan, 1965. pp. 62-75.

This
encyclopedia style reference provided a general overview of socialism
and
its foundations.


Curtis, Edith Roelker. “A Season in Utopia.” American
Heritage, Vol. X, No.

3 (April
1959). pp. 58-63, 98-100.

This article
gives a history of Brook Farm and its ties with Fourierism.


Ellis, Harry
B. Ideals and Ideologies. Cleveland: The World Publishing
Company, 1968.


p. 130.

This book told of Hawthorne’s role in Brook Farm and also described
Fourier’s
view on the economy.


Engels, Friedrich. Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
The Essential Works of
Marxism.

Engels gives a commentary on the work
of Fourier.


Lichtheim, George. The Origins of Socialism. New York: Praeger
Publishers,
1969.
pp. 26-39.

This book discussed Fourier’s role as compared
to others such as Owen
and Saint-Simon.


Lichtheim, George. A Short
History of Socialism. New York: Praeger
Publishers, 1970.
pp. 42-63.

This
book went into greater depth than Lichtheim’s first, discussing
socialism
in greater detail.


Manuel, Frank E. and Fritzie P. French Utopias.

New York: The Free Press,
1966. pp.

299-328.

The editors translated
the work of many French thinkers. Fourier’s System
of Passionate Attraction
is included.


Manuel, Frank E. Utopias and Utopian Thought. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin
Company,
1966.

This book described the foundations of Utopian
thinking.


Taylor, Keith. The Political Ideas of the Utopian Socialists.

London: Frank
Cass and
Company, Limited, 1982. pp. 100-131
This book
went into great detail on Fourier, including biographical sketch
and commentary.


Miscellaneous