[In October, 1840, Hugh Doherty launched The Morning Star, or Phalansterian Gazette as the organ of the associationist movement in England. It lasted twelve issues, and was succeeded by The London Phalanx. The first issue announced an intention of providing weekly translation from Fourier’s work, and while that plan was ultimately not accomplished, there were a number of translations included in the paper. This first selection, from that first issue (October 21, 1840), is drawn from the “Foreword” of The Treatise on Domestic-Agricultural Association.]
TRANSLATION OF THE MOST POPULAR PARTS OF FOURIER’S WRITINGS
It is our intention to give a weekly translation of a few pages from the works of Charles Fourier, selecting those parts which are the least scientific and abstruse, so that the general reader may have an idea of the manner in which that great genius treats the question of social progress. We will commence by a translation of his principal work, which was published in 1822. Omitting such parts only as may be deemed too abstruse for cursory reading.
The Science of Domestic and Agricultural Association.
By Charles Fourier.
Contrary to the common practice of those who make discoveries, and who are generally more or less inclined to exaggerate the importance of their science, I will endeavour to throw a veil over the chief beauties of mine, unveil them by degrees, and treat the reader as an occulist would treat a patient who had just been relieved from a film or cataract on the sight, and who could therefore only be gradually exposed to the full light of the sun.
The association of domestic and agricultural interests is pregnant with the most gigantic and magnificent results. The arithmetical calculations, and the rigourous demonstrations of science which support the truth of these results, will hardly prevent the picture of so many social improvements from appearing fanciful to those who have been accustomed to nothing but the miserable realities of-the present state of society.
For instance, to say that the present amount of wealth might be trebled in a few years by associative industry, so that the yearly produce of France, which is now estimated at 180 millions sterling (41 milliards) might be raised to 520 millions yearly, would only raise a general exclamation of impossibility and visionary speculation, and yet it will be fully proved to the most incredulous, if they only take the trouble to examine fairly, that such is the real fact, and that so far from being an exaggeration of fancy, these gigantic results are rather· under than over-rated.
If we pass from the material to the social results, we shall find that they are not less prodigious, and the incredulity of those who are unacquainted with the advantages of association, will probably be increased, when we state that the strife and bickerings of party politics will be gradually neutralized as the jarring interests of society are progressively absorbed in the superior unity of combination. All party factions will be speedily conciliated when once the principles of association are practically introduced, but until these principles are properly understood, it will be truly impossible to conciliate the opposite interests of political parties.
This extraordinary result of social concord will be produced by the generation of new interests in society, and more, particularly by the confusion of all parties when they become conscious of the ignorance ,and the sophistry with which philosophy has obscured. the minds of men during the last three thousand years, in persuading them that poverty and slavery were the natural destiny of humanity upon earth; and all this sophistry has been palmed upon, society because philosophers have been too blind or too careless, to seek for the laws of nature concerning human society and associative harmony.
Those arbitrary sciences which, have so long deceived mankind, are commonly called metaphysics, politics, moralism and economism. (I say moralism, and not moral science, for nothing can be more. laudable than the precepts of morality, but moralism or the spirit of sophistical controversy concerning moral duty is as injurious to real science as the other three branches of arbitrary speculation. Moralism has become the most contradictory of the four, since its votaries have endeavoured to conciliate the love of truth with the practice of mercantile fraud:
“Serpentes avibus geminentur, tigribus agoi.”
St. Chrysostome thought a merchant could not possibly be agreeable in the eyes of God. In his time the speculations of moralists were not disgraced by lauding the infamous deceptions of mercantile schemers; they were merely sophistical without abetting the falsehoods of competition and its legions. But, to return to the four arbitrary sciences.) These four sciences fall at once and together before the new science of association, which they have always attempted to condemn à priori by insinuating that social happiness was too beautiful ever to be realized. At last, however, the general illusion is dispelled, and the principles of association are fully discovered in all their details. The work of social regeneration depends chiefly upon a very simple combination, which may be called corporate organization, in series of industrial groups regularly contrasted and intermingled in their functions; or more briefly, passional corporation and attractive industry. It will be seen that association cannot be practically effected on any other basis.
