Fourier, Charles

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Fourier, Charles

Charles Fourier (shärl fōōryā´), 1772–1837, French social philosopher. From a bourgeois family, he condemned existing institutions and evolved a kind of utopian socialism. In Théorie des quatre mouvements (1808) and later works he developed his idea that the natural passions of man would, if properly channeled, result in social harmony. To achieve this goal, many of the artificial restraints of civilization were to be destroyed. The social organization for such development was to be based on the "phalanx," an economic unit composed of 1,620 people. Members would live in the phalanstère (or phalanstery), a community building, and work would be divided among people according to their natural inclinations. Fourier was not ready to discard capitalism completely; basically his ideal was an agricultural society, systematically arranged. His writings anticipated the 20th-century social problems resulting from mechanization and industrialization. Fourierism obtained a number of converts in France, and several newspapers spread the doctrines, but followers failed to establish any lasting colony there. After Fourier's death his principal disciple, Victor Prosper Considérant, tried to found a colony in Texas. Albert Brisbane and Horace Greeley were the principal figures in the sudden and wide development of colonies in the United States. Brook Farm was for a time Fourierist. The most successful of the communities was the North American Phalanx at Red Bank, N.J.

See studies by N. V. Riasanovsky (1969), D. Zeldin (1969), and J. F. Beecher (1987).

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