Charles Fourier Back To The Land

Charles Fourier Back To The Land

The title at the head of this section is to-day adopted as a motto by several social schools. It also figured in Fourier's programme long ago. Fourier, however, employed the phrase in a double sense.

In the first place, he thought that there must be a dispersion of the big cities and a spreading out of their inhabitants in Phalansteres, which would simply mean moderate-sized villages with a population of 1600 people, or 400 families. Great care was to be exercised in choosing a suitable site. Wherever possible the village was to be placed on the bank of a beautiful river, with hills surrounding it, the slopes of which would yield to cultivation, the whole area being flanked by a deep forest. It was not, as some one has remarked, intended as an Arcadia for better-class clerks. It was simply an anticipation of the garden cities which disciples of Ruskin and Morris are building all over England. These are designed, as we know, not merely with a view to promoting health and an appreciation of beauty, but also to encouraging the amenities of life and to solving the question of housing by counteracting the high rental of urban land.

In the second place, industrial work of every description, factory and machine production of every kind, were to be reduced to the indis­pensable minimum—a condition that was absolutely necessary if the first reform was ever to become practicable. Contrary to what might have been expected, Fourier felt no antipathy towards capitalism, but entertained the greatest contempt for industrialism, which is hardly the same thing. A return to the land, if it was to mean anything at all, was to mean more agriculture. But care must be taken not to interpret it in the old sense of tillage or the cultivation of cereals. It was in no measured terms that he spoke of the cultivation of corn and the produc­tion of bread, which has caused mankind to bend under the cruellest yoke and for the coarsest nourishment that history knows. The only attractive forms of cultivation, in his opinion, were horticulture and arboriculture, apple-growing, etc., joined, perhaps, with poultry-keeping and such occupations as generally fall to the lot of the small­holder. The inhabitant of the Phalanstere would be employed Almost exclusively in looking after his garden, just as adam was before the fall and candide after his misfortunes.