The points to be examined, then, are,—
- Whether or not the organization of passional corporations is the true basis of association and attractive industry.
- What are the methods which the adversaries of association oppose to this general law of organization.
- Whether or not this is the only mode of conciliating the interests of all classes; whether or not it would produce the following advantages amongst thousands of others:—
- The art of rendering industry attractive even for those who are least accustomed to labour, such as savages and fashionable idlers.
- The threefold increase of real wealth.
- The complete absorption of revolutionary principles.
- The acquisition of wealth by the practice of truth and virtue, which only lead to poverty and contempt in the present state of society.
The classification of groups contrasted in series is the method which the Creator has adopted in the distribution of the universe and in all the distinctions of class, order, genus, species, variety, &c. in the animal, the mineral, and the vegetable kingdoms of this globe. According to the laws of unity which govern all nature, this method ought to be applied to human society, and the problem of association is solved by discovering the means of its application.
It cannot be said, therefore, that I am proposing a method which is absolutely unknown; I limit myself strictly to that which is adopted by God in all the works of Nature. This, I hope, will be sufficient to obtain a conditional degree of confidence until the principles of association are more clearly developed.
Being obliged to satisfy different classes of readers, and guard against the piracy of plagiarism, I have been reduced to the necessity of adopting some irregularities of method, which may appear strange until they are explained. In the first place I have adopted a very modest but inadequate title. This book ought, in regular form, to have been called The Theory of Universal Unity. This science has been slightly touched upon by Sir Isaac Newton, who has partially explained one of its branches, but, as my countrymen, the French, have been already inundated with systems professing to explain the unity of the Universe, they would condemn the book from its mere title, if it announced a discovery concerning which they have so often been deceived. The innumerable works of sophists have generated suspicion in the minds of the public, and this suspicion will necessarily fall upon the real discovery, and therefore, I purposely suppress the real title of my science, and confine myself to the announcement of an inferior branch of universal harmony, i. e. domestic association.
I have given a double introduction to this work; the first for people of a frivolous nature like the French; the second for those of a serious character, such as that of the English nation.
The English people merit particular attention in this case, for two reasons: In the first place, they were the first in the field of theory, for Newton has treated the material branch of universal attraction, though he has neglected the aromal or imponderable sphere of attraction; and, in addition to this theoretical initiative in the new science, they are already engaged in practical experiments concerning the chief problem of passional attraction, or associative combination, to which the continental nations have not yet turned their attention.
For this reason, the discovery of the universal principles of attraction and association is more directly interesting to the English nation, and the author ought to address himself specially to them without losing sight of the interests of other countries. Such is the plan I have adopted in this introduction, which contains a long article relating to the particular interests of England.
Some people will no doubt say that after making them wade through two long introductory chapters, I ought to enter at once into the positive principles of my discovery; but such a course would be contrary to the readers interest. I must repeat to him incessantly that those who are introduced to the new science of associative harmony, should be treated like a person who has just been relieved from a cataract on the eye, and only introduced gradually to the light of the sun.
It is absolutely necessary to dwell at considerable length upon preparatory instructions, for the first thing to be affected is the total ruin of all arbitrary sciences relating to the policy of individualised society. It is necessary to remodel the judgment, and forget many of those sophisms which have hitherto reigned predominant.
Nothing can be more startling at first than the idea of associating 300 families of unequal rank and fortune, when it is notoriously impossible to associate even three different families, much less 300.
It is very true that three families could not possibly be associated in harmony. I who am intimately acquainted with the science of association in all its degrees, after studying it for more than twenty years, do not hesitate to affirm that the lowest degree of associative harmony is not applicable to any number less than thirty families. But any number of families (not individuals) from 40 to 300 may be advantageously associated in domestic harmony. To explain the principles of a science 50 new and apparently incomprehensible, it is first necessary to expose the evils of the present system, and rid the mind of those erroneous opinions and false doctrines which now govern society.
