Charles Fourier

Charles Fourier
François Marie Charles Fourier
Full name François Marie Charles Fourier
Born 7 April 1772
Died 10 October 1837
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Categorized historically as a Utopian socialist
Main interests civilization, work, economics, intentional communities, desire
Notable ideas Phalanstère, attractive work

François Marie Charles Fourier (7 April 1772 in Besançon– 10 October 1837 in Paris) was a French philosopher. An influential thinker, some of Fourier's social and moral views, held to be radical in his lifetime, have become main currents in modern society. Fourier is, for instance, credited with having originated the word feminism in 1837.[1]

Fourier's views inspired the founding of the community called La Reunion near present-day Dallas, Texas as well as several other communities within the United States of America, including the North American Phalanx in New Jersey and the Community Place and Sodus Bay Phalanx in New York State.



Fourier was born in Besançon, France on April 7, 1772.[2] The son of a small businessman, Fourier was more interested in architecture than he was in his father's trade.[2] He wanted to become an engineer, but the local Military Engineering School only accepted sons of noblemen.[2] Fourier later said he was grateful that he did not pursue engineering, because it would have consumed too much of his time and taken away from his true desire to help humanity.[3]

His father died in 1781, and Fourier received two-fifths of his father's estate, valued at more than 200,000 francs.[4] This inheritance enabled Fourier to travel throughout Europe at his leisure. In 1791 he moved from Besançon to Lyon, where he was employed by the merchant M. Bousqnet.[5] Fourier's travels also brought him to Paris, where he worked as the head of the Office of Statistics for a few months.[2] Fourier was not satisfied with making journeys on behalf of others for their commercial benefit.[6] Having a desire to seek knowledge in everything he could, Fourier often would change business firms as well as residences in order to explore and experience new things. From 1791 to 1816 Fourier was employed in the cities of Paris, Rouen, Lyon, Marseille, and Bordeaux.[7] As a traveling salesman and correspondence clerk, his research and thought was time-limited: he complained of "serving the knavery of merchants" and the stupefaction of "deceitful and degrading duties". He took up writing, and his first book was published in 1808.

Fourier died in Paris in 1837.[5][8]


Perspective view of Fourier's Phalanstère

Fourier declared that concern and cooperation were the secrets of social success. He believed that a society that cooperated would see an immense improvement in their productivity levels. Workers would be recompensed for their labors according to their contribution. Fourier saw such cooperation occurring in communities he called "phalanxes", based around structures called Phalanstères or "grand hotels." These buildings were four level apartment complexes where the richest had the uppermost apartments and the poorest enjoyed a ground floor residence. Wealth was determined by one's job; jobs were assigned based on the interests and desires of the individual. There were incentives: jobs people might not enjoy doing would receive higher pay. Fourier considered trade, which he associated with Jews, to be the "source of all evil" and advocated that Jews be forced to perform farm work in the phalansteries.[9]

Fourier characterized poverty (not inequality) as the principal cause of disorder in society, and he proposed to eradicate it by sufficiently high wages and by a "decent minimum" for those who were not able to work.[10]

He believed that there were twelve common passions which resulted in 810 types of character, so the ideal phalanx would have exactly 1620 people. One day there would be six million of these, loosely ruled by a world "omniarch", or (later) a World Congress of Phalanxes. He had a touching concern for the sexually rejected; jilted suitors would be led away by a corps of fairies who would soon cure them of their lovesickness, and visitors could consult the card-index of personality types for suitable partners for casual sex. He also defended homosexuality as a personal preference for some people.

Fourier was also a supporter of women's rights in a time period where influences like Jean-Jacques Rousseau were prevalent. Fourier believed that all important jobs should be open to women on the basis of skill and aptitude rather than closed on account of gender. He spoke of women as individuals, not as half the human couple. Fourier saw that "traditional" marriage could potentially hurt woman's rights as human beings and thus never married.[11]

Fourier's concern was to liberate every human individual, man, woman, and child, in two senses: Education and the liberation of human passion.[12]

On Education, Fourier felt that "civilized" parents and teachers saw children as little idlers.[13] Fourier felt that this way of thinking was wrong. He felt that children as early as age two and three were very industrious. He listed the dominant tastes in all children to include, but not limited to:

  1. Rummaging or inclination to handle everything, examine everything, look through everything, to constantly change occupations;
  2. Industrial commotion, taste for noisy occupations;
  3. Aping or imitative mania.
  4. Industrial miniature, a taste for miniature workshops.
  5. Progressive attraction of the weak toward the strong.[13]

Fourier was deeply disturbed by the disorder of his time and wanted to stabilize the course of events which surrounded him. Fourier saw his fellow human beings living in a world full of strife, chaos, and disorder.[14]

Fourier is best remembered for his writings on a new world order based on unity of action and harmonious collaboration.[2] He is also known for certain Utopian pronouncements, such as that the seas would lose their salinity and turn to lemonade, and a coincidental view of climate change, that the North Pole would be milder than the Mediterranean in a future phase of Perfect Harmony.[13]


The influence of Fourier's ideas in French politics was carried forward into the 1848 Revolution and the Paris Commune by followers such as Victor Considérant.

