Charles Fourier: 1772-1837

Charles Fourier was born in 1772 and lived until 1837. He was the influencer of many utopian societies that emerged in the US around mid-1800. He influenced the likes of Karl Marx and also Albert Brisbane, who influenced the Brook Farm utopian society in Massachusetts.

During Fourier’s lifetime he did not witness any of the societies or communities that that followed his teachings, which were called associations, but he did die trying to acquire funding to build one of his very own and was in the process of doing so when he died. The communities he inspired were called associations and followed what was known as associationism.


Charles Fourier was born in Besancon, France to parents Charles and Marie Fourier.  His dad was a wealthy cloth merchant. When he died in Paris in 1837 he was regarded as “Near illiterate”.

Throughout his life Fourier resented the intellects of his time, because they ignored his ideas. Some of his more fantastic ideas about the future of society were people would grow to a height of 7 ft., live to be 144 years old, have powerful tails, and lastly he believed that inevitably there would be a communal association of people who worked and lived together- all a part of the human future.

He had strong beliefs about women and the rights of women. In 1837 he coined the term Feminisme. He also disagreed heavily with the treatment of European women and the family structure (perhaps why in his ideas and theories he later suggested women would have 4 husbands and have a different family role).  As early as 1808 he was quoted saying “level of development of any civilization could be determined by the extent to which women are liberated”



Fourier’s governing philosophy comes out of his books which start with the book Theory of Four Movements. Fourier believed that the structure of economics, politics, and the social system, – prohibited the pursuit of God-given passions. This prevented people from achieving a state of universal harmony. He believed that through an understanding of the process Fourier called “social science” new economic and social formations called associations could be formed.

Fourier believed there were 32 stages of society. He believed he was living in the 5th stage Modern Society. Modern society was based on capital and labor- the era of the salesman- selling goods through the work of the middleman – he called this civilization and blamed it on the cause of fraud, waste, human unhappiness. The stage Modern society would be followed by Stage 6 when Modern Society vanishes and Guarantism follows. It is based upon principles of “universal insurance” guarantee of employment, labor, and security of capital. Stage 7 Simple Association was based on the cooperative enterprise of like bodies of farmers, artisans, etc. as distinct groups. Stage 8 Compound Association/ Harmonism was the stage where all pursuits would join in large associations shattering economic lines

Charles Fourier believed there were scientific laws which governed social interactions. The natural passions of man would, if properly channeled, result in social harmony- the Phalanx.  For these ideas and beliefs he created Fourier believed he was as important as Isaac Newton for his discovery of the fundamental source that drives social development.

12 Basic Passions of humanity– grouped around three branches of a passional tree (luxurious passions, affective passions, and distributive passions) Fourier believed that this is how the future world would be shaped

Passional attraction/ System of Passions

12 passions:

5 passions of the senses- (sight, hearing, touch, scent, taste)

4 passions of the soul (friendship, love, ambition, parenthood)

3 passions that related to work (love of variety, rivalry, conspiracy)

Fourierism Structure based on class themes: Economics/ Family and Reproduction/ Political and Government/ Ecology

Economics – economic output in a Fourier community comprised of:

    • Labor
    • Capital
    • Talent

Each of these parts was important to production and needed to be compensated for prosperity of the association. Compensation would be based on the time of labor, difficulty of task, desirability of the task, and level of skill needed for completing the job.

Family and Reproduction (Social Life) – Phalanxes would be made up of 1620 people of various social classes. They would be arranged in occupational series with major division between industries.  Producers and agrarians separate from each other. Divided first by job, then divided in smaller groups to conduct various aspects of work. There would however be the ability for mobility between groups according to personal wants.

Political / Government– Fourier never suggest any government and suggested voluntary participation for the phalanxes to work. Emulation of the initial community would be inspired by the first community and spread because of the benefits that the community would have and produce.

Ecology– because of the eventual international spread of Fourierism, Charles believed war would be eliminated in our society and armies would arise only for large scale projects that would engage in mainly ecological projects such as climate transformation.

WHY FOURIERISM- Charles Fourier’s ideas for Fourierism arise from a need for a better work environment and liberty for all. Although he felt industry could produce wealth he thought its methods were alienating. The Phalanx would be a type of work unit in which work was distributed on a rational and rotating basis. Fourier thought that the phalanx would produce triple the products of industry because of the industrial attraction and concord of the passions in the Phalanx communities. Fourier thought that his ideas would produce liberty for all. He felt liberty if not enjoyed by all is unreal and with Fourierism we would be able to secure liberty.

Fourierism  – PowerPoint with photos.

One thought on “Fourierism

  1. I must admit that this society seems the most “boring” out of all the utopian communities and experiments we’ve discussed in class. Mainly, it is because of the 32 stages of society– filled with so many philosophies and rules. Many utopian societies are created because people are looking for a greater sense of freedom, so it seems ironic that this society has an extensive list of guidelines. I certainly would not do well in this community, because I hate feeling restricted by rules. I hate following set rules, and if rules are repeatedly voiced to me, it actually makes me want to rebel even more.

    Also, his ideas about the future (e.g. people growing to be an average of 7 feet tall and reaching 144 years old– oh, and having tails) seem too crazy to me. These ideas don’t have any supportive evidence to back up his claims, so I don’t know how strong my trust would be in him and in any society he constructs.

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