ON THE CRITICAL STATE OF CIVILIZATION IN EUROPE.
ELEMENTS OF DECLINE IN THE POLITICAL WORLD.
The most recent and the most remarkable elements of decline in the political organization of society in Europe, are, national debts and revolutions, which generate each other. Our political doctors have hitherto failed in devising remedies for these social evils. As a check on the prodigality of national expenditure and the increase of national debts, they have established what is called constitutional government and national representation, the principal property of which, according to experience, is to increase taxes, national debts, and popular fermentation. As a check to revolutionary ferment amongst the people, they have established repressive laws, which only tend to multiply the seeds of discontent, and generate a new revolutionary spirit by those very means which are used to put down sedition.
The only effective means of neutralizing the modern spirit of revolution, consists in creating new interests, having the power of absorbing popular-attention, by eclipsing the paltry interests of democratic institutions: such would be the effect of progressive association.
The first positive result obtained by association will change the popular current of opinion from the channels of political agitation to those of productive organization, and thus absorb at once the delusive spirit of sedition and false liberalism, which is now the cause of so much anxiety to all the governments of Europe. Political agitation will be scouted as a senseless loss of time, which only tends to thwart the collective and the individual interests of all classes. Those who deem themselves the most liberal, according to our present notions, will be found to be very wide of the principles of true liberality, notwithstanding their honourable intentions, for the present state of society offers us no type of real liberality.
We shall prove that the most enlightened policy of liberalism ought to conciliate the existing authorities, by confining reform to industrial and economical combinations, without disturbing the functions of general administration, which will always adapt themselves spontaneously to the social state of the people. Besides, it has already been proved by repeated experiments, that political revolutions only increase the burdens of the people for the benefit of intriguing factions, instead of bettering the social condition of the labouring population.
The increase of public debts and stock-jobbing rapacity are so well understood, and the rapidity of their progress is so very notorious, that it is hardly necessary to dwell upon them here; and this fact alone is enough to show the utter inefficiency of that arbitrary science called Political Economy. This leads me to speak of one grand defect, more or less connected with the preceding causes of decline ill society, and that is, charlatanism in science, or the delusive pretensions of arbitrary systems of economy, which are found by experience to produce effects contrary to those which they announce. Tile authors of these systems should be made more or less responsible for the results of their application, and then, perhaps, they would be less reckless in their speculations.
Those philosophers who have talked so long and so loudly about the responsibility of ministers and other public officers, have never said a word about subjecting themselves to similar laws of responsibility concerning the results of their own schemes. And yet it is probable that such a mode of proceeding might be very useful. A penal code for sophistical speculation, proved to be injurious in their results, would have cured the age of the mania for making arbitrary systems, and forced philosophers and economists into the natural method of speculation, which leads to useful discoveries. The present generation may be endowed with great powers Of wit and ingenuity, but it has proved itself to be very deficient in sagacity with respect to the direction of scientific speculation.
I have only mentioned four general causes of decline in the physical and the social world of the present day, but it would be very easy to multiply that number tenfold, as we shall see in the sequel of these pages; enough has been said, however, to show that our champions of progress and perfectibility are completely lost in their own sophistical labyrinths, and that they are causing us to retrograde, in a collective sense, faster than we- progress in an individual sense. It is evident that they are misleading us; and therefore it is highly necessary to verify whether or not association is the only source of healthy progress, and, if so, whether or not the method of corporate organization, which I am about to explain, is the true basis of progressive association.
Without association, it will be impossible to protect the rights of labour against the inroads of national debts, and secure property against the dangers of revolutionary re-action. But to understand the principles of association, we must divest ourselves of all that economico-philosophical superstition which darkens the minds even of those who think themselves open to conviction.. These prejudices may be truly termed the original sin of the present generation, and they will require a considerable degree of preparatory instruction to neutralize them effectually.
If we except the necessity of waging war with sophistical doctrines, we may present the science of association as a doctrine of universal conciliation, for it teaches us how to enrich all classes without injuring any. It will even conciliate philosophers themselves, when they become indifferent to the fate of their arbitrary systems, and can feel the pleasure of true knowledge concerning the science of destiny and the system of Nature, the discovery of which they have never dared to hope for.
