Charles Fourier (1772-1837)
Source: The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier. Selected Texts on Work, Love, and Passionate Attraction. Translated, Edited and with an Introduction by Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu. Published by Jonathan Cape, 1972;
Written: December 1803;
First Published: Lettre de Fourier au Grand Juge , Charles Pellarin (ed.), Paris, 1874 and as an appendix to J-J. Hemardinquer, “Notes critiques sur le jeune Fourier,” Le Mouvement social, No. 48 (July-September, 1964), pp. 50-69.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.
Lyon, 4 Nivose, Year XI
Citizen High Judge:
It is with respect to a trivial matter that I am going to bring you great news. Allow me half a page concerning this trifle which is the occasion for the revelation of universal harmony.
I have been informed that a few individuals have sent you their critical comments about my article on the “Triumvirate” of which I am enclosing a copy. It seems to me that the police commissioner handles the matter perfectly well. I have talked with him, and I will follow his instructions.
On a number of occasions I have sent political missives to the Directory or to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have always received complimentary letters in reply. I presume that the article on the “Triumvirate” will likewise be appreciated in its essence, even though it might be deficient in its style since it was written hastily. Although the ideas which it contains run counter to current policies, they are only all the more worthy of attention. The situation is menacing. Upon the outbreak of continental war, one of the two German empires will be divided up, and then the triumvirate will be a reality. From the outset it will actually be no more than a duumvirate; for Germany, unprotected and caught between the two rivals, will become a vassal of one or the other. But the duumvirate will still be only a trap for France; and when I warn my country that it is likely to be defeated in a subsequent conflict, that Russia will have the means to strike some decisive blows, and that France will have very few advantages in its favor, I am asserting nothing that I could not prove in the greatest detail. I dare to believe that this warning will win the approbation of the government rather than its disapproval, and that the printer who published it, out of confidence in me, will be given no trouble.
But this is not the matter which I propose to discuss with you. These disputes of civilisation are no more than child’s play in the present circumstances. An event of much greater importance is brewing, and I wish to make it known to the government:
I am the inventor of the mathematical calculus of the destinies, a calculus which Newton had within his grasp without realising it. He determined the laws of material attraction, and I have discovered those of passionate attraction, a theory approached by no one before me.
Passionate attraction is the archetype according to which God has regulated all the modifications of matter, the order of universal movement and the social movement of the human inhabitants of all the worlds.
As long as a globe fails to calculate the laws of attraction by analysis and synthesis, its reason advances from shadow to shadow; it cannot acquire the slightest notion of the laws which govern the universe, of the social destinies, the goal of the passions, etc.
The theory of the destinies can be divided into three principal branches:
First. The theory of the creations, that is to say the determination of the plans adopted by God concerning the modifications of matter, including everything from the cosmogony of the universes and the invisible stars to the most minute alterations of matter in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The plans followed by God in the distribution of passions, properties, forms, colours, tastes, etc. to the diverse substances.
Second. The social movement, that is to say the future and past destinies of human societies on the diverse globes, their ordonnance, their revolutions, their characters, etc.
Third. Immortality or the future and past destiny of God and of souls in the diverse worlds which they have traversed and will traverse throughout eternity.
You see, Citizen Minister, that the complete elaboration of this prodigious theory would be much too difficult a task for one man or even for several. Thus I have devoted myself primarily to the most urgent calculation, that of the social movement and the societary destiny of the industrious nations. I have determined the whole mechanism of Harmony in its smallest details, from the methods of its central administration down to the most minute aspects of its domestic relations, which are diametrically opposed to our own.
