Monday, January 30, 2012

Charles Fourier´s phalanstère

Charles Fourier was a French utopian socialist who rejected industrialization and free market economy and was very critical with capitalism, because he considered that they contributed to workers´ exploitation. He promoted the return to the land and agriculture and he proposed the creation of an ideal community called phalanstère. This word comes from the Greek “phalanx” and it referred to a community located in the countryside formed by around 1,600-1,800 people (400 families of around 4 members). He considered that this was the ideal size to freely develop desires and passions. It should be 400 hectares long and concentrate agricultural and industrial activities. A phalanstère would have the structure of a public limited society, whose members would receive shares in relation with the capital they provided to the community, and it would be ruled in a democratic way. Three parts of the activity would be devoted to agriculture and one part to manufacturing. The members could choose the work they wanted to do. In order to avoid monotony, Fourier proposed that workers changed activity 8 times a day. The profits would be distributed according to the following scheme: profits would be divided into 12 parts and 4/12 would be distributed according to the capital invested, 5/12 according to the work done and 3/12 would be for the technical and scientific experts.

Fourier also thought about the distribution of space in the phalanstères:

- the central part, destined to quiet activities, with meeting rooms, dining rooms and libraries.

- one of the lateral wings for work and the noisy activities. Children would also be hosted in this side,    because they were noisy 

- the other lateral wing would be destined to the external visits. The visitors would pay a fee, which would be used to finance the community. 

In 1832 Fourier put his ideas into practice at Condé-sur-Vesgre, 75 kilometres West Paris, but the project failed in 1834 due to the lack of capital and inexperience of the members. He didn´t create any more phalanstères in Europe, because he didn´t find financing to do it, but there were experiences based on his ideas in the U.S.A (around 40-50 phalanstères) and other places. These projects failed for the difficulties of reaching agreements and the lack of commitment of some of their members.

There is not much information about phalanstères in English (apart from the one provided by Wikipedia). But if you want to learn something more, you can go to the following links in French:

- The first phalanstère:

- More information about phalanstères:


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