Charles Fourier (1772-1837)

“The Exchange”

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.

No series has more members than that of the Exchange. Insofar as possible everyone in the Phalanx gathers at its sessions which are held every day to plan the activities of the following days. They take place at nightfall, at the time when everyone is returning to the Phalanstery and when there is little or no activity in the kitchens and gardens.

There is much more animation and intrigue at the Exchange of a Phalanx than there is at the stock exchanges of London or Amsterdam. For every individual must go to the Exchange to arrange his work and pleasure sessions for the following days. It is there that he makes plans concerning his gastronomic and amorous meetings and, especially, for his work sessions in the shops and fields. Everyone has at least twenty sessions to arrange, since he makes definite plans for the following day and tentative ones for the day after.

Assuming that 1200 individuals are present, and that each one has twenty sessions to arrange, this means that in the meeting as a whole there are 24,000 transactions to be concluded. Each of these transactions can involve 20, 40 or 100 individuals who must be consulted and intrigued with or against. It would be impossible to unravel so many intrigues and conclude so many transactions if one proceeded according to the confused methods employed by our commercial exchanges. operating at their rate it would take at least a whole day to organise half the meetings that the Harmonians must plan in half an hour. I will now describe their expeditious methods.

In the center of the hall there is a raised platform on which the director, the directrice and their secretaries are seated. Scattered around the hall are the desks of 24 negotiators, 12 men and 12 women. Each of them handles the affairs of a given number of series and serves as the representative of several neighbouring Phalanxes. Each of the four secretaries corresponds with six of the 24 negotiators by means of iron wires whose movements indicate requests and decisions.

Negotiations are carried on quietly by means of signals. Each negotiator holds up the escutcheons of the groups or Phalanxes which he represents, and by certain prearranged signs he indicates the approximate number of members which he has recruited. Everyone else walks around the hall. In one or two circuits a given individual may take part in 20 transactions, since all he has to do is to accept or refuse. Dorimon suggests that a meeting of the bee-keepers be held the next day at ten o'clock. The leaders of this group have taken the initiative according to the customary procedures. Their job is to find out whether or not a majority of the members of the bee-keeping group wish to hold a session. In this case the decision is affirmative. Each of the members takes his peg from the bee-keepers’ board which is placed in front of Dorimon’s desk... .

At the other side of the hall Araminte calls for a meeting of the rose-growers to be held at the same time. Since many of Araminte’s rose-growers are also members of the bee-keeping group, they raise an objection and notify Dorimon. He conveys their message to the directorate which tells Araminte to halt his negotiations. The rose-growers are obliged to choose another hour, since bee-keeping is a more necessary form of work than rose-growing.

Negotiations frequently become so complicated that three, four or five groups, and even complete series, find themselves in competition. Everything is settled by the signals of the negotiators. Their acolytes confer with the leaders of the various conspiring groups by calling them over to one of the desks. Every time someone tries to initiate an intrigue, either to organise a session or prevent one from being held, a conference takes place at some point outside the main promenade area so as not to disturb those who are still walking around the hall, watching the progress of negotiations and making up their minds... .

When a session of the Exchange is over everyone writes down a list of the meetings which he has agreed to attend, and the negotiators and directors draw up a summary of all the transactions. This summary is immediately sent to the press and then it is distributed to neighbouring communities by a dog who carries it around his neck.

Conflicts and changes of time frequently cause the postponement of sessions. News of such postponements is regularly announced in the main hall of the Phalanstery, where there are always intermediaries or brokers to initiate new activities and plan meetings which could not be arranged at the evening’s Exchange due to conflicts and cabales. In all the public halls there are special bureaus to deal with such problems.

All of these transactions will be carried on by methods totally unlike those of our stock exchanges where people try to conceal their thoughts and use crafty tactics. In the Exchanges of Harmony everyone desires to manifest his intentions and to make them known to all.