As for calculations other than that of the social movement, I have limited myself to finding the key, to making trials in each of the fixed sciences and even in the fixed arts like music. I will hand over that key to the savants; it will be a prize which will provide them with ample means of winning fame. I will keep for myself only the honour of having opened the way for them, but I will have all to myself the honour of the discovery of the laws of universal harmony
It is obvious that if this discovery could not satisfy the passions of great men and sovereigns, it would be useless and ridiculous to announce the imminence of Harmony; if it offered them no more than three times the advantages of their present situation, they would decide to remain in civilisation. This is something which I had to anticipate. But their pleasures in the new order will be so prodigious that they will become its most enthusiastic partisans, for their souls and senses are more practiced than those of the vulgar, more apt at appreciating and savouring states of happiness.
The laws of Harmony should have been discovered 2300 years ago; they have remained unknown due to the inadvertence and pride of the three metaphysical, moral and political sciences. These sciences have failed to determine the functions and duties of God. They should have recognised that God owes men a social code. To discover this code they should have opened an inquiry concerning the means of revelation employed by God to make his designs known to us. Attraction, which explains the designs of God with regard to the stars and the animals, is also the organ of God with regard to human beings. Its synthesis forms the code for the reign of social harmony which is going to last approximately sixty thousand years. After that, the cooling of the globe will bring a marked decline in luxury. With the final disappearance of luxury, which is the pivot. of Harmony, the human race will fall back into subversion. Mankind will complete its course as it began by traversing the civilised, barbarian and savage societies and others which belong to the subversive order.
Since the announcement of this discovery will help bring about peace in the measure that it wins the confidence of the government, I ought, Citizen High Judge, to explain it to you in a detailed memorandum. But since my right hand is sprained and in bad condition for writing, I cannot devote myself now to the composition of a lengthy essay. The details of Harmony are so extraordinary that a superficial explanation would be quite inadequate. If you wish, I will go into a few details. but given the state of my sprained hand, I can scarcely promise more than two large sheets like this one.
Being the sole possessor of the theory of social movement, I shall not give it away to the public. Instead I shall make known only the superficial aspects of the calculus, taking precautions so that its essence and the solutions to the problems it raises may be safeguarded for the French government. Thus the First Consul cannot be beaten out by any other prince in the establishment of Harmony. He will be assured of no competition for the title of Primate or Emperor of the Globe, a title to be conferred by right upon the founder. There is no impertinence or charlatanism about this, for the calculus is correct, mathematical and invariable.
Do not suppose, Citizen High Judge, that this discovery could become a rallying point for fanatics and intriguers. On the contrary it offers a sure means of foiling the civil and political trouble makers of all countries. For the whole earth is going to enjoy a better lot. Poverty will be completely eliminated; and a graduated metamorphosis will turn the poor class into a middle class, will bring opulence to the bourgeois, splendour to the opulent, and so forth. This perspective, which is well substantiated and confirmed by all conceivable proofs, will wither the seeds of civil or political discord and calm the most turbulent individuals.
Permit me a few lines of argument. Poverty is the principal cause of social disorders. Inequality, so much maligned by the philosophers, is not displeasing to men. On the contrary, the bourgeois delights in hierarchy; he loves to see the bigwigs decked out and parading in their best finery. The poor man views them with the same enthusiasm. Only if he lacks what is necessary does he begin to detest his superiors and the customs of society. This is the origin of social disorders, crimes and of the gallows, that sad bastion of the civilised order. It is easy to prove that all social crimes committed out of ambition proceed from the poverty of the people, from their efforts to escape poverty, from the anxiety which is instilled in society by the presence of poverty, from the fear of falling into it, and from disgust for the odious habits which it encourages.
For social science there is thus only one problem to resolve, that of the graduated metamorphosis which I have mentioned. By this I mean the art of raising each of the classes of civilisation to the condition of the class above it. Then indigence and discomfort will be eliminated, since the lower class will have become the middle class and will enjoy an honest comfort like our petty bourgeois who are far removed indeed from a spirit of sedition. When the people enjoy constant comfort and a decent minimum, all the sources of discord will be dried up or reduced to very little. Administration will become child’s play, and in Harmony the government of the whole planet will be much less complicated than that of a civilised empire.
