Francois Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837) is considered by many as one of the founders of the socialist movement. Actually, he is best characterized as a social idealist. The man saw the imperfect real world and did not like what he saw and used introspection to come up with how the world should be. His mind produced ideals for everything he saw and believed was imperfect. Alas, ideals are of the mind, are mentalistic and when tried in the real world the exigencies of the environment, space, time and social opposition alter them. Ideals never turn out as hoped when attempted in the real world.
Fourier wrote at the dawn of the industrial revolution when peasants were moving from rural Europe to urban Europe, from self employment to working for the owners of factories.
At that time in history the amenities we now take for granted in city living was absent. Folk, for example, used to throw their feces to the streets and, as could be imagined, diseases of all kinds killed the people. People lived like pigs.
The poverty of living was even worse in the emergent workplace, the new factories where folk worked sixteen hour days and were essentially industrial slaves.
Fourier saw this world and imagined how to improve the lot of the people both in their living conditions and in their work life. He dreamed of living apartments called Phalanges, sort of like today’s cooperative living, and dreamed that workers owned their work places and that working conditions were improved.
Fourier believed that each person had an aptitude for doing something and that we ought to figure out what the individual’s aptitude is, help train him in that area and find him a job in that area.
Fourier was for the equality of the genders and wanted women to be given work they could do without reference to their gender.
In conclusion, Fourier was a social idealist who wrote many utopian books and articles. His utopian writings still exercise influence on the minds of those seeking an idealistic solution to the current problems of the world. His influence is far and wide.
Charles Fourier. Theory of the Four Movements and the General Destines. (1808)
Charles Fourier. Design for Utopia. New York: Schocken, 1971.