Charles Fourier Theory

Charles Fourier Theory and Socialism

Owen's practical influence has been much greater than Fourier's, for most of the important socialistic movements of the last century can easily be traced back to Owen. But Fourier's intellectual work, when taken as a whole, though more Utopian and less restrained in charac­ter than Owen's, has a considerably wider outlook, and combines the keenest appreciation of the evils of civilization with an almost uncanny power of divining the future.

To some writers Fourier is simply a madman, and it is difficult not to acquiesce in the description when we recall the many extravagances that disfigure his work, which even his most faithful disciples can only explain by giving them some symbolic meaning of which we may be certain Fourier would never have thought. The term 'bourgeois socialist' seems to us to describe him fairly accurately, but its employ­ment lays us open to the charge of using a term that he himself would never have recognized. But what are we to make of one who speaks of Owen's communistic scheme as being so pitiable as to be hardly worth refuting; who "shudders to think of the Saint-Simonians and of all their monstrosities, especially their declamations against pro­perty and hereditary rights—and all this in the nineteenth century"; who in his scheme of distribution scarcely drew any distinction between labour, capital, and business ability, five-twelfths of the product being given to labour, four-twelfths to capital (which is probably more than it gets to-day) and three-twelfths to management; who outbid the most brazen-faced company promoter by offering a dividend of 30 to 36 per cent., or for those who preferred it a fixed interest of 8 per cent.; who held up the right of inheritance as one of the chief attractions that would be secured by the Phalanstere; and who finally declared that inequality of wealth and "even poverty are of divine ordination, and consequently must for ever remain, since everything that God has ordained is just as it ought to be"?

To the men of his time, and to every one who has not read him, which means practically everybody, Fourier appears as an ultra-socialist or communist. That opinion is founded not so much upon the extravagance of his view or the hyperbolical character of his writing as upon the popular conception of the Phalanstere, which was the name bestowed upon the new association he was going to create. Visions of a strange, bewildering city where the honour of women as well as the ownership of goods would be held as common property are conjured up at the mention of that word. Our exposition of his system must obviously begin with an examination of the Phalanstere upon the understanding of which everything turns.