Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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FOURIERISM. François-Marie-Charles Fourier, the socialist, and founder of the phalansterian school, was born at Besançon, France, April 7, 1772, and died at Paris, Oct. 10, 1837.


—The family of Fourier was one of the oldest and most honorable commercial families of Besançon. His father, who died in 1781, left a fortune inventoried at 200,000 livres (over $38,200), after deducting liabilities and doubtful credits. He had, by will, made his son Charles heir of two-fifths, and each of his three daughters of one-fifth of his property.


—Fourier was brought up for commerce. After having received the usual school education, he worked as a clerk in several cities of France, notably at Rouen and Lyons. He traveled in that capacity in Germany, Holland, and inland. In 1793 he came into possession of his patrimonial fortune; and, wishing to do business on his own account, he invested nearly all of it in colonial goods, which were dispatched from Marseilles to Lyons about the time of the siege of the latter city. Fourier lost his fortune there, and incurred also the risk of life and liberty. About the same time he found himself included in the great requisition, and passed some time in the army. Having procured a discharge on account of illness, he obtained employment in a mercantile house, and was charged, in 1799, to throw into the sea a cargo of rice, which his house had allowed to spoil in consequence of not having been willing to sell it during a time of scarcity. In 1800 he became an unlicensed broker at Lyons.


—It was during this period of his life that he conceived his project of social reform, of which he gave the first formal statement in his "Theory of the Four Movements," published at Lyons, under the imprint of Leipzig, in 1808. A man of the eighteenth century, he had adopted its method and general scientific conceptions. He put aside all authority, traditional, moral, religious or political, and undertook to solve the problem of social destiny by a sort of scientific revolution. He treated society by the method of induction appropriate to the physical sciences, and maintained that the actions of men are controlled by one single, constant and universal law, to which he gave the name of passional attraction. In the "Theory of the Four Movements" this doctrine was not yet very clearly formulated, but its germ was there. This work contained a lively, spirited and sensible critique on the vices, defects and antagonisms which exist in our social state. From the time of the conception of this work Fourier had no other real occupation than to complete, publish and propagate his doctrine. Although he still kept in view, and, later, resumed, commercial occupations, all the live forces of his intellect were absorbed by this fixed idea. It was his constant companion in his various sojourns, in the bosom of his family, among his friends, in the country, at Besançon and at Paris, and when among his disciples.


—In 1822 he published at Paris his "Treatise on Domestic and Agricultural Association." Until that time Fourier had had scarcely more than the one disciple, M. Just Muiron; about 1825 he found himself at the head of a small school. In 1826 he took up his permanent residence at Paris, and there wrote his "New Industrial World," which appeared in 1829. From this time to his death Fourier was employed in the propagation of his ideas by speaking and writing, and in a continual struggle against the silence or the railleries of contemporary criticism. He directed a violent polemic against Owen and the Saint-Simonians, in a pamphlet entitled: "Snares and Quackeries of the two sects of St. Simon and Owen, which promise Association and Progress," (1831); and in a weekly publication, "The Phalanstery or Industrial Reform," (1832). An attempt at a phalansterian colony was undertaken at Condé-sur-Vesgre under his direction, but was soon abandoned. Finally, in 1835 and 1836, he published two volumes entitled: "False Industry."


—Fourier not only undertook to formulate an economic doctrine; he aspired also to make over morals; in a word, to change all the relations of men, and to determine in advance, in detail, the material with which society must operate. We borrow from a work by M. Auguste Ott a summary of Fourierite doctrine, especially in matters of political economy.


—"Fourier laid down as a fundamental principle that the end of man is happiness." In what consists this happiness? "True happiness consists only in satisfying one's passions. * * * The happiness about which people have reasoned, or rather failed to reason, so much, consists in having many passions and many means of satisfying them." Man should then follow only the natural attractions he finds in himself. "All those philosophic caprices, called duties, have no relation to nature; duty comes from men, attraction comes from God. We should study the attraction, nature alone, without any regard to duty. Consequently, if in present society, when men abandon themselves to their passions, there follow results which are disastrous (subversive, in the language of Fourier), this fact only proves that society is badly organized, that hitherto man has not taken account of the laws which govern him, with the laws of the material order."—"The problem being to find a social form in which all the attractions, all the passions of man, should be entirely and fully satisfied, the first thing to do is to analyze these attractions. This analysis demonstrates to Fourier that the passions of mankind may be reduced to twelve fundamentals: 1. Five appetites of the senses, which tend to the pleasure of the senses, to internal and external luxury: the passions of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. 2. Four passions of the affections, which bind mankind together and tend to form groups. These are friendship, ambition (tending to form corporations, communities), love and familism (the paternal feeling). 3. Three distributive or mechanizing passions, whose functions we will give, namely: the cabalistic, a passion which leads to intrigue, and makes one take pleasure in rivalries and cabals; the butterfly, a passion which incites to change, and to variation of pleasures; and the composite, a blind transport, an irresistible influence which carries away the senses and the soul. This arises from a combination of many pleasures.