The most limited experiment of association uniting about one hundred families on a plot of land containing a few square miles will prove that philosophers have never had any adequate idea of social happiness, nor of the true means of practising that truth, liberty and economy, of which so much has been said, and so little understood.
During a period of at least twenty-fire centuries, since the origin of moral and political science, little has been effected for the general happiness of mankind. Philosophy has only tended to perpetuate misery and reproduce the same calamities under different forms. This proves that mere philosophy is inadequate to the task of solving the problem of human happiness.
And yet, there is a universal uneasiness of mind which proves that humanity has not yet arrived at that state of existence which is called for by Nature, and this uneasiness seems to be prophetic of an extraordinary change in social organization. The nations of the earth, hundreds of times deceived by political quacks seem to hope for some miraculous delivery, like a sick patient abandoned by the doctors. Nature seems to whisper in the ears of the human race,—“that we are destined to a happy state of existence in this world, the road to which we have not yet found, but that a miraculous discovery will dispel the darkness of incoherent policy and reveal at once the true road to terrestrial happiness.
The science of association will justify this hope, and secure to the whole human race that Slate of graduated and progressive refinement which is universally desired. Science may be said to have effected comparatively little for social happiness, so long as the primary wants of humanity have not been satisfied by a graduated sufficiency of riches and comfort, securing a decent independency to the poorest individuals. Social science itself would only be another source of humility to human reason, if it only enriched the domain of science without creating that abundance of production which will destroy the fear of want and the cause of discord in society.
The present state of incoherent civilization and competitive industry, from which we are about to emerge, is only a temporary state of social existence, to which every globe is subjected during the period of its political infancy. The savage, the Patriarchal, the barbarian or military, and the civilized states of competitive industry are only so many successive degrees in the progress of society from ignorance and poverty to science and social comfort, and this transitional state has been greatly prolonged on our globe by the error of philosophy in neglecting the study of moral attraction and universal harmony.
It would have been eternally vain for philosophers to speculate on metaphysical subtilities concerning human happiness, with competitive industry as a basis of .social organization, for that basis is in opposition to the universal laws of truth and economy, and therefore it is not the natural destiny of mankind; it is not the perfection of society as designed by God.
Philosophers must now confess, either that terrestrial happiness is not the real destiny of mankind, or that their arbitrary methods have not been able to penetrate the secrets of Nature and her laws. And yet it must be owned that the laws of Nature are not impenetrable to those who observe them simply as the mathematicians and chemists do, instead of imagining arbitrary systems and substituting them in lieu of Natures laws, as moralists and metaphysicians have done generally.
The votaries of the exact sciences have observed nature instead of dictating laws to her, but moralists have constantly endeavoured to deny the authority of nature, and stifle the passions and attractions of man instead of studying their natural mechanism in society. Those human passions and desires which have been so long the subject of moral declamation, are nevertheless the eternal springs of human activity and -the permanent interpretation of the divine will, as it is revealed in the universal laws of attraction and repulsion, the analysis and synthesis of which lead us to association as the only means of harmonizing the innate attractions of human nature. And be it observed here, that we use the word passion in a general sense, and not in the common acceptation of brutal impulse or violent agitation.
The deviations of the passions have been mistaken by moralists for innate depravity, and thence it is that they have not been able to discover the laws of social harmony. Instead of observing human nature to discover the secret springs of ac lion, they have studied only to resist those impulsions which they could not destroy. This is the cause of all their blundering.
What a marked contrast there is between the errors of uncertain philosophy, and the sublime results of the exact sciences! Every day adds new errors to old sophisms in the sphere of metaphysical speculation, while on the other hand the physical and mathematical sciences are daily revealing new truths and shedding a lustre upon modern times which is only equalled by the depth of philosophical obscurity which disgraced the eighteenth century.
ON THE CRITICAL STATE OF CIVILIZATION IN EUROPE.