Numerous references to Fourierism appear in Dostoevsky's political novel The Possessed first published in 1872. In it Fourierism is used by the revolutionary faithful as something of an insult to their brethren and those within the circle are quick to defend themselves from being labeled a Fourierist. Whether this is because it is a foreign ideology or because they believe it to be archaic is never made entirely clear.

Fourier's ideas also took root in America, with his followers starting phalanxes throughout the country, including one of the most famous, Utopia, Ohio.

Kent Bromley, in his preface to Peter Kropotkin's book The Conquest of Bread, considered Fourier to be the founder of the libertarian branch of socialist thought, as opposed to the authoritarian socialist ideas of Babeuf and Buonarroti.[15]

In the mid-20th century, Fourier's influence began to rise again among writers reappraising socialist ideas outside the Marxist mainstream. After the Surrealists had broken with the French Communist Party, André Breton returned to Fourier, writing Ode à Charles Fourier in 1947.

Walter Benjamin considered Fourier crucial enough to devote an entire "konvolut" of his massive, projected book on the Paris arcades, the Passagenwerk, to Fourier's thought and influence. He writes: "To have instituted play as the canon of a labor no longer rooted in exploitation is one of the great merits of Fourier", and notes that "Only in the summery middle of the nineteenth century, only under its sun, can one conceive of Fourier's fantasy materialized."

In 1969, Raoul Vaneigem quoted and adapted Fourier's Avis aux civilisés relativement à la prochaine métamorphose sociale in his text Avis aux civilisés relativement à l'autogestion généralisée.[16]

North American Phalanx building in New Jersey

Fourier's work has significantly influenced the writings of Gustav Wyneken, Guy Davenport (in his work of fiction Apples and Pears), Peter Lamborn Wilson, and Paul Goodman.

In Whit Stillman's film Metropolitan, the idealistic Tom Townsend describes himself as a Fourierist, and debates the success of social experiment Brook Farm with another of the characters. Bidding him goodnight, Sally Fowler says, "Good luck with your furrierism." [sic]

David Harvey, in the appendix to his book Spaces of Hope, offers a personal utopian vision of the future much like Fourier's ideas.

Nathaniel Hawthorne in chapter 7 of his novel The Blithedale Romance gently mocks Fourier saying

"When, as a consequence of human improvement", said I, "the globe shall arrive at its final perfection, the great ocean is to be converted into a particular kind of lemonade, such as was fashionable at Paris in Fourier's time. He calls it limonade a cedre. It is positively a fact! Just imagine the city docks filled, every day, with a flood tide of this delectable beverage!"

Writers of the post-left anarchy tendency have praised the writings of Fourier. Bob Black in his work The Abolition of Work advocates Fourier´s idea of attractive work as a solution to his criticisms of work conditions in contemporary society.[18] Hakim Bey manifested that Fourier "lived at the same time as De Sade & (William) Blake, & deserves to be remembered as their equal or even superior. Those other two apostles of freedom & desire had no political disciples, but in the middle of the 19th century literally hundreds of communes (phalansteries) were founded on fourierist principles".[19]

See also


Fourier's works

  • Fourier, Charles. Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées générales (Theory of the four movements and the general destinies), appeared anonymously in Lyon in 1808.
  • Fourier, Charles. Oeuvres complètes de Charles Fourier. 12 vols. Paris: Anthropos, 1966–1968.
  • Jones, Gareth Stedman, and Ian Patterson, eds. Fourier: The Theory of the Four Movements. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.
  • Fourier, Charles. Design for Utopia: Selected Writings. Studies in the Libertarian and Utopian Tradition. New York: Schocken, 1971. ISBN 0-8052-0303-6

On Fourier and his works

  • Beecher, Jonathan (1986). Charles Fourier: the visionary and his world. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-05600-0. 
  • Burleigh, Michael (2005). Earthly powers : the clash of religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the Great War. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-058093-3. 
  • Calvino, Italo (1986). The Uses of Literature. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN 0-15-693250-4.  pp. 213–255
  • Goldstein, L (1982). "Early Feminist Themes in French Utopian Socialism: The St.-Simonians and Fourier", Journal of the History of Ideas, vol.43, No. 1.
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1899). The Blythedale Romance. London: Service and Paton.  pg. 59
  • Serenyi, P (1967). "Le Corbusier, Fourier, and the Monastery of Ema", The Art Bulletin, vol.49, No. 4.
  • Pellarin, C (1846). The Life of Charles Fourier, New York, 1846.Google Books Retrieved November 25, 2007
  • Cunliffe, J (2001). "The Enigmatic Legacy of Charles Fourier: Joseph Charlier and Basic Income", History of Political Economy, vol.33, No. 3.
  • Denslow, V (1880). Modern Thinkers Principally Upon Social Science: What They Think, and Why, Chicago, 1880.Google Books Retrieved November 27, 2007

