Charles Fourier (1772-1837)

“The Establishment of a Trial Phalanx”

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: in 1822, Théorie de l'unité universelle.
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

We will suppose that the trial is made by a monarch, or by a wealthy individual like one of the Devonshires, Northumberlands, Bedforts, the Sheremetevs, Labanovs, Czartoryskis, the Esterhazys, Belmontes, Medina-Celis, the Barings, Lafittes, Hopes, etc., or finally by a powerful company which desires to avoid all tentative measures and proceed directly to the organisation of Full Harmony, the eighth period in its plenitude. I am going to indicate the procedure to follow in this case.

An association of 1500 or 1600 people requires a site comprising at least one square league of land, that is to say a surface area of six million square toises.[30] (Let us not forget that one-third as much would suffice for the simple mode.)

A good stream of water should be available; the land should be hilly and suitable for a variety of crops; there should be a forest nearby; and the site should be fairly near a large city but far enough away to avoid unwelcome visitors.

The trial Phalanx will stand alone and it will get no help from neighbouring Phalanxes. As a result of this isolation, there will be so many gaps in attraction, so many passional calms to fear in its manoeuvres, that it will be particularly important to provide it with the help of a good site fit for a variety of functions. Flat country, like that surrounding Anvers, Leipzig or Orleans would be quite inappropriate and would cause the breakdown of many series, owing to the uniformity of the land surface. It will therefore be necessary to select a diversified region, like that near Lausanne, or at the very least a fine valley provided with a stream and a forest, like the valley from Brussels to Halle. A fine location near Paris would be the stretch of land between Poissy and Conflans, Poissy and Meulan.

The 1500 or 1600 people brought together will be in a state of graduated inequality as to wealth, age, personality, and theoretical and practical knowledge. The group should be as varied as possible; for the greater the variety in the passions and faculties of the members, the easier it will be to harmonise them in a limited amount of time.

All possible types of agricultural work should be represented in this trial community, including that involving hot-houses and conservatories. There should also be at least three types of manufacturing work for winter and for rainy days, as well as diverse types of work in the applied sciences and arts, apart from what is taught in the schools. A passional series will be assigned to each type of work, and it will divide up its members into subdivisions and groups according to the instructions given earlier.

At the very outset an evaluation should be made of the capital deposited as shares in the enterprise: land, material, flocks, tools, etc. This matter is one of the first to be dealt with; and I shall discuss it in detail further on. Let us now confine ourselves to saying that all these deposits of material will be represented by transferable shares in the association.[31] Let us leave these minute reckonings and turn our attention to the workings of attraction.

A great difficulty to be overcome in the trial Phalanx will be the formation of transcendent ties or collective bonds among the series before the end of the warm season. Before winter comes a passionate union must be established between the members; they must be made to feel a sense of collective and individual devotion to the Phalanx; and above all a perfect harmony must be established concerning the division of profits among the three elements: Capital, Labour and Talent.

The difficulty will be greater in northern countries than in those of the south, given the fact that the growing season lasts eight months in the south and just five months in the north.

Since a trial Phalanx must begin with agricultural labour, it will not be in full operation until the month of May (in a climate of 50 degrees latitude, like the region around London or Paris),. and since the general bonds, the harmonic ties of the series, must be established before the end of the farming season in October, there will scarcely be five months of full activity in regions of fifty degrees latitude. Everything will have to be done in that short time.

Thus it would be much easier to make the trial in a region where the climate is temperate, for instance near Florence, Naples, Valencia or Lisbon where the growing season lasts eight or nine months. In such an area it would be particularly easy to consolidate the bonds of union since there would only be three or four months of passional calm between the end of the first season and the beginning of the second. By the second spring, with the renewal of its agricultural labours, the Phalanx would form its ties and cabals anew with much greater zeal and with more intensity than in the first year. The Phalanx would thenceforth be in a state of complete consolidation, and strong enough to avoid passional calms during the second winter.

If, instead of being surrounded by civilised populations, the trial Phalanx had neighbours who had been brought up in the seventh period, or merely in the sixth, it could count on moral support which would lend strength to its intrigues and help it in getting organised. But in fact it will be surrounded only by those social vipers who are called civilised — Progenies viperarum, as the Gospel puts it — people whose deceitful proximity will be a spiritual menace to the first Phalanx just as a horde of plague-bearers would be a material menace to a healthy city. This city would be obliged to drive them away and to level its cannons against those who approached its walls.

