Attempted Utopian Society Fourier Phalanx Movement Part 3

About the attempted utopian society Fourier Phalanx Movement founded by Charles Fourier, history, population, economic and social structure.


While most of Fourier's followers in America played down his attitudes toward marriage because of their fears that Americans would react violently, Albert Brisbane, in his column in the Tribune, attacked the institution constantly. Debate was stirred, and charges of free love, being leveled against most of the utopian experiments of the day, were also directed at the Fourierists, though they were largely unfounded.

Place of Women: As was the case with most of the utopian experiments of the 19th century, the Fourierists had their ardent feminists. The most notable among them was Margaret Fuller, author of Women in the Nineteenth Century. Horace Greeley, though he rejected a number of the book's premises, published it to the general acclaim of the Fourierists. In her book Fuller demonstrated how marriage had enslaved women, and encouraged them to rise up, en masse, and demand their human rights.

The North American Phalanx, most successful of the Fourier experiments, took the lead in this respect. Not only did women receive equal pay and job opportunity, but they were permitted to take an active part in policy-making. One visitor remarked, "All the women . . . have the right to speak in public assemblies, but none avail themselves of the right but they who have talent for it, or have something good to say."

Education: Education and culture were the work of the education series and the culture series on the phalanx. Fourier had some definite advice on how children should be handled by each. It was his belief that children belonged to a neuter sex, that they were devoid of familial and sexual love. He thought it best that they remain in that state for as long as possible; hence, their education should prevent them from forming any traditional family ties. He was also strongly opposed to any form of sex education, and he went so far as to say that even biblical stories involving sex should not be taught.

As part of their education children were to work in the phalanx, and in a capacity that they would enjoy. Since all children love to play in dirt, Fourier reasoned, that is what they should do in the phalanx.

Why the Experiment Ended: Of the nearly 50 phalanxes that began, and failed, in the 1840s, not one came even close to following the philosophy of Fourier. Proper capital was seldom raised as phalanxes rushed to organize. Membership was another problem. Fourier had suggested 1,620, but not a single phalanx waited for that many people to begin their experiment. As a result of insufficient funds and membership, inadequate phalansteries were built; instead of castlelike accommodations, many were living in huts.

Of these ill-fated attempts, Albert Brisbane said, "Not one of them had the tenth, nor the twentieth part of the means and resources--pecuniary and scientific--necessary to carry out the organization [Fourier] proposed. In a word, no trial, no approach to a trial of Fourier's theory has been made. I do not say that his theory is true, or would succeed, if fairly tried. I simply affirm that no trial of it has been made; so that it is unjust to speak of it, as if it had been tested."

As the years passed Brisbane became more and more disillusioned, until he finally said of the man he had once compared to Christ, "If ever a man deserved to be hanged for intellectual rashness and violence, it is Fourier."

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