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Fourier, Charles

Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


(1772–1837), French social thinker. One of the oddest theorists in the history of socialism , Fourier produced over the last thirty years of his life a series of books (most notably, Le nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire of 1829) denouncing the internecine cheating, wastefulness, and immorality of the commercial environment in which he had previously worked. His quest to replace all this with “harmony” depended on an unfettering of better human passions. Such liberation could be fulfilled, however, only within a tightly structured context of communal life and labor. Fourier thus pleaded for the creation of “phalanxes,” each containing a carefully balanced population of some 1,600 persons. There any remaining inequalities would cease to be divisive amidst a constant feast of good food and free love. The one Fourierist commune actually created in France (at Rambouillet in 1834) swiftly went bankrupt, though a few American imitations survived longer. When marx criticized Fourier's ideas as offering merely utopian socialism , he was thinking chiefly of these bizarre institutional prescriptions. However, the Frenchman did exert a less transient influence as an analyst of the psychology of social repression and of what Marxists themselves would term “alienation.” This was exemplified in the late 1960s when Fourier became a cult figure among many involved in “flower power” and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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