The Rise And Fall Of Charles Fourier
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The Rise And Fall Of Charles Fourier
A new craze
swept France, as well as most of Europe, in the early nineteenth
The oppressed society was exhausted from its continual battle
people sought change; they sought relief from the socio-economic labyrinth
spinning themselves dizzy in for their entire lives, and the lives
fathers, and their
fathers before them. Their minds wandered from
the monotony of changing
thread in a textile mill or hauling buckets
of water in that same mill to a
land of liberty and
equality-- their land
Then suddenly a door opened. And above that door, in block
word "SOCIALISM". And standing beside, beckoning to all
to enter, stood
Marie Charles Fourier.
Charles Fourier was
born on April 7, 1772, in Besançon, France. The son of
merchant, he was encouraged from an early age to pursue
died when Charles was nine, leaving him an estate valuing in
excess of 80,000
Upon the advice of his family, Fourier entered the business world, despite
interests in the arts and sciences. He pursued an apprenticeship in
system for four years, returning to Besançon in early 1793. He
years wisely, traveling through much of France and exploring the "cultural
diversity" of the places he visited. However, due to the turmoil and
France at the time, the Fourier family lost all their property.
circumstances brought Fourier\'s return to Paris. (Taylor
It was here where he founded the basic principles of his socio-economic
He was given a first-hand view into the functioning of the economy, and he
by the corruption and deceit he discovered. Throughout his childhood,
then carried into adulthood, he witnessed the severity of
He matured in the aftermath of the French
Revolution, perhaps the most
incorrect" period in history. He
witnessed the havoc the guillotine wreaked
aristocracy while watching
the chaos created by the poverty that resulted
taxation of the
peasant class. He saw these two diametrically opposed groups
as the root
all evil and sought to weaken the force that drove them apart. An
existed between the upper and lower classes, and Fourier believed that
could find a
way to eliminate that, he would find true Utopia. He
gradually began to
alternative social order.
In 1808 a book
was published. It was appropriately titled Théorie des
et des Destinées Générales, or Theory of the Four Movements and
Destinies. Fourier was announcing to the world his discovery: not
natural laws, and laws of physics or science, there were social laws.
the four "spheres", his name for divisions of activity-- the social,
material, each governed by strict mathematical laws.
(Taylor 101) However,
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
may be remedied.
His second book was a deeper version of his first, in which
the stages of evolution, ranging from the formation
of man to the day of
Another followed, Traité de l\'Association
Domestique-Agricole. In this work
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
organized according to the scientific principles of human
claimed to have discovered." (Taylor 103) He included detailed and
for the institution of such a community. This publication was,
plea to some wealthy patron to make a contribution for the foundation for
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
it, and only in one newspaper, the Mercure de France du XIX
amount of praise:
Even when the author may appear to us lost in an imaginary
space, we have
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
the earth did turn round the sun.
later years, Fourier attempted to establish ties with other Utopian
as Owen and Saint-Simon. He failed on both parts, but his following
when the French government intervened and outlawed the teachings
Many Saint-Simonians converted to Fourierism, due to their
many common bonds.
weekly journal was also put out during that time, helping
to increase social
The popularity of Fourierism in Europe reached
a plateau at that point.
Charles Fourier died on October 10, 1837.
a single word was to be chosen to describe this man, it would certainly
He dazzles readers with his diversity of speech
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