The New International Encyclopædia/Fourierism

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FOURIERISM. This term is applied to the doctrines of Charles Fourier, and to the communistic movement inspired by Fourier's teaching. Fourier claimed to have discovered a mathematical basis for social organization. The chief difference between the social system which he advocated and those of his contemporaries, Saint-Simon and Owen, is found in the retention, for a time, at least, of private property and inheritance in Fourier's scheme. Fourier believed that man is capable of becoming perfect. His fundamental propositions were that the universe is governed by laws, and that man, by means of reason, can discover these laws and can apply them to the organization of society. When this shall be done, social harmony will reign, and unhappiness will be unknown. As yet, society is in its infancy. The different systems which the human race have established in the past have been only experiments, but each one has been superior to the one which it replaced. This development will continue until perfection is reached. The ideal, according to Fourier, has not been realized because our civilization is false — because the false sciences of ethics, economics, philosophy, and politics are followed instead of the true sciences — chemistry, physics, mathematics. The social organization outlined by Fourier is based on the passions or desires of man. There are twelve passions: five sensitive — seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and tasting; four affective — amity, love, paternity, and ambition; and three distributive — cabalistic, alternating, and composite. If all these passions are given free play, passional attraction causes the spontaneous formation of groups in society. The unit of society must be large enough to allow all the passions to operate freely in all possible combinations, and should therefore consist of about two thousand persons. Each group, or phalanx, should occupy a single building and provide itself with all the commodities and amusements desired. The chief occupations are agriculture, manufactures, commerce, domestic economy, art, science, education, and government. Within the phalanx the members are arranged in series and groups according to the law of passional attraction. Special corporations are organized for each branch of industry. Individuals enroll themselves for those occupations for which they have natural aptitudes, and are allowed to change from one to another as often as they please. Thus work yields only pleasure. Fourier expected that association would economize expenditure and effort to such an extent that a man would need to work only ten years of his life. Under his system salaries are abolished; each person receives an ample minimum, and the surplus is distributed according to the amount of labor, capital, and skill contributed — five parts to labor, four to capital, and three to talent. There are no drones, since all the people are anxious to confer benefits upon society. Surplus products are exchanged between phalanxes. Industrial armies are sent out to prepare new lands for occupation. Government, so far as there is any, is republican, with annual election of officers. Since there is no discord, there are no soldiers, policemen, or criminals. At first Fourier expected society to become practically anarchistic, but later he found it necessary to map out a definite hierarchical scheme of government. The unit, of course, is the phalanx, which is ruled by a unarch. Three or four phalanxes form a union; three or four unions a district; a number of districts, a province. Nations, empires, caliphates, regions, continents, and finally a world unity are formed by similar combinations. The rulers, in hierarchical succession above the unarch, are called duarchs, triarchs, and so on, up to the omniarch, who rules the whole world. In addition to unity of government, there is unity of language, of weights and measures, of surveying. In fact, unity is one of Fourier's fundamental concepts. He maintained that the law of gravitation governs not only matter, but the other three movements — social, animal, and organic — as well. He found three indestructible principles — God, or spirit, the active and moving principle; matter, the passive principle; and justice or mathematics, the regulating principle to which reason corresponds. He expected great transformations to result from a social organization which would allow these natural forces to co-operate freely. Wild animals would willingly become man's servants, the North Pole would become habitable, sea-water would be as palatable as lemonade, and man would develop new organs, such as an eye in the back of his head. Fourier claimed that the human race will remain on this earth until a cycle of 80,000 years has been completed. The period of manhood is at hand. The race will continue to develop for 35,000 years, and then decline for 40,000 years.

After the death of Fourier, his party made a large number of converts in France, and many communities were formed to test his system. In every case where Fourier's suggestions were followed in detail the attempt failed. However, M. Jean Godin has founded at Guise a community where labor and capital are associated much after the plan of Fourier, but with many objectionable features left out. The establishment consists of iron, copper, sugar, and chicory factories, and has been very prosperous. In the United States the system has had little success. Fourierism was introduced in 1842 by Albert Brisbane and spread like an epidemic. No less than thirty-four associations were formed in all parts of the North and West, but few held out more than four or five years. The most notable of all was Brook Farm (q.v.).

Consult: Charles Pellarin, Charles Fourier, sa vie et sa théorie (Paris, 1843); Parisot, Fourier, sa vie, ses œuvres; E. Sambuc, “Considérations sur Charles Fourier,” in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie (Berlin, 1900); Richard T. Ely, French and German Socialism in Modern Times (New York, 1883). For a literary exposition of the ideals and plans of modern Fourierists, see Emile Zola's novel Travail.