Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII: Fourier and the American Phalanx - Socialistic Fallacies
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CHAPTER VIII: Fourier and the American Phalanx - Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies 
Socialistic Fallacies (London: Cope and Fenwick, 1910).
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Fourier and the American Phalanx
Fourier, born in 1772, was the son of a draper at Besancon. A brilliant scholar, he found trade unworthy of himself, and conceived a hatred of business avocations, which was all the greater in proportion as they disturbed his maniaC's ravings. His love of order was such that in his walks abroad he would take the measurements of a building or a public garden. In his passionate devotion to flowers, he desired to possess every variety of each species and to cultivate it. He adored music, and was full of enthusiasm for military displays.1 He was an ardent admirer of the universal harmony which enabled the stars to travel through an eclipse without colliding, and drew therefrom the conclusion that humanity must obey a principle of harmony as the planets obey the law of gravitation. It did not occur to him that Newton had merely ascertained the relations between these phenomena and that these phenomena existed before Newton's time, and he fancied that on the day when a genius analogous to that of the English philosopher should have discovered this principle, all the difficulties of social existence would be dissipated.
Fourier believed that it had fallen to him to discover this principle—it was that of the attraction of the passions. He expounded it in his book “Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées Générales” (1808), and later in his “Traité de l'association domestique et agricole” (1822). In 1825 he settled in Paris, formed a small school, and published his “Nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire.” Fourier was of the same mind with Bentham in his protest against asceticism, to which he opposes the “doctrine of happiness,” which consists in the possession of a number of passions and of means to satisfy them. Duty comes from men, attraction from God. It is necessary to study attraction. If in existing society the unloosing of the passions produces fatal results, this fact proves that society is badly organised. This is a new form of Rousseau's assertion that “man is born virtuous and that society has corrupted him.”
He believed that the passions are legitimate because they exist, but he departed from the principle of the persistence of species, and was convinced that the passions differed in species and variety as determined since the creation of the world. He said—
“The series of groups is the method generally adopted by God in the distribution of the kingdoms of natural history and of created things. Naturalists in their theories and their pictures have unanimously admitted this distribution; they could not reject it without seceding from nature herself and falling into confusion.”
Fourier was not familiar with the works of Lamarck and did not anticipate those of Darwin. He believed that philosophers had only to discover the order in which the Creator had arranged the species. Similarly he had only to discover the order in which the passions were arranged.1 He continues:—
If passions and characters were not subject to distribution in series of groups, like objects in the kingdoms of natural history, man would be out of harmony with the unity of the universe; there would be a duplication of system and want of conformity between mind and matter. If man would attain to social unity, he must seek for the way in the system of series which God has imposed upon nature.
A series of the passions is a league or affiliation of various small conglomerations or groups, each of which exercises some species of passion which develops the genus of the passion for the entire series. Twenty groups cultivating twenty kinds of roses form a series of rose-growers as regards genus, and of white rose-growers, yellow rose-growers, moss rose-growers as regards species.
I will not prolong this explanation, but in order that his system may be fully understood, I must cite this passage:—
Passions which are confined to an individual are not admissible in this mechanism.
Three individuals, A, B, and C, like their bread in three degrees of saltness: A likes it with little salt, B with a moderate, and C with a large quantity; these three merely form a graduated discord, incapable of the graduated harmony which is required for a collection of groups which are related to one another in an ascending or descending order.
A regular group requires not less than seven to nine separate units to make it susceptible of properly balanced conflict: one cannot, therefore, speculate upon individuals in series or groups of passions.
Twelve men who were passionately to cultivate twelve different plants could not assist the interaction of a series. The description of a series of passions always implies a relationship of groups, and never of individuals.
The three individuals, A, B and C, cannot constitute a series of bread-eaters or advocates of bread.
If instead of three individuals one assumes thirty, that is to say, eight with a's taste, ten with B's, and twelve with C's, they will form a series of the passions or relationship of groups graduated and contrasted with regard to taste in bread. A combined intervention, or discords and cabals among them, will furnish the friction calculated to raise the making of bread and the growing of wheat to a state of perfection.
The series being formed, production, consumption and distribution will be effected by homogeneous series, united solely by the attraction of passion. This takes the place of necessity, morality, reason, duty and force which are employed by the “civilised.”
Fourier works out a nomenclature of the passions, of which he classes twelve as fundamental. He seeks an organisation wherein the three “actuating” passions (the alternating, emulative and composite) bring the five “sensitive” passions (taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell) into harmony with the four “affective” passions (love, friendship, ambition, and familism or paternity).
This organisation he finds in the “phalanx” of about eighteen hundred members, men, women and children of all ages, each “phalanx” organised in groups and series, which was to occupy a square league of land in common. The “phalanx” lives in a huge building called a “phalanstery,” arranged in the most convenient manner, in which the different kinds of manufacturing industry are concentrated. Everyone can enrol himself in the series of workers which suits him best according to his taste.
The question of sexual relations is regulated as follows. A woman must first have a husband by whom she will bear two children, then a “genitor” by whom she will have one, then a favourite, and finally paramours. Men are allowed similar freedom.
