Welcome to the Phalanstère

Today the media is in full Princess Diana mode, commemorating the 170th anniversary of Charles Fourier’s passing.

In my view, Fourier and other utopian socialists have been unfairly maligned by Marxists. After all, the utopians had it right – yes the antagonisms inherent to capitalism are powerful factors in social change, but ultimately a socialist future can only be the result of a collective ethical choice, not the inevitable outcome of some inexorable dialectical processes.

Fourier believed a radically egalitarian society could be organized into a confederation of communes orphalansteries (a portmanteau of phalanx and monastery). Ideally a phalanstery would have exactly 1,620 residents and plenty of seristeries (social halls) for meetings and merriment.

One of Fourier’s most important breakthroughs was the realization that family meals are actually boring and tedious, therefore he proposed that each phalanstery have three dining halls – one for men, one for women and another for children.

Fourier explained:

A father may enjoy eating with his wife and his children. But when he has spent two days in Harmony and taken the bait of the intrigues and cabals of the series, the father will wish to dine with his own cabalistic groups. He will send off his wife and his children who, for their part, will ask nothing better than to be done with the lugubrious family dinner.


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