There never was a greater want of useful discoveries in the civilized world than at present. Society is now afflicted with four disastrous elements of a comparatively modern date, which aggravate the primitive causes of human suffering. These modern elements of social misery are,
- The new pestilence and its complications.
- The insalubrious effects of injudicious culture and the destruction of Forests.
- The permanency of revolutionary ferment
- The alarming increase of public debts and stock-jobbing speculation.
This quadruple plague proves that civilization and refinement are progressing like the lobster, backwards instead of forwards. Instead of approaching nearer to human happiness, society is daily becoming more and more miserable.
To these elements of social calamity we must add another which is worse than all; namely—The charlatanism of the scientific world which is more baneful in its effects on society than all the other social evils taken collectively, for it not only misleads public opinion, by advocating the present system which engenders so many evils, but it offers the most obstinate resistance to all effective plans of improvement.
The modern sect of economists are constantly lauding the present system of society and the incoherent principles of free trade, as the beau ideal of social perfection, and the pride of modern genius. If we believe them, the science of social progress has attained the limits of perfection in their refined sophistry concerning the wealth of nations.
To refute; these pseudo-economists we have only to point to the practical results of their doctrines, as they are embodied in the evils just now mentioned. If we take one of these evils alone, the increase of national debts and the penury of governments, where are we to look for a remedy? Can politicians and economists remedy the evil. Their arbitrary speculations only serve to increase national burdens, for those countries in which economists are the most numerous and their doctrines, have the greatest influence, are also the most oppressed by the weight of nominal property. France and England for instance. * * * *
What folly it is for the present generation to pin their faith to the sophisms of these economists, who delude them. selves and society by visionary speculations concerning free-trade, and persuade the public that all truly progressive principles are impracticable. We shall prove however, in this work, that there are numerous modes of improving society on associative principles, though all plans of incoherent progress can only tend to enslave the people and increase the despotic power of money monopoly.
The exact sciences, mathematics, chemistry, &c., are progressing rapidly in real discoveries, and far from pretending to have already attained perfection, their votaries very modestly avow that much more remains yet to be discovered in every branch of these sciences. The philosophers and economists of the present day have adopted a very different line of conduct. The more their doctrines increase the real evils of society, the more they persist in their visionary mode of speculation, the absolute failure of which, after 30 years experience, proves that a new science is necessary to save society from ruin. * * * *
If men had any real faith in the universality of Providence, they would be convinced that God has provided a natural code of laws for the government of society, and that It is I possible to discover those principles which are best adapted to the domestic and industrial prosperity of mankind.
I do not mention the principles of government, because the grand error of philosophical speculation on that subject, during the last three thousand years, has consisted in agitating questions of government, instead of studying the principles of social organization, The true method of progress would not give umbrage to any government, for all are desirous of seeing industry progress and prosperity increase, as the best sources of peace and security in society.
It is well known that domestic and industrial association if it were practicable, would realize an immense increase of wealth and comfort: The creator, therefore, must know this better than we; what, then, must be his intention in this respect? There are but two fundamentally different modes of social organization: the present system of incoherent industry and the associative method of organization. Which of these states of Society is the natural destiny of man? All the mental, moral, material, and religious advantages indicate the latter to be our real destiny upon Earth, and therefore it was the duty of philosophers to study the natural principles of association, which would have been easily discovered by a diligent inquiry,
But such an inquiry, concerning the laws of nature would have been in direct opposition to the arbitrary speculations of moral, political, metaphysical, and economical science, based as they are upon uncertain philosophy. A want of faith in Providence has caused men to trust to human reason instead of studying the divine will as it is revealed to us in the laws of nature. * * * *
Let us examine more minutely the present state of society and the evils generated by political ignorance. This will give us an idea of the insufficiency of arbitrary science and the necessity of a new policy to save us from ruin.
THE MATERIAL ELEMENTS OF DECLINE.
1stly…. The Plague and its additional complications.