—From the combined satisfaction of all these passions, arises unitism, the sentiment of universal affection, as white is the result of the combination of all the prismatic colors. The passions of the senses lead to enjoyments from the senses and to labors which tend to satisfy them. Thus the sense of taste is a coach with four wheels, which are, agriculture, conservation, cooking, and gastronomy. He who likes to eat cabbages, for example, will also find pleasure in cultivating them and having them cooked. These passions are then the mainsprings of pleasure and of labor. But if they acted without connection with other passions, labor and pleasure also would have few attractions. The quantity of attraction will be much more considerable if the passion of taste is at the same time accompanied by the satisfaction of the affectional passions. The passions will then combine men into groups, bound together by friendship, love, the spirit of association, and family feeling: and new energy will be given to human activity. But it is not everything to satisfy these passions. They are partially satisfied in the present state of civilization—very incompletely, it is true—and yet man is not happy. It is because the three essential passions have been misunderstood, disgraced and condemned; and these very passions are the fundamental springs of the social mechanism; they are the composite, the butterfly and the cabalistic. The composite tends to unite the small groups into numerous associations, in which the action of all may be combined, and where irresistible enthusiasm arises from the multitude of efforts. To give satisfaction to this passion, is then necessary that the groups be organized be series, each composed of a certain number of groups of the same kind, which devote themselves, to similar work; and that the series be co-ordinated among themselves. The cabalistic passion the passion for intrigue, rivalry, emulation, ought likewise to be satisfied. It is consequently necessary that the series and groups be brought into competition, that is, that they be so arranged that there may be rivalry, emulation, between the various groups of the same series, and between the various parts of the same group. The series of the pear-cultivators, for example, will be composed of a certain number of groups, each cultivating a different variety of pear. Rivalry will spring up between these groups; each will determine to give the best products, and labor will acquire an activity of which civilized people have no idea. Finally, the butterfly passion demands that one often vary his labor, and that he be subjected only to short sittings. It is then necessary that the groups and series be so fitted together that every individual may belong at the same time to several series and several groups; that he may be able, when any particular labor fatigues him, to leave this labor and the group devoted to it, and go to another kind of work in another group or series. Thus the monotony of labor is made to disappear: the series, being continually renewed, manifest always the same ardor, and the individual, passing constantly from one kind of labor to another, is ever experiencing a new charm.


—All these conditions would be realized by the following organization: The workers should be combined in associations (phalanxes) of about 1,800 members, men, women, and children of all ages. Each phalanx, organized by groups and series, should work in common a square league of land. The living should also be in common. Each phalanx should inhabit an immense building called a phalanstery, arranged in the most agreeable and most convenient manner, where, at the same time, the special branches of manufacturing industry would be brought together. Fourier estimates that the energy given to labor by the proposed organization, added to the economy resulting from the consumption in common, would immediately triple the present production. Great comfort and luxury will then be at once brought within reach of all. The total product will be distributed as follows: one-third will form the dividend on the capital, and will belong to the proprietors of the phalansterian establishment; five-twelfths will be assigned to labor; one-fourth to talent. (Fourier varied sometimes from these proportions.) The same individual will be able to share in the product, under these three heads, as capitalist, laborer and capacity. But a minimum of consumption will be guaranteed to simple laborers. This distribution will not require any exchange transactions. Each individual will participate in the consumption in proportion to the dividend to which he is entitled. There will be various classes of tables, lodging, and enjoyments of every kind: each one will consume according to his income, and a simple balance of account will be sufficient to determine his condition each year. Each phalanstery will cultivate the products best adapted to its soil and climate, and the phalansteries of the different parts of the world will interchange their products. There will, besides, be established industrial armies, which will travel over the globe and execute all the great labors of general utility. Thus will universal harmony be established. The mechanizing passions will harmonize the five springs of the senses with the four affectional springs, and man will be able to give free course to all his passions without there being any danger of conflict. On the contrary, everything which, in civilized life, is reproved as vicious inclination and condemned by moralists, becomes a means of emulation and a source of activity. The passions, brought into competition by the cabalistic passion, exalted by the composite, made to supplement each other by the butterfly, will inspire the individual to incessant labors and pleasures, so that people will be eager to rouse from their sleep to receive the increased enjoyment which every phalansterian day holds forth.