To eliminate poverty it was necessary to conceive of an industrial system more productive than our own. Such will be universal harmony which will produce at least triple — yes, without exaggeration — at least triple the yield of the civilised system in a well-cultivated empire. Accordingly, while Harmony will greatly increase the wealth of the well-to-do, it will bring about an excessive increase in that of the people, to whom it will guarantee a salary or in old age a decent minimum below which they cannot fall. This beneficence will be all the more simple in that humanity will reproduce much less in Harmony than in civilisation.
This is far removed from the theories of the philosophers, some of whom, the Demagogues, seek to rob the rich to provide for the poor. The others, who are called the Economists, do not have the welfare of the people in mind. They think only of enriching empires without worrying themselves about the fate of the individual. Thus the theories of the Economists have greatly enriched England without enriching the English. According to the Tableau de Londres you can find 115,000 paupers, prostitutes, thieves, beggars and unemployed in the city of London alone; the workers of Scotland live in a frightful state of misery. This is nonetheless the consequence of the modern systems which claim to alleviate the suffering of the people.
Furthermore, just as Steuart prophesied, none of the philosophical theories has proved adequate to deal with the problem of excessive population. The civilised reproduce too much, produce too little, and waste vast quantities of food, labour, time, energy, etc. Count Rumford and Cadet de Vaux are the only writers I know who have understood the vice of civilised societies. These societies are going to reduce the common people to the most frightful poverty everywhere except in new areas like the United States where labour is lacking. The source of this widespread indigence is excessive procreation. Nevertheless humanity will be able to multiply for about eighty more years in order to bring the globe to its full size of three billion inhabitants. Once this number is reached, however, the population will remain fixed in Harmony. What would be the point of having swarms of excess population once wars are abolished? Excessive numbers of people will become so useless that France, for its part, will disgorge about five million of its inhabitants who will find homes in Spain, the Ukraine, etc.
Let us summarise the problem which I have just raised: it is to prove that three billion inhabitants in the order of Harmony will be just as productive as nine or ten billion in civilisation. Of course this prodigious increase in wealth would be illusory if Harmony failed to eliminate the seeds of human discord, such as war, which neutralise the efforts of men and absorb the fruits of their industry, no matter how great they may be.
Note well that this prospect of future happiness does not rest solely upon an enormous increase in wealth. For even a Lucullus would be most unhappy if his dominant passions were not satisfied. The opulence of Harmony will merely be an agent of happiness, merely a means for the development and gratification of a huge number of brilliant passions which are unknown in civilisation and will be revealed in Harmony. For what is it to be happy if not to feel and gratify an immense number of harmless passions? Such will be the lot of men when they are delivered from the civilised, barbarian and savage states. Their passions will be so numerous, so explosive and so varied that the rich man will spend his life in a sort of permanent frenzy and the twenty-four hours of his day will fly by like one.
You can tell from this sketch, Citizen High Judge, that the announcement of this discovery will be a source of concord, a balm poured on the wounds of the human race. The certainty of such a brilliant metamorphosis will paralyse the ambitious and throw trouble makers into a state of apathy; it will inspire a profound disdain for the tumult, the torment, the perfidies and the injustices of civilisation; the widespread feeling to which it will give rise will be that of Charity. Everyone will understand the necessity of working together to ease the lot of the poor until the establishment of Harmony will free them from want. This charitable impulse will be the more spontaneous in that when the Spherical Hierarchy is constituted, it will reimburse all the alms which have been provisionally voted.
It is necessary, Citizen High Judge, to advise you of a comic incident which will follow the revelation of the theory of social movement. It is going to deal a mortal blow to the political and moral philosophies and, in addition, an incurable wound to metaphysics. These three sciences have engendered and sustained poverty, perfidy and ignorance of the destinies. ... The disgrace of these three sciences will be a misfortune of very little importance. As soldiers say: “You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.” Thus, in the encounter of truth and sophistry, some sciences have got to crack. Humanity will lose a great many books, but it will win happiness, affluence and peace for sixty thousand years. That’s sufficient consolation! ...
