Albert Brisbane's Phalanxes

Presentation by: Emaun Irani and Paul Reich

Background/Context

Brisbane went to France in 1828 when he was 19 years old,

He began to study under Charles Fourier, who was a theorist in France .

Fourier believed in a utopian socialist society, and Brisbane bought into his views quickly.

Brisbane returned to America with his newfound mindset. He published in The Social Destiny of Man; or Association and Reorganization of Industry (1840) and Association; or a Concise Exposition of the Practical Part of Fourier's Social Science (1843). These were essentially translations and adaptions of Fourier's writing.

With his books, Brisbane eventually became successful in introducing "Fourierism" into Brook Farm.

Brisbane and Fourier's Ideology

Brisbane believed in a utopian socialism with the same ideals as Fourier. Like other utopian socialists, they wanted to eliminate the "wrongs" in society and increase economic efficiency while guaranteeing human happiness.

Society would be established into phalanxes, social groups where work was based on a rotating system.

"There exists for Man a unitary destiny, a Divine Social order to be established on the earth for the regulation of the social and domestic relations of the human race [...]"         -Fourier

"Under a true organization of Commerce, property would be abolished, the Mercantile classes become agents for trade of industrial goods, and Commerce would then be the servant of society." -Fourier

"We shall see people engaged in attractive occupations giving no thoughts to material wants, free from all pecuniary cares and anxieties [...] A unity of interests and views will arise, crime and violence disappear." -Fourier

Brisbane believed that these socialist policies would be successful through moral suasion. People would buy into his ideas and they would be economically successful as a result, so others would want to imitate those who are thriving.

Brook Farm and Brisbane

The inhabitants of Brook Farm bought into Brisbane's writings and his views.

On January 18, 1844, the Brook Farm Association changed the Brook Farm Constitution to coincide with Brisbane's socialist beliefs.

"With a view to an ultimate expansion into a perfect Phalanx, we desire without any delay to organize three primary departments of labor, namely Agriculture, Domestic Industry, and the Mechanic Arts." -1844 Brook Farm Constitution

"[...] humanity [...] is at length prepared to enter into that universal order, toward which it has perpetually moved." -1844 Brook Farm Constitution

Outcome

After two years, Brisbane's support in Brook Farm declined very quickly.

Critiques and attacks on Fourier led to the end of Brook Farm and its Association in its entirety.

Because of this, Brisbane is often cited as one of the main people that caused Brook Farm's downfall.

Overall

Brisbane's socialism was radical (it was socialist, after all), but it reflected traditional utopian values.

"[...] we propose radical and universal reform [...]" -Brook Farm Constitution of 1844

The only major difference was the phalanxes, but it was mainly an economic change that Brisbane hoped would cause American socialist societies to prosper.

Bibliography

Primary Sources:

Brisbane, Albert. Social Destiny of Man.

"Brook Farm Constitution of 1844." American Libraries. https://archive.org/stream/constitutionbro00unkngo.

"Theory of Social Organization, 1820." Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1820fourier.asp

Secondary Sources:

Rueben, Paul. Utopian Movement and Fourierism. Perspectives in American Literature. http://archive.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap...



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