Sunday Fourier Blogging

(I doubt this will become a regular feature, don’t worry.) On the plane on the way out to California, I read Jonathan Beecher’s 500-page biography of Charles Fourier, which was fun. Sandwiched between two biographical sections, the middle of the book gives an overview of Fourier’s developed doctrine of harmony and whatnot, which is a very handy summary.

I had remembered (of course, because who can forget?) that Fourier’s great answer to the “well, who will do all the crap work under your kind of socialism?” was “the children, because they will like getting themselves dirty!”, but I had forgotten quite how elaborate his thinking on the matter was, and I don’t think I had ever fully taken in what a Druid was:

What Fourier proposed was that the truly disgusting work of the Phalanx should be performed by groups of preadolescents who could conceive of no more delightful activity than wallowing in dirt and excrement. Fourier estimated that two-thirds of all boys and one-third of all girls between the ages of nine and fifteen fell into this category. Such children were passionately attracted to filth, and they were also generally foul-mouthed, surly, and willing to brave any danger “simply for the pleasure of wreaking havoc.” In Harmony these hitherto intolerable qualities would be put to good use. As members of the Little Hordes and entrusted with principal responsibility for such tasks as garbage collection, sewer maintenance, and the cleaning of slaughterhouses, these unruly children would be venerated by the community as “guardians of social honor” and (because they would refuse to accept pay) exemplars of “the spirit of abnegation recommended by Christianity”. They would have their own private language or slang, their own uniforms (in the “grotesque or barbarian style”), and their own leaders, called Little Khans and Little Khantes. They would be aided by acolytes called Bonzes and Druids – older people who had never outgrown the love of filth and who would accompany them on their missions.”

And, Beecher continues, “Fourier has left us with an unforgettable description of their departure for work in the morning”:

“The charge of the Little Hordes is sounded by a din of alarm bells, carillons, drums, trumpets, barking dogs, and mooing cows. Then the Hordes, led by their Khans and their Druids, rush forth with great cries, passing before the patriarchs, who sprinkle them with Holy Water. They gallop frenetically to labour, which is executed as a work of piety, an act of charity toward the Phalanx, the service of God and of unity.”

— Jonathan Beecher, Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World, p.287.

Schleswig-Holstein

While I’ve been uncharacteristically silent, the discussion in one of the comments threads below has wandered off from the West Lothian Question to the Schleswig-Holstein question.

All you need to know about that one, as far as I remember, is that Lord Palmerston is supposed to have said that only three people every understood the Schleswig-Holstein question. Prince Albert was dead. A German professor once did, but then went mad. And he himself did once upon a time, but had forgotten all about it.

Probably apocryphal.