The Rise And Fall Of Charles Fourier

A new craze
swept France, as well as most of Europe, in the early nineteenth
century.
The oppressed society was exhausted from its continual battle
against itself.
The
people sought change; they sought relief from the socio-economic labyrinth
they
had been
spinning themselves dizzy in for their entire lives, and the lives
of their
fathers, and their
fathers before them. Their minds wandered from
the monotony of changing
spools of
thread in a textile mill or hauling buckets
of water in that same mill to a
land of liberty and
equality-- their land
of perfection.
Then suddenly a door opened. And above that door, in block
letters, read
the
word "SOCIALISM". And standing beside, beckoning to all
to enter, stood
François
Marie Charles Fourier.

Charles Fourier was
born on April 7, 1772, in Besançon, France. The son of
a
prosperous cloth
merchant, he was encouraged from an early age to pursue
commerce.
His father
died when Charles was nine, leaving him an estate valuing in
excess of 80,000
francs.

Upon the advice of his family, Fourier entered the business world, despite
his
personal
interests in the arts and sciences. He pursued an apprenticeship in
Lyons\'s
commercial
system for four years, returning to Besançon in early 1793. He
had spent
his
years wisely, traveling through much of France and exploring the "cultural
and
social
diversity" of the places he visited. However, due to the turmoil and
unstable
state of
France at the time, the Fourier family lost all their property.
These
unfortunate
circumstances brought Fourier\'s return to Paris. (Taylor
100)
It was here where he founded the basic principles of his socio-economic
beliefs.

He was given a first-hand view into the functioning of the economy, and he
was
disgusted
by the corruption and deceit he discovered. Throughout his childhood,
and
adolescence,
then carried into adulthood, he witnessed the severity of
the distinctions
between classes.
He matured in the aftermath of the French
Revolution, perhaps the most
"socially
incorrect" period in history. He
witnessed the havoc the guillotine wreaked
on the
aristocracy while watching
the chaos created by the poverty that resulted
from over-
taxation of the
peasant class. He saw these two diametrically opposed groups
as the root
of
all evil and sought to weaken the force that drove them apart. An
enormous
chasm
existed between the upper and lower classes, and Fourier believed that
if he
could find a
way to eliminate that, he would find true Utopia. He
gradually began to
develop an
alternative social order.
In 1808 a book
was published. It was appropriately titled Théorie des
Quatre
Mouvements
et des Destinées Générales, or Theory of the Four Movements and
the
General
Destinies. Fourier was announcing to the world his discovery: not
only were
there
natural laws, and laws of physics or science, there were social laws.
He
described
the four "spheres", his name for divisions of activity-- the social,
animal,
organic and
material, each governed by strict mathematical laws.
(Taylor 101) However,
the only
sphere that any discoveries had been made
in so far was the material sphere,
and this is
where the fault in civilized
society lay. If we could uncover the remaining
three, some of
this chaos
may be remedied.
His second book was a deeper version of his first, in which
he precisely
described
the stages of evolution, ranging from the formation
of man to the day of
reckoning.
Another followed, Traité de l\'Association
Domestique-Agricole. In this work
he
introduced the Phalanx, from the Greek
word meaning an orderly body of
persons, and his
theory that "mankind could
begin to establish conditions of social harmony in
small scale
communities
organized according to the scientific principles of human
association which
Fourier
claimed to have discovered." (Taylor 103) He included detailed and
specific
instructions
for the institution of such a community. This publication was,
in essence,
a
plea to some wealthy patron to make a contribution for the foundation for
a
trial Phalanx.
His radical ideas were, to say the least, not very well
received. He was
rejected time and
again by publishers, magazine editors,
and basically anyone else who had
anything to do
with the literary community.
The critics who did actually bother to read his
work scorned
and ridiculed
it, and only in one newspaper, the Mercure de France du XIX
Siécle, offered
any
amount of praise:
Even when the author may appear to us lost in an imaginary
space, we have
doubts
of our own reason quite as much as his: we call to
mind that Columbus was
treated as a visionary, Galileo condemned as a heretic,
and yet America did
exist,
the earth did turn round the sun.
(Taylor 104).
In
later years, Fourier attempted to establish ties with other Utopian
Socialists,
such
as Owen and Saint-Simon. He failed on both parts, but his following
grew
stronger
when the French government intervened and outlawed the teachings
of
Saint-Simon.
Many Saint-Simonians converted to Fourierism, due to their
many common bonds.
A
weekly journal was also put out during that time, helping
to increase social
awareness.
The popularity of Fourierism in Europe reached
a plateau at that point.
Charles Fourier died on October 10, 1837.

If
a single word was to be chosen to describe this man, it would certainly
be
"eccentric".
He dazzles readers with his diversity of speech