Charles Fourier Integral Co-Operation

Charles Fourier Integral Co-Operation

careful scrutiny of the internal arrangements of the phalanstere shows it to be something other than an ordinary hotel, after all. It mayperhaps be regarded as a kind of co-operative hotel, belonging to an association and accommodating members of that association only. It is much more thoroughgoing than the ordinary co-operative society, which is ust content to buy commodities as an association without cases where a co-operative restaurant is set up alongside of a co-operative warehouse.

The Phalange, not content to remain a mere consumers association, was to attempt production as well. Around the hotel was to be an area of 400 acres, with farm buildings and industrial establishments that were to supply the needs of the inmates. The phalange was to be a small self sufficing world, a microcosm producing everything it consumed, and consuming as far as it could all it produced. Occasionally, no doubt, there would be occasional surpluses or some needs qould remain unsatisfied, and then recourse would be had to Exchange with other phalanges. Every phalange was to be established as a kind of joint stock company. Private property was not to be extinguished altogether, but to be transformed into the holding of stock a transformation of a capitalistic rahter than of a socialistic nature. M. De Molinari states that the future will witness the almost universal application of the joint stock principle, and he for one would welcome its extension. Fourier has forestalled his prophecy bythree quarters of a century, with an insight that is truly remarkable for the time in which he wrote, for joint stock undertakings were then exceedingly rare. He enumerates the many advantages which would result from such a transformation in the nature of property, and he roundly declares that a share in such concerns is realy more valuable than any amount of land or Money.

How were the extravagant dividends which he promised when propounding his scheme to be paid out? The usual method in financial and commercial transactions is to distribute them according to the holding of each individual. But such was not to be his plan. Capital was to have a third of the profits, labour five-twelfths, and ability three-twelfths. 'Ability,' which signifies the work of management, was to devolve upon those individuals who were chosen by the society and were considered best fitted for the work. Fourier never realized that there was a possibility of the wrong man being chosen. He had no experience of universal suffrage, and he believed that within such a tiny group the election would be perfectly

Associations known as Phalanges have actually been established in Paris, and to some extent at any rate they ha,ve realized the ideal as outlined by Fourier. The profits are divided in almost strict accord­ance with Fourier's formula, and in order to emphasize their descent from him the members have caused a statue to be raised to his memory in their quarter of the town—the Boulevard de Glichy.

Not content with giving us an outline of a co-operative productive society, Fourier has also left us an admirably concise statement of the problem that faces modern society. ".The first problem for the econo­mist to solve," says he, "is to discover some way of transforming the wage-earner into a co-operative owner."

The necessity for such transformation consists in the fact that this is the only way of making labour at once attractive and productive, for " the sense of property is still the strongest lever in civilized society." "The poor individual in Harmony who only possesses a. portion of a share, say a twentieth, is a part proprietor of the whole concern. He can speak of our land, our palaces and castles, our forests and factories, for all of them belong partly to him." "Hence the role of capitalist and proprietor are synonymous in Harmony."

The worker will draw his share of the profits not merely as a worker, but also as a capitalist who is a shareholder in the concern, and as a member of the directorate, in which every shareholder has a voice. The administration of the business will form a part of his responsibili­ties. It is just what we are accustomed to call co-partnership. He will, moreover, participate in the privileges and management of the Phalange as a member of a consumers' association.

All this seems very complicated, but it was a part of Fourier's policy to transmute the divergent interests of capitalists, workers, and con­sumers by giving to each individual a share in these conflicting interests. Under existing conditions they are in conflict with one another simply because they are focused in different individuals. Were they to be united in the same person the conflict would cease, or at any rate the battle­ground would be shifted to the conscience of each individual, where re­conciliation would not be quite such a difficult matter.

A programme which aims, not at the abolition of property, but at the extinction of the wage-earner by giving him the right of holding property on the joint-stock principle, which looks to succeed, not by advocating class war, but by fostering co-operation of capital with labour and managing ability, and attempts to reconcile the conflicting interests of capitalist and worker, of producer and consumer, debtor and creditor, by welding those interests together in one and the same person, is by no means commonplace. Such was the ideal of the French working classes until Marxian collectivism took its place, and it is quite possible that its deposition may be only temporary after all. The programme which the Radical Socialists swear allegiance to, and which they set against the purely socialistic programme, is the main­tenance and extension of private property and the abolition of the wage-earner. By taking this attitude they are unconsciously following in the wake of Fourier.