Charles Fourier (1772-1837)

“Critique of the Revolutionary Ideals”

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;
First Published: De la methode mixte, La Phalange, VII, 1848.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

Philosophy was right to vaunt liberty; it is the foremost desire of all creatures. But philosophy forgot that in civilised societies liberty is illusory if the common people lack wealth. When the wage-earning classes are poor, their independence is as fragile as a house without foundations. The free man who lacks wealth immediately sinks back under the yoke of the rich. The newly freed slave takes fright at the need of providing for his own subsistence and hastens to sell himself back into slavery in order to escape this new anxiety that hangs over him like Damocles’ sword. In thoughtlessly giving him liberty without wealth, you merely replace his physical torment with a mental torment. He finds life burdensome in his new state... . Thus when you give liberty to the people, it must be bolstered by two supports which are the guarantee of comfort and industrial attraction... .

Equality of rights is another chimera, praiseworthy when considered in the abstract and ridiculous from the standpoint of the means employed to introduce it in civilisation. The first right of men is the right to work and the right to a minimum. This is precisely what has gone unrecognised in all the constitutions. Their primary concern is with favoured individuals who are not in need of work. They begin with pompous lists of the elect from privileged families to whom the law guarantees an income of fifty or one hundred thousand francs for the simple task of governing the people or sitting in an upholstered seat and voting with the majority in a senate. If the first page of the constitutions serves to provide administrators with guarantees of affluence and idleness, it would be well for the second page to pay some attention to the lot of the lower classes, to the proportional minimum and the right to work, which are omitted in all constitutions, and to the right to pleasure, which is guaranteed only by the mechanism of the industrial series... .

Let’s turn to fraternity. Our discussion here will be amusing, at once loathsome and learned. It is amusing in view of the imbecility of the theories which have purported to establish fraternity. It is loathsome when one recalls the horrors that the ideal of fraternity has masked. But it is a problem which deserves particular attention from science; for societies will attain their goal, and man his dignity, only when universal fraternity has become an established fact. By universal fraternity we mean a degree of general intimacy which can only be realised if four conditions are satisfied:

Comfort for the people and the assurance of a splendid minimum;
The education and instruction of the lower classes;
General truthfulness in work relations.
The rendering of reciprocal services by unequal classes.

Once these four conditions are met, the rich Mondor will have truly fraternal relations with Irus who, despite his poverty, will have no need of a protector and no motive to deceive anyone, and whose fine education will enable him to associate with princes... . As for the present, how could there by any fraternity between sybarites steeped in refinements and our coarse, hungry peasants who are covered with rags and often with vermin and who carry contagious diseases like typhus, mange,

plica and other such fruits of civilised poverty? What sort of fraternity could ever be established between such heterogeneous classes of men?