On Fourierism and his posthumous influence

  • Barthes, Roland Sade Fourier Loyola. Paris: Seuil, 1971.
  • Brock, William H. Phalanx on a Hill: Responses to Fourierism in the Transcendentalist Circle. Diss., Loyola U Chicago, 1996.
  • Buber, Martin (1996). Paths in Utopia. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-0421-1. 
  • Davis, Philip G. (1998). Goddess unmasked : the rise of neopagan feminist spirituality. Dallas, Tex.: Spence Pub.. ISBN 0-9653208-9-8. 
  • Desroche, Henri. La Société festive. Du fouriérisme écrit au fouriérismes pratiqués. Paris: Seuil, 1975.
  • Engels, Frederick. Anti-Dühring. 25:1-309. Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works [MECW]. 46 vols. to date. Moscow: Progress, 1975.
  • Guarneri, Carl J. (1991). The utopian alternative : Fourierism in nineteenth-century America. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-2467-4. 
  • Heider, Ulrike (1994). Anarchism : left, right, and green. San Francisco: City Lights Books. ISBN 0-87286-289-5. 
  • Kolakowski, Leszek (1978). Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198245475. 


  1. ^ Goldstein 1982, p.92.
  2. ^ a b c d e Serenyi 1967, p.278.
  3. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.14.
  4. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.7.
  5. ^ a b Pellarin 1846, p.236.
  6. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.15.
  7. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.235-236.
  8. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.213.
  9. ^ Roberts, Richard H. 1995. Religion and the Transformations of Capitalism: Comparative Approaches. Routledge. pp 90
  10. ^ Cunliffe 2001, p.461.
  11. ^ Denslow 1880, p.172.
  12. ^ Goldstein 1982, p.98.
  13. ^ a b c Charles Fourier, 1772-1837 -- Selections from his Writings Retrieved November 25, 2007
  14. ^ Serenyi 1967, p.279.
  15. ^ Kropotkin, Peter. The Conquest of Bread, preface by Kent Bromley, New York and London, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Hawthorne, p.166.
  18. ^ "The secret of turning work into play, as Charles Fourier demonstrated, is to arrange useful activities to take advantage of whatever it is that various people at various times in fact enjoy doing. To make it possible for some people to do the things they could enjoy it will be enough just to eradicate the irrationalities and distortions which afflict these activities when they are reduced to work."Bob Black. "The Abolition of Work"
  19. ^ Hakim Bey. "The Lemonade Ocean & Modern Times"

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Charles Fourier — [ʃaʀl fuˈʀje] (* 7. April 1772 in Besançon; † 19. Oktober 1837 in Paris) war ein französischer Gesellschaftstheoretiker, ein Vertreter des Frühsozialismus und ein scharfer Kritiker des frühen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Charles Fourier — François Maria Charles Fourier (Besanzón, 7 de abril de 1772 – París, 10 de octubre de 1837) fue un socialista francés de la primera parte del siglo XIX y uno de los padres del cooperativismo. Fourier fue un mordaz crítico de la economía y el …   Wikipedia Español

  • Charles Fourier — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Fourier. François Marie Charles Fourier François Marie Charles Fourier, né le 7 avril 1772 à Besançon (Doubs) et mort le 10 o …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charles Fourier — noun French sociologist and reformer who hoped to achieve universal harmony by reorganizing society (1772 1837) • Syn: ↑Fourier, ↑Francois Marie Charles Fourier • Instance Hypernyms: ↑sociologist …   Useful english dictionary

  • Charles Fourier — François Marie Charles Fourier (7 de abril de 1772 – 10 de octubre de 1837) fue un socialista utópico francés de la primera parte del siglo XIX …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • François Marie Charles Fourier — Charles Fourier Charles Fourier [ʃaʀl fuˈʀje] (* 7. April 1772 in Besançon; † 19. Oktober 1837 in Paris) war ein französischer Gesellschaftstheoretiker, ein Vertreter des Frühsozialismus und ein scharfer Kritiker des frühen Kapitalismus …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rue Charles-Fourier — 13e arrt …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Francois Marie Charles Fourier — noun French sociologist and reformer who hoped to achieve universal harmony by reorganizing society (1772 1837) • Syn: ↑Fourier, ↑Charles Fourier • Instance Hypernyms: ↑sociologist …   Useful english dictionary

  • Francois Marie Charles Fourier — n. Charles Fourier (1772 1837), French utopian socialist and reformer …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Fourier — (pronEng|ˈfʊərieɪ, French pronunciation IPA2|fuʁie) may refer to:*Charles Fourier (1772–1837), a French utopian socialist thinker *Joseph Fourier (1768–1830), a French mathematician and physicist **Mathematics, physics, and engineering terms… …   Wikipedia

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