Charles Fourier (1772-1837)

“The Phalanstery”

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.

The edifice occupied by the Phalanx bears no resemblance to our urban or rural buildings; and in the establishment of a full Harmony of 1600 people none of our buildings could be put to use, not even a great palace like Versailles nor a great monastery like Escorial. If an experiment is made in minimal Harmony, with two or three hundred members, or on a limited scale with four hundred members, it would be possible, although difficult, to use a monastery or palace (like Meudon) for the central edifice.

The lodgings, gardens and stables of a society run by series of groups must be vastly different from those of our villages and towns, which are perversely organised and meant for families having no societary relations. Instead of the chaos of little houses which rival each other in filth and ugliness in our towns, a Phalanx constructs for itself a building as perfect as the terrain permits. Here is a brief account of the measures to be taken on a favourable site... .

The center of the palace or Phalanstery should be a place for quiet activity; it should include the dining rooms, the exchange, meeting rooms, library, studies, etc. This central section includes the temple, the tower, the telegraph, the coops for carrier pigeons, the ceremonial chimes, the observatory, and a winter courtyard adorned with resinous plants. The parade grounds are located just behind the central section.

One of the wings of the Phalanstery should include all the noisy workshops like the carpenter shop and the forge and the other workshops where hammering is done. It should also be the place for all the industrial gatherings involving children, who are generally very noisy at work and even at music. The grouping of these activities will avoid an annoying drawback of our civilised cities where every street has its own hammerer or iron merchant or beginning clarinet player to shatter the ear drums of fifty families in the vicinity.

The other wing should contain the caravansary with its ballrooms and its halls for meetings with outsiders, who should not be allowed to encumber the center of the palace and to disturb the domestic relations of the Phalanx. This precaution of isolating outsiders and concentrating their meetings in one of the wings will be most important in the trial Phalanx. For the Phalanx will attract thousands of curiosity-seekers whose entry fees will provide a profit that I cannot estimate at less than twenty million... .

The phalanstery or manor-house of the Phalanx should contain, in addition to the private apartments, a large number of halls for social relations. These halls will be called Seristeries or places for the meeting and interaction of the passional series.

These halls have nothing in common with our public rooms where ungraduated social relations prevail. A series cannot tolerate this confusion: it always has its three, four or five divisions which occupy three, four or five adjacent locations. This means that analogous arrangements are necessary for the officers and members of each division. Thus each Seristery ordinarily consists of three principal halls, one for the center and two for the wings of the series.

In addition, the three halls of the Seristery should have adjoining rooms for the groups and committees of the series. In the banquet Seristery or dining room, for example, six halls of unequal size are necessary:

1first class hall in the Ascending Wing,about 150 people.
2second class halls in the Center... ... . 400    
3third class halls In the Descending Wing... ... . 900    

Near these six halls of unequal size there should be a number of smaller rooms for the diverse groups which wish to isolate themselves from the common dining rooms of their class. It happens every day that some groups wish to eat separately; they should have rooms near the Seristery where meals are served to the members of their class.

In all social relations it is necessary to have small rooms adjoining the Seristery in order to encourage small group meetings. Accordingly, a Seristery, or the meeting place of a series, is arranged in a compound manner with halls for large collective gatherings and for smaller cabalistic meetings. This system is very different from that employed in our large assemblies where, even in the palaces of kings, everyone is thrown together pell-mell according to the holy philosophical principle of equality. This principle is completely intolerable in Harmony.

The stables, granaries and warehouses should be located, if possible, opposite the main edifice. The space between the palace and the stables will serve as a main courtyard or parade-ground and it should be very large. To give some idea of the proper dimensions I estimate that the front of the Phalanstery should have a length of about 600 toises de Paris. The center and the parade grounds will run to about 300 toises and each of the two wings to about 150 ... The gardens should be placed, insofar as possible, behind the palace and not behind the stables, since large-scale farming should be done in the area near the stables. These plans will of course vary according to local circumstances; we are only talking here about an ideal location... .

All the children, both rich and poor, are lodged together on the mezzanine of the Phalanstery. For they should be kept separate from the adolescents, and in general from all those who are capable of making love, at most times and particularly during the late evening and the early morning hours. The reasons for this will be explained later. For the time being let us assume that those who are capable of forming amorous relations will be concentrated on the second floor, while the very young and the very old (the first and sixteenth choirs, the Tots and the Patriarchs) should have meeting-halls on the ground floor and the mezzanine. They should also be isolated from the street-gallery, which is the most important feature of a Phalanstery and which cannot be conceived of in civilisation. For this reason it should be briefly described in a separate chapter.