—Such is an outline of Fourier's system; and, it must be said, this system always remained in an outline condition, at least as to its whole. Nevertheless, as Fourier elaborated some parts of it, and as he attached great importance to the details of its execution, we should give our readers a nearer view of the details of the organization he proposed. He was chiefly possessed by two ideas: the first, for which we find no special term in this author, we call the idea of symmetry; the second, the idea of series. Symmetry, according to Fourier, constitutes one of the greatest laws of nature; it is also one of the fundamental laws of social organization, and all the groups and series of which we have spoken must be symmetrically disposed. This disposition consists in the formation of a centre and two extremities, two wings. Thus, in a group of seven persons, (the smallest number which can form a group), three persons form the centre, and two, each of the extremities. The centre will represent the general character of the group, the passion or the labor which constitutes it, (the dominant or the tonic); the extremities will represent the oppositions or contrasts which this general character will present. Between the extremities there will be rivalry, emulation; the centre will maintain the balance, and unity will be thus established between the differences. This arrangement may be applied in all the groups, whatever be the number of individuals of which they are composed, and like wise in the series of groups. Only, in the most numerous groups, new divisions and subdivisions are established, but always according to the same principle. Thus, each wing forms itself into a new centre and two new wings; the transitory characteristics hold between the centres and the wings, etc. Symmetry has an intimate connection with what Fourier calls series. It sometimes takes its name; for the word series in his theory has an altogether different sense from what it has in ordinary science. The idea of series, newly arisen in science, immediately played a great part there. It was in fact identical with growth, progress. In this sense it was the principle of progressive classifications in geology, botany and zoölogy. At the same time that it caused rapid advances to be made in these sciences, it demonstrated the progressive creation of the universe. In Fourier, wholly different series were treated of. Besides the progressive series, nature presented still others, like the series of musical tones, the series of colors. In general, all things which presented resemblances and differences could be ranged in series. But, hitherto, these relations, so tar as pertained to series, had given rise to no important scientific discovery, and there resulted from them only wholly secondary classifications. However, Fourier attributes to this principle of classification a wide significance, and by combining it with the principle of accord which musical sounds and the white light arising from the combination of the colors of the spectrum furnish him, he makes it the basis of his whole plan of organization.


—According to Fourier, then, every passion, as, in general, every object in nature, is presented under a series of manifestations, of modes, which, contrary to the real series of botany, geology, etc., goes on increasing at first, arrives at a maximum, and then decreases. The increase is marked by the increasing number of springs or motives which act in each mode. Several springs, in fact, may act in each passion; friendship, for example, depends either on the spiritual motive of affinities of character or on the material motive of affinities of industrial inclinations; love, on sexual attraction, or on spiritual affinity, the bond of the heart, which Fourier calls celadony. When one spring alone is in action, the manifestation is incomplete, mean and bare, good at most in civilization. Every passion, every enjoyment, every pleasure, ought to be composite, that is to say, the result of the play of several springs. Thus, the pleasures of the table are only complete when to the enjoyments of taste are added agreeable conversation and the charms of friendship; labor becomes a pleasure only when it is enhanced by the simultaneous satisfaction of other passions. The increase then in each series is determined by the increasing number of simultaneous enjoyments of which each passion is susceptible. Taking the musical scale for a type. Fourier consequently divides these series into eight principal modes. The first three (from 0 to 2) express the simplest satisfactions, those which civilization furnishes; the four following (3 to 6) offer complete enjoyments, harmonized, as the phalanstery will present them; the last ones do not exactly express a decrease; but they are rare and exceptional manifestations, endowed, moreover, with a high power in harmony. The eighth mode is the omnimodal harmony: it results from the organization and simultaneous play of the seven inferior modes. It corresponds with white in the scale of colors, or with the octave in the musical scale. It is the pivot which is in harmony with all the terms of the series. It is of itself divided into two: the direct harmony (corresponding to white), and the inverse harmony (corresponding to black). The three inferior modes are only secondary springs in harmony; the four subsequent modes will be the mainsprings, properly so called, of the organization of the phalanstery. The superior modes, the high, most puissant moduli, the infinitesimal moduli, will have for their function to establish a bond between the different phalansteries, and to bring about unity and universal harmony.


