Qu'est ce que c'est Le Phalanstère?

Le Phalanstère was a utopist society imagined by the eccentric Frenchman Charles Fourier. A main tenant of his belief was that the greatest motivating forces man had were his natural “attractions” or desires. Under laissé-faire capitalism “attractions” were commonly repressed. The repression of attractions was the main cause of angst and social unrest. In his ideal society the natural “attractions” would be harnessed instead of suppressed.

Fourier was witness to the harsh reality of early industrialist France and he was dismayed by it. He was one of the first critics of what he saw as the beginning of the automatization of Man: man becomes a laborer doing mundane tasks for long hours in inhumane conditions. Marx later termed this automatization alienation, meaning that through the pitfalls of capitalistic labor structures man strays from his inherent human nature. In Le Phalanstère man's attraction for variety in one's work and life was to be enhanced and supported. He coined the passion or attraction of variety as the “papillon” trait, or butterfly in French. He believed the 9-5 existence and the capitalist specialization of labor was antithetical to natures (i.e. God's) intention. Under Fourier's philosophy if god endowed us with a propensity for variety then it must be utilized and enhanced, as it must be in the long-term, under the right circumstances, good for Man. He devised a system of labor in the Le Phalanstère community where no person would specialize in any one field or spend too many hours at a single task but constantly rotate positions and responsibilities so as to ensure that one was constantly learning and challenging oneself, working with the attraction for variety.

Charles Fourier was ahead of his time, and barely understood by his contemporaries or even historians. There are several flaws in his logic however and the reader can only take certain of his assumptions at face value. He could at times be quiet eccentric, for example Fourier believed that babies should be sent to work at dismantling factories because of their natural inclination to do so. Nevertheless his imaginative ideas never cease to inspire, and inspire is the key word here.

We decided upon the name Le Phalanstère because although we may not adhere to all of his notions of how life should be organized, we intuitively agree with his basic precept: that the repression of man's need for variety or papillonage leads to alienation. Our modern Le Phalanstère projects are works by people of varying fields and interests whose talents are not to be placed in particular categories. Le Phalanstère is a fluxing group of people from all around the world that refuse to be categorized, numbed or alienated from our existence. Le Phalanstère project in sum is our attempt to escape the artificial boundaries of the society in which we live.

design: miao wang | animation: claudia rohrmoser | music: ori kaