History of Utopian Founder Charles Fourier Part 1

About utopian founder Charles Fourier, history and biography of the creator of the utopia Phalanxes.



Charles Fourier, an odd loner, was perfect material for the caricaturists who immortalized him. For example, he believed that men could live to be 144 years old and that human beings might one day send messages to Mars--ideas considered lunatic in his time. Fascinated with mathematics, he carried a walking stick marked off in feet and half-feet, which he used to measure all sorts of things he came across. He was supremely egomaniacal. He felt that his "natural law of attraction" was a social discovery just as important as Newton's discovery of the laws of motion, and that his utopian phalanxes (large groupings of people) would someday encompass all the world.

The son of a French merchant, Fourier was early in life repelled by the world of commerce, partly because it seemed too competitive. But he was forced into it when he lost the fortune he inherited from his father and had to become a clerk. He bitterly resented working, which didn't give him the time he needed for studying and writing. He never married and spent a good deal of his time meditating.

Fourier's first book, written in 1808, was Theorie des Quatre Mouvements et des Destinees Generales, in which he talked of how society should reflect man's inner nature ("attraction in proportion to destinies") and of natural groupings of people ("distribution of harmonies"). The phalanstery he envisioned (a kind of socialist monastery) anticipated the garden city; it was a symmetrical, U-shaped, six-story building on a piece of land 3 mi. square. Something like a hotel, it contained private apartments at different rents, general-purpose rooms, and a dining hall. The phalanx living in it consisted of 1,620 people subdivided into various groups, the smallest of which was a "series" of seven to nine.

The phalanx was capitalist, a joint-stock company, whose members would share the profits according to the amount of money they had invested, their skills, and their labor.

Fourier was the originator of the term "feminism," and he was critical of monogamy because it made slaves of women. The treatment of women in a country, he said, reflected the degree to which it was civilized.

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