Charles Fourier

Here is a passage from The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner describing the French utopian Charles Fourier:

“Fourier, to be polite, was an eccentric; to be accurate, he was probably mildly insane. His world was a fantasy; the earth, he believed, had been given a life of eighty thousand years; forty thousand of ascending vibrations and the same number of descending. In between (never mind the arithmetic) lay eight thousand years of the Apogée de Bonheur [the pinnacle of happiness].

“We lived in the fifth of eight stages of advancement, having pushed through Confusion, Savagery, Patriarchism, and Barbarousness. Ahead lay Guaranteeism (not a bad bit of insight), and then the upward slope of Harmony. After we reached utter bliss, however, the seesaw would tip and we would work our way right back down through all the stages to the beginning.

“But as we worked our way deeper into Harmony, things would really begin to pop: a Northern Crown would encircle the Pole shedding a gentle dew; the sea would become lemonade; six new moons would replace the old solitary satellite; and new species would emerge, better suited to Harmony: an anti-lion, a docile beast and most serviceable; an anti-whale, which could be harnessed to ships; and anti-bear; anti-bugs; and anti-rats.

“We would live to be one hundred and forty-four years old, of which one hundred and twenty years would be spent in the unrestricted pursuit of sexual love.”

Now that’s what I call progress.

Heilbroner then describes how Fourier wanted to organize society into different phalanxes, each living in a kind of grand hotel. Fourier decided there had to be 2,985,984 of them. He was a very precise guy.

“Weird and fantastic as it seems,” Heilbroner continues, “the Fourierist idea took some hold, even in that fortress of practicality, the United States. At one time there were over forty phalansteries in this country.”

Only 2,985,944 to go!