—Taking these hypotheses for a starting point, what was the problem Fourier propounded to himself? In virtue of his general principle, the social organization can not be perfect save on condition of not leaving one single human desire without satisfaction, or one single sentiment without complete development; and, moreover, the desires and passions are the necessary mainsprings of social organization; so that, if a single one of these springs were neglected, the organization itself could not arrive at its perfection. The problem laid down is then this: to create satisfaction of every kind in all the series at once, by the satisfaction given to each passion in all its modes without exception, and by the effect of a mechanism which embraces at the same time all these passions and all these modes. A mechanism which permits all the passions to be satisfied, and the necessity of giving free play to all the passions in order for this mechanism to be able to perform its functions: such are, then, the fundamental conceptions of the phalansterian organization. Such is, clearly, also the idea of Fourier. The organization must be integral; all the wheels of the mechanism should be put into operation simultaneously; otherwise there could be no progress. Moreover, he becomes indignant at the moralists, who, by condemning this or that human passion are breaking the mainsprings of his machine. He stands strongly against the ideas of equality which the revolutionists preach. The inequalities of every kind constitute one of the principal mainsprings of human activity: the differences of rank, power, influence and fortune, are indispensable stimuli to the phalansterian mechanism. 'The societary system is as incompatible with equality of fortunes as with uniformity of character.' This shows why Fourier expressly maintains that capital should have its due share in the distribution of the products; and those of his pupils who aimed to diminish or cut off that share completely failed to understand the fundamental idea of their master. The gratification of the passion of love, which Fourier, in his first work, represented as a bait which must infallibly seduce civilized people; which he preaches with less boldness in his second work, and of which he postpones the organization for 100 years in his later writings,—this passion of love, to which, nevertheless, he can not help continually reverting, and which his disciples wished to cover with a veil, forms one of the indispensable mainsprings of his system. 'The passions,' says he in his "Treatise on Domestic and Agricultural Association," 'are not a mechanism of which one can weigh separately any particular part, according to the caprices of each reader and the restrictions of each sophist. Their equilibrium must be integral and unitary; each of the parts there has a correspondence with the whole and if one falsifies the balance in love, it will be indirectly falsified more or less in the other branches of the societary mechanism.'


—Fourier has then propounded a problem whose solution is not easy; but it must be said that its solution is not to be found in his writings. A mechanism so admirable was worth the trouble of being described in its smallest details: Fourier has not done it. His works are composed only of fragments, of detached notices. Particular parts are developed with a certain care, but the whole plan is nowhere found. We are told that the domestic characters are 810, neither more nor less, and that a phalanstery should be composed of 1,620 persons. We are given the division of the phalanstery into sixteen tribes, classified according to age. We are informed that the industrial functions are of seven kinds: domestic, agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial labor; teaching, study and the employment of the sciences; and the fine arts. But the enumeration and determination of the characters, the subdivision of the seven general functions and the determination of the series are completely lacking. The agreeable and comfortable arrangements of the phalanstery are carefully described. We are shown, by many examples, how indispensable the multiplicity of passions and of enjoyments is to the action of the mechanism. Thus, the refined tastes of the gourmand, by the variety of products they call for, are in exact accord with the necessity of introducing a great variety into the groups and series. Thus, vanity and pride are the most powerful stimulants to activity and emulation. It is known how Fourier turned to advantage the dirty habits of some children, to secure the accomplishment of certain disgusting labors; and the delicacy and conceit of certain others, to utilize them in ornamentation and articles of luxury. The phalansterian education is carefully described. Fourier shows how, by letting children walk around in the workshops, by, giving them practice in small labors, twenty industrial talents will be developed among them: how also the railleries of their comrades and their self-respect will impress them with an ardent love of work. Fourier quite often refers to what he calls rallying, that is to say, the means of harmonizing the natural antagonisms, such as those which exist between the rich and the poor, between youth and old age, between princes and subjects. He shows how the population will be reduced to 600 inhabitants a square league, by the extension of phanerogamous morals (harmony of the sixth), and of the enrollment of two-thirds of the women in the corporation of bacchanals, bayadères, etc. In a word, all the supposed results of phalansterian organization are described with much spirit and intelligence, and with a faith as real as blind, but nowhere have they been demonstrated." (Traité d'Economie Sociale, by Aug. Ott; Paris, 1854; Guillaumin, publisher.)


