Charles Fourier Attractive Labour

Charles Fourier Attractive Labour

the attractiveness of labour was made the pivot of Fourier’s system. Wherever we like to look, whether in the direction of so-called civilized societies or towards barbarian or servile communities, labour is everywhere regarded as a curse. There is no reason why it should be, and in the society of the future it certainly will not be, for men will then labour not because they are constrained to either by force or by the pressure of need or the allurement of self interest. Fourier’s ideal was a social state in which men would no longer be forced to work, whether from the necessity of earning their daily bread or from a desire for gain or from a sense of social or religious duty. His ambition was to see men work for the mere love of work, hastening to their task as they do to a gala. Why should not labour become play, and why should not the same degree of enthusiasm be shown for work as is shown by youth in the pursuit of sport?

Fourier thinks this would be possible if every one were certain that he would get a minimum of subsistence by his work. Labour would lose all its coercive features, and would be regarded simply as an opportunity for exercising certain faculties, provided sufficient liberty were given every one to choose that kind of work which suited him best, and qrovided also the labour were sufficiently diversified in character to stimulate imagination and were carried on in an atmosphere of joy and beauty. The sole object of the phalanstere, as we have already seen, was to make labour more attractive by creating a new kind of social life in which production as well as distribution would be on a co-operative basis and horticulture would take the place of agriculture. But fourier was not content to stop at that, and he proceeds to show the importance of combining different kinds of employment. Some of his suggestions are very ingenious; others, on the other hand, are equally puerile. Te most notable of these is his proposal to bring individuals together into what he calls groups and series. A person would be allowed to join these groups according to his own individual preferences, and as it would not involve his spending his whole life in any one of them, he would be free to 'flit' from one to the other.

But it is about time we took leave of our guide. We cannot pretend to follow the twists and turns of his labyrinthine psychology, with its dozen passions, of which the three fundamental ones are the desire for change, for order, and for secrecy; nor can we bring ourselves to accept his theodicy, nor his views on climatic and cosmogenic evolu­tion, which was some day to result in sweetening the waters of the ocean, in melting the polar glaciers, in giving birth to new animals, and in putting us in communication with other planets. Yet even this muddy torrent is not without some grain of gold in it.
Take the question of education, for example, which holds a very prominent place in his writings. Old bachelor that he was, he never cared very much for children, but he nevertheless foreshadowed the development of modern education on several important points. Froebel, who conceived the idea of the kindergarten (1837), was among his disciples.

His teaching on the sex question bears all the marks of lax morality, and indicates the fallacy of thinking that untrained passions and instincts can be morally justified. His extreme views on this question, which even go beyond the advocacy of free union, have contributed a great deal to the downfall of Fourierism. Paul Janet remarks some­where that the socialists have not been very happy in their treatment of the woman question, and we have already shown how this weak­ness led to the downfall of Saint-Simonism. But even on this subject Fourier has penned a few pithy sentences. "As a general rule," he says, it may be said that true social progress is always accompanied by the fuller emancipation of woman, and there is no more certain evidence of decadence than the gradual servility of women. Other events undoubtedly influence political movements, but there is no' other cause that begets social progress or social decline with the same rapidity as a change in the status of women.

Unfortunately his feminism was not so much inspired by respect for the dignity of woman as by his hatred of family life, and the liberty which he thought to be the true test of progress was generally nothing better than free love.

The anti-militarists have good claim to regard him as a forerunner. Speaking of present-day society, he said that "it consists of a minority of armed slaves who hold dominion over a majority of disarmed."

It was not Fourier's intention to introduce men into the world of Harmony at one stroke. He thought that as an indispensable pre­liminary they should go through a stage of transition which he calls Garantisme, where each one would be given a minimum of subsistence, security, and comfort—in short, everything that is considered necessary by the advocates of working-class reform.

Fourierism never enjoyed the prestige and never exercised the in­fluence which Saint-Simonism did, but its action, though less startling, and confined as it was to a narrower sphere, has not been less durable. Nothing has been heard of Saint-Simonism these last fifty years, but there is still a Phalanstere school. It is not very numerous, perhaps, if we are only to reckon those who formally adhere to the doctrine, but if we take into consideration the co-operative movement, as we ought at least to some extent, it is seen to be very powerful still. For a long time Fourier's ideas were scouted by everybody, but later much more sympathetic attention was given them.

Among his disciples there are at any rate two who deserve special mention. Victor Considerant, one of the strongest advocates of Fourierism, has left us the best exposition of the doctrine that we have, in his book Doctrine sociale (1834-44). Like Owen, he experimented in American colonization, and gained a measure of notoriety in the Revolution of 1848 by insisting upon the right to work as a necessary compensation for the loss of property.

Andre Godin left a monument more permanent than books, in the famous Familistere which was founded by him. It consists of an establishment for the manufacture of heating apparatus at Guise, run entirely on co-partnership lines, the profits being distributed in accord-^ ance with the rules of the master. It is not a new co-operative society of the humdrum kind, however. Close to the works, right in the middle of a beautiful park, are one or two huge blocks which contain the 'flats' where the co-partners live, as well as schools, creches, a theatre, and a co-operative stores. But despite its fame, and notwith­standing the fact that it has become a kind of rendezvous for co-operators all the world over, there is nothing very attractive about it, and if one wants to get a good idea of what a real Phalanstere is like it is better to visit either Bournville or Port Sunlight, or Agneta Park in Holland.