The experimental Phalanx will be obliged to take similar actions, in a moral sense, against the contagion of civilised customs. It will be forced to withdraw itself from all passional or spiritual relations with its perfidious neighbours. (It should be recalled that the two terms “passional” and “spiritual” are synonymous by contrast to “material.”)

The civilised are so accustomed to falsity that they practice it even in those circumstances when they would like to practice truthfulness. Propriety and morality make liars out of civilised men. With such habits, the civilised would destroy the mechanism of Harmony if they were permitted to interfere.

This mistrust will not prevent the first Harmonians from admitting a few civilised people as spectators consigned to a “moral quarantine,” and this conditional admission will be the object of a highly lucrative speculation which will yield a profit of some twenty millions to the trial Phalanx if it handles the matter skillfully. (The figures will be given farther on.)

Let us discuss the composition of the trial Phalanx. At least seven-eighths of its members should be people involved in farming or industry. The remainder will consist of capitalists, savants and artists... . The Phalanx would be poorly graduated and difficult to balance if, among its capitalists, there were several worth 100,000 francs and several worth 50,000 francs without any of intermediate wealth. In such circumstances, one should try to find men with fortunes of 60, 70, 80, and 90,000 francs. The most precisely graduated Phalanx yields the highest degree of social harmony and the greatest profits.

In, readying the gardens and workshops of the trial Phalanx one should try to predict and estimate the approximate quantity of attraction which each branch of industry is likely to excite. For example, we know that the plum-tree has less attraction than the pear-tree., and so we will plant fewer plum-trees than pear-trees. The quantity of attraction will be — the sole rule to follow in each branch of agricultural and manufacturing work.

Economists would follow a different line of reasoning. They would insist that it is necessary to cultivate whatever produces the greatest yield and to produce a large quantity of the most productive objects. The trial Phalanx should avoid this error; its methods should be different from those of the Phalanxes that will follow it. When all regions have embraced Harmony and when they are all organised in combination with each other, then it will no doubt be necessary to adapt farming to the dictates of interest and attraction. But the goal of the experimental community is quite different: it is to get a group of 1500 or 1600 people working out of pure attraction. If one could predict that they would be more actively attracted to work by thistles and thorns than by orchards and flowers, then it would be necessary to give up orchards and flowers and replace them with thistles and thorns in the experimental community.

In point of fact, as soon as it has attained its two goals, industrial attraction and passional equilibrium, the trial Phalanx will have the means to widen the scope of its labours so as to include any useful tasks which may have been neglected at the outset. Moreover, its strength will be doubled when neighbouring communities organise their own Phalanxes and when the whole region is able to intervene in the mechanism of attraction. Thus in the initial experiment it is necessary to concentrate on the creation of industrial attraction without being particular about the type of work involved.

I have had to insist on this point because the critics may wonder at the fact that I require for the first community a great many flowers, orchards and small animals but very little in the way of large-scale agriculture. The reason for this is that some of the stimuli which make large-scale farming attractive will only emerge after the establishment of a network of Phalanxes capable of aiding each other. The first community, which will be deprived of such resources, should adopt appropriate tactics and resolve the problem of industrial attraction by the means at its disposal.

The most appealing species of animals and vegetables are fairly well known, and it will be easy to estimate the proportions to be respected in the industrial preparations for the experimental Phalanx. Of course there will necessarily be some errors at the outset, and it will take several years before a Phalanx can make an exact reckoning of the proportions to be established among all types of work.

Yet since the capital invested in the establishment of the trial Phalanx will be reimbursed at a rate of twelve to one, the shareholders will scarcely be inclined to worry about the fact that a few errors in the distribution of labour will reduce profits during the first years. The main point will be to attain the goal of industrial attraction and passional equilibrium. This will be the sign of victory. and the shareholders or founders should keep in mind that when they have obtained this victory, when they have provided a practical demonstration of the equilibrium of the passions and shown the way to a happy future, their fellow men will find all the world’s treasures inadequate to reward them for having provided an escape from the labyrinth of civilisation, barbarism, and savagery.