Charles Fourier (1772-1837)

“Politics and Poverty”

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: Manuscrits de Charles Fourier. Année 1851.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

By dint of compiling the reveries of classical antiquity, modern philosophers have come to espouse the prejudices of their forefathers, and notably the most ridiculous prejudice, the conviction that the good can be established by governmental action. Neither the ancient nor the modern civilisations have ever conceived of a measure which did not rely on government. Are they unaware that any civilised administration, however organised, prefers its own good to that of the people? What has been the result of the theories designed to curb the powers of government? What has been the use of ministerial responsibility, the balance of powers, and other notions equally devoid of sense? Experiments with these scientific visions have only served to convince us that the nature of the civilised mechanism imposes the prompt re-establishment of the abuses that we try to banish. Civilisation is a social plague on the planet, and vices are just as necessary to it as is a virus to disease. The reforms that you seek to impose by governmental action only serve to confirm existing abuses. After much effort you bow under their yoke, and all you gain for your efforts is the conviction of an inexorable bondage.

What fatal circumstance has caused the modern sciences to attain gigantic stature in physics and the arts and to remain dwarfs in the subalternate science of politics? Civilised genius, even in its most brilliant periods, has never created anything for the happiness of the common people. At Athens as at Paris, the beggar standing at the palace gate has always served to demonstrate the nullity of your political wisdom and the reprobation of nature against your social theories. You have not even managed to accomplish half of the reforms which were possible in civilisation. Although you could not have rooted out the vices which degrade civilisation, you could have mitigated them. You could have given civilisation a polish of splendour and unity which would have made its present situation seem like a state of ruin. All you can do is to look backwards in politics; you praise yourself for the avoidance of evil before attaining the good. Like the child who thinks himself a mighty man at the age of four because he has beaten up a three year old, you think yourself wise for having banished from your societies a few of the horrors which reduce the barbarian to an even lower condition than your own. But just how much progress have you made toward the good when mendacity and thievery, venality and bribery, reign perpetually in your disgusting civilisation?