In the midst of these dreams, Fourier nevertheless desired to respect certain economic notions: at the end of the year the total product of labour was apportioned as follows:—Five-twelfths to labour, four-twelfths to capital and three to ability: these portions being distributed in the first place among the series, then among the groups and so on. This method of distribution requires no operation in the nature of exchange, everyone's consumption being in accordance with his income, while a simple balancing of accounts will suffice every year to regularise his position.
Fourier thought that he had provided for everything. He dreamt of trying his system on a square league of land and appealed to princes for help. He fancied that some day a wealthy capitalist would come and offer him a million with which to form the first phalanstery, and he waited every day at midday for ten years for the unknown individual whose advent he confidently expected.1
Some well-to-do young folks attempted to found a phalanstery at Condé-sur-Vesgres. Before the walls were finished anarchy reigned in their midst and their resources were exhausted. Another experiment at Citeaux met with no better success.
Fourier died in 1837, leaving disciples who propagated his ideas in France by means of books, lectures and associations. Among them were former pupils of the “Ecole polytechnique,” such as engineers and artillery officers, who were captivated by the analogy between his principle and the universal law of gravitation. One of them, Victor Considérant, who had renounced the career of a promising officer in order to devote himself to Fourierism, sketched its programme in two volumes entitled “Destinée Sociale,” which he dedicated to the King. Like the followers of Saint Simon, Fourier's disciples desired the intervention of the sovereign. Considérant became a member of the National Assembly and asked for three sittings in order to explain Fourier's system to his colleagues. On April 14th, 1849, he spoke amid general indifference, and on his concluding by demanding from the State a grant of 1,600 hectares of land and of four million francs, no one was found to support his proposal.
But in the United States there were forty experimental phalansteries between 1840 and 1850. Brisbane reduced the number of persons necessary to found a phalanstery to four hundred, each member having to subscribe $1000 in order to form a capital of $400,000. The members were to receive a quarter of the total produce of the association, or, if they preferred it, interest at the rate of 8 per cent. For $1000 each member was to receive $80, and with this sum the association undertook to provide its subscribers with support and shelter. The mansion was to cost $150,000, the interest upon which at 10 per cent. would be $15,000, i.e. an annual rent of $37 for each of the 400 members: half of the rooms were to be $20, others were to be $100. A member living at the lowest rent would therefore have $60 per annum over. As the association was to supply its own grain, fruit, vegetables, and cattle, and was to effect large economies in fuel and cooking, this would be sufficient.
Brisbane failed in the attempt to find subscribers. But other enthusiasts, although less methodical, carried out the propaganda for the organisation of phalansteries. A number of individuals possessed of neither capacity, energy nor resources, founded phalansteries, some of which had a capital of less than $1000. They took a small piece of land in a wild region, burdened it with as many mortgages as they could obtain, and the majority of the co-adventurers having no knowledge of farming, they failed as soon as a payment of interest fell due. Three phalansteries survived a little longer, the North American Phalanx continuing to exist for twelve years, the Brook Farm Phalanx for five, and the Wisconsin for six.
The North American Phalanx was organised with the collaboration of the most celebrated American disciples of Fourier—Brisbane, Horace Greeley (who, in 1872, was the democratic candidate for the Presidency of the United States), Ripley, Godwin and Channing. The original capital was $8,000; in 1844 the property was valued at $28,000; and in 1852 at $80,000. In accordance with Fourier's theory, the system of groups and series was applied to labour, remuneration for labour being apportioned according to the difficulty and unattractiveness of each allotted task. Masons were paid 50 cents. a day and the doctor six and a quarter. The architect was rewarded for his ability by a premium of 25 cents. a day in addition to his wages. The profits were distributed at the end of the year, wages being thereby increased by about $13, while capital received a dividend of about 5 per cent. The rent of a comfortable room was $12. The members lived together, but their food was supplied according to a tariff, a cup of coffee cost half a cent, a portion of meat 2 cents, a pie—the national dish of North America—2 cents, etc. Each member paid 36 cents. a week for the use of the dining hall, and accounts were settled once a month. The members of this phalanx were cultivated, and life was full of amenities: they indulged in music, organised dances, possessed a library and gave a good education to the children. The North American Phalanx survived all the other experiments, yet every member felt that the life in common had not brought with it the advantages of which he had dreamed, the life was a narrow one and the administration of the settlement gave rise to criticism.
In 1854 a mill belonging to the Phalanx was destroyed by fire. Greeley offered to defray the necessary expense of rebuilding, and a meeting was called to consider his proposal. During the discussion a member proposed the dissolution of the Phalanx, and, although such a proposition was not on the agenda, it corresponded so closely with the general desire that it was carried. The property was sold, the shareholders obtained 66 per cent. on their capital, and the members returned to an “odious civilisation.”
Pellarin, “Fourier, sa vie et ses théories.”
Fourier “Œuvres Complètes,” vol. iii., p. 19. Théorie de l'unité universelle.
Pellarin, vol. ii., p. 203.