1. The inhabitants of Northern Europe think themselves secure from the effects of this pestilential disease, because it has been generally confined to the coast of Spain, but in spite of quarantine regulations, the yellow fever will sooner or later be imported to England and France, for it is becoming more and more prevalent in the West Indies, while medical men are still ignorant, both of the nature of the malady and the means of curing it.
2. The old pestilence peculiar to the Levant is likely to become more prevalent in Europe, since the increase of intercourse between the Turks and the Christians.
3. The typhus fever, which decimates both the negro and the while population of America is another specimen of modern perfection, which is already said to increase the malignity M the yellow fever.
4. The cholera morbus is approaching from the East. It has already reached Bagdad, and will no doubt be speedily transmitted to us through the medium of our amiable allies, the Turks, who, from their filthy habits and blind belief in fatalism, will soon have allowed the Indian and the Egyptian plagues to unite, and these two united to the typhus and the yellow-fever, will form a compound of pestilential elements, and a new plague of more malignant and disastrous effects than any of the simple infections. These are the material results of our present system of progress, and our philosophers are deluding themselves and the public with declamatory twaddle about progress. This one positive symptom of decline is enough to undeceive all thinking people; but we will enumerate three others.
As a set-off to these positive signs of decline, great stress is laid on partial degrees of progress, such as the discovery of vaccination, which has almost entirely neutralised the effects of the small-pox. That is certainly an advantage, but it is not enough to counterbalance the very serious evils which are rapidly increasing around us. The general of an army might as well boast of having taken a thousand prisoners in the field of battle, after losing several thousands of his own men, as for, statesmen to boast of progress in the present state of things. How is it that the statesmen of the present age, who are constantly talking of the balance of power and the progress of civilization, do not perceive that both the political and the material world are receding ten times as much of the one hand as they are progressing on the other? I shall often have occasion to remind them of this curious result of their learned theories concerning the progress of commerce and the balance of power.
2ndly: The insalubrious effects of injudicious culture and the destruction of forests. The seasons are now completely deranged in their alternations; they are subject to sudden transitions and periodical excess which cause permanent injury to the culture In Europe. The chief cause of these pernicious irregularities and inclemencies of the seasons, is the reckless manner in which the great mountains in Europe have been deprived of their forest wood. This one blunder alone will be the cause of very serious injury to the agricultural interests of Europe so long as it remains unrepaired; and as that is not likely to be very soon, we have nothing but an increase of bad harvests to expect for a long time to come.
There has been already so much said on this subject that it would be difficult for me to make the picture worse than it has been made by others, unless I add that the evil is often increased by those unexpected seasons which are generally deemed favourable. For instance; after a series of bad seasons from 1816 to 1821, the mild winter and the early spring of 1822 were mistaken for a return to a healthy state of alternation in the seasons, but the result proved the contrary. After experiencing a series of winters which were prolonged to the month of June, our planet seemed in 1822, to have had no winter season; and this irregularity was the cause of an Immense increase of vermin, in addition to premature and persevering droughts and innumerable hurricanes, Which devastated, not two or three parishes here and there, but whole provinces; so that, after all the fine appearances of crops, and the high expectations of the people, the harvest was one of the most indifferent.
These multiplied irregularities, and their disastrous consequences sufficiently prove the material derangement and decline of our planet, and the urgency of a general system of progressive improvement, but how are our natural philosophers to discover a remedy which they never think of looking for? Which of our philosophers is likely to speculate concerning the causes of decline and irregularity in the material functions of our planet, when none of them has ever yet thought of calculating and classifying the mere effects of evil, either in the physical or in the political department?
 Formerly the pestilential disease which ravaged different parts of the world from time to time was of a comparatively simple nature, and commonly called the Plague, but it has now assumed a quadruple developement: namely,
- The Ancient Plague or Mediterranean Pestilence.
- The Yellow fever or American Pestilence.
- The Typhus fever or European Pestilence.
- The Cholera-morbus or East Indian Pestilence, which is rapidly progressing towards Turkey and Africa, and will soon be in Europe. (The reader must bear in mind that Fourier made this prediction in 1822, and in 1831 it was fully realized.)