—It is evident that the doctrine of Fourier has a faulty basis. If, in fact, human society is subject, like inert matter, to constant and immutable laws, it is impossible for humanity to escape the control of these laws, and we can not say, with the phalansterian school, that "men have hitherto gone in the wrong path, and that the laws which they have made should be condemned and cast aside." The truths in the physical sciences, attraction among the rest, are truths only because facts constantly and invariably confirm them. If one single fact afforded an exception to the laws recognized by the physical sciences as general, these laws would be at once considered as untrue, and relegated among the more or less ingenious hypotheses which have often been hazarded on the phenomena of nature. For the rest, although Fourier constantly declared that he adopted the method of the natural sciences, that he enunciated the laws written by nature herself, he never employed the language and method appropriate to the sciences. In the place of proving and deducing, he affirmed, drawing his demonstrations from vague and remote analogies, the importance of which was over-estimated by his mind, overexcited as it was by continued labor. What could be more opposed to a scientific habit of mind than to pretend to know the past without regard to historic testimony, and to divine the future and reveal the whole of a cosmogony, without relying upon any constant fact? And yet this is what Fourier did. "The world," according to him, says M. Reybaud, "will have a duration of 80,000 years; 40,000 of rise, and 40,000 of decline. In this number are included 8,000 of apogee. The world is scarcely adult; it is 7,000 years old; it has hitherto had only the irregular, feeble, unreasoning existence of childhood; it is going to pass into the period of youth, then into maturity, the culmination of happiness, afterward to decline into decrepitude. Thus saith the law of analogy: the world, like man, like the animal, like the plant, must be born, develop and perish. The only difference is in the duration. In regard to the fact of creation, God made sixteen species of men, nine in the old world, seven in America, but all subject to the universal law of unity and analogy. Nevertheless, in creating the world, God reserved other successive creations to change its face: the creations will extend to eighteen. Every creation is brought about by the conjunction of the austral and the boreal fluid."


—In what pertains to economic matters, the affirmations of Fourier are not only barren of proof, but they are contradicted by the observation of every day. Labor is, to be sure, necessary to the contentment of man, and absolute idleness is suffering as well as a vice; but it does not follow from this that labor is attractive, that its attractiveness is sufficient to give rise to industrial activity. As M. Ott observed, Fourier, who so carefully analyzed the vicious inclinations and assigned to them a place in his phalanstery, forgot in his nomenclature the worst of vices, the most attractive and the most dangerous to his system, indolence. It has been said, it is true, that in a harmonious world indolence would not exist; but it is only a gratuitous affirmation, contrary to the experience of all human society up to this time. The same experience must inspire great mistrust of the glorification promised to the sensual appetites. Hitherto, the easy satisfaction of these appetites, far from being a stimulant to labor, has impelled men to idleness. Nothing less than a subversion of the ordinary laws of human nature would be necessary for the same cause to produce the opposite effects. These objections are taken from the standpoint of the Fourierites themselves. From a moral point of view, doctrines which are the negation of morality itself can be neither approved nor excused.


—Since Fourier's death, important modifications have been made in the ideas of his school. Without condemning the doctrines of the master, his disciples neglected the better part of them, and devoted themselves to various financial and economic problems. Thus, his school has sometimes, by the talent or personal consideration of some of its members, taken the appearance of an organized and powerful body. But, in reality, the Fourierites have produced nothing useful, in the economic line or in any other, except by departing from the school, and abandoning the fundamental ideas and the hypotheses of the master. For a long time the utopia of Fourier has been, to those acquainted with it, and to impartial men, only a rallying word, one number more in the long catalogue of human aberrations.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées générales, Leipzig (Lyons), 1808, 8vo, 425 pages; Traité de l'association domestique et agricole, Besançon and Paris, 1822, 2 vols., 8vo; Sommaire de la théorie d'association agricole, ou attraction industrielle. Besançon, 1828, 8vo; Le nouveau monde industriel, ou invention du procédé d'industrie attrayante et combinée, distribuée en séries passionnées, Paris, 1829, 4 vols., 8vo; Piéges et charlatanisme des deux sectes de Saint-Simon et d'Owen, qui promettent l'association et le progrès, Paris, 1831, 8vo, 80 pages; La fausse industrie morcelée, repugnante, mensongère, et l'antidote, l'industrie naturelle combinée, attrayante, véridique, donnant quadruple produit, Paris, 1835-6, 2 vols., 12mo. A second edition of the Théorie des quatre mouvements appeared in 1841 (1st vol. of the Complete Works); the Traité d'association domestique et agricole, in 1841, under the title of Théorie de l'unité universelle, in 4 volumes, forming II., III., IV., and V. of the Complete Works. The Nouveau monde industriel appeared in 1846 (vol. VI. of the Complete Works). The two volumes of Fausse industrie were not republished. A part of the manuscripts left by Fourier were printed in the Phalange, a monthly review which appeared from 1845 to 1849, 10 vols., gr. 8vo. Some volumes of these manuscripts were published in 18mo, under the title, Publication des manuscrits de Fourier. Fourier wrote, besides, a great number of articles in the Phalanstère, ou la Réforme Industrielle, a weekly, and, later, a monthly paper, which appeared from June, 1832, to February, 1834.

E. J. L., Tr.

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