You may be astonished that I have waited four years before publishing my discovery. Here is the explanation for this delay. At the time of the discovery, I was a merchant’s clerk at Marseille. I quit work to go to Paris to study the fixed sciences and apply them all to, the calculus of passionate attraction. I studied with ardour, and in three or four years I would have applied all the sciences. But after eight or nine months misfortunes befell me. I had to break off my studies and resume my work as a merchant’s clerk at Lyon where I found a job. Driven to despair by this bad turn of events, I wished to safeguard my discovery until I regained the wealth necessary to continue my studies. I was too proud to share the glory with the savants. But since then I have undergone so much disgrace and illness that I renounce my plans for study. I will no longer deprive the physicists and naturalists of the honour of embellishing the core of my theory with the demonstrative analogies which their sciences can provide once I give them the appropriate clues. As a result of this delay, the calculus will have undergone the trial advised by Horace: novum prematur in annum. It was quite unnecessary, for passionate attraction is as invariable as physics. If there are seven colours in the spectrum, there are seven primitive passions in the soul. If there are four arcs in a conic section, there are four groups of passionate attraction, and their properties are just the same as those of conic sections. Nothing can vary in my theory.
In order that this invention may provide me with a refuge from the poverty which pursues me, I have decided to open a subscription. It will be a success if the government grants me just one favour: I simply need permission to publicise the invention in the Paris journals. ... Without your authorisation, Citizen High Judge, my subscription will fail, the journals will not want to concern themselves with this discovery. I dare hope for the protection of the government, since it can be certain that I will not divulge any solutions and that the curious would vainly split their heads trying to solve the problems which I will leave unanswered. If they don’t know the secret, their efforts will be in vain. In any case there are not two people on the globe who have a flair for the problems of passionate attraction; they are too overwhelming in their immensity and in their frightful simplicity.
In unveiling before you the prospect of the welfare of all humanity, perpetual peace, the imminent cessation of poverty and crime, and the elevation of the First Consul to a position of world supremacy, I am sure, Citizen High Judge, to provoke not your doubts but your hopes concerning the veracity of the calculus. If it had not been revealed earlier and if the First Consul were now acquainted with the laws of social movement, he would be able to fool England completely by signing a peace treaty based on the expectation of the coming revolution. This humiliation of a trouble-making cabinet would be a brilliant jest with which to bring an end to civilisation.
Among the social benefits which I have unveiled before you, I should not forget to announce that two years after the establishment of Harmony we will see the end of all accidental ills, venereal epidemics, smallpox, yellow fever, etc. As soon as the Spherical Hierarchy is constituted, it will impose a quarantine on syphilitic diseases. At the same time the Primate of the globe will recruit about twenty million pioneers to cleanse foul regions. Thus the extinction of accidental maladies will take place within two or three years.
Any brilliant discovery subjects its author to the attacks of the envious. If Columbus, Galileo and other great men could be excommunicated for being ahead of their time, people may also try to blacken my reputation. But we are no longer living in an age of superstition. The conqueror of destiny fears nothing under the reign of the conqueror of success.
I summarise, Citizen High Judge, the two requests which I have to make of you:
1st: the authorisation to have separate articles inserted in the Paris journals, leaving them the latitude to make all necessary corrections, according to the intentions of the censorship which I shall try to anticipate.
2nd: the communication of my letter or a copy to the First Consul. I do not know how to get it directly to him, and I am counting on your help in this matter. He cannot fail to be moved at the idea of rescuing the human race from social chaos, of banishing poverty and crime forever from the face of the earth, and of becoming the terrestrial arm of God, of directing mankind to its destiny. He will not mistrust the man who offers him such a future. Extremes touch; if I am unknown and destitute, I expect to inspire the confidence of the first of men by the very excess of my obscurity.
I have the honour to offer you my respectful salutations,
Chez Madame Guyonnet, marchande
rue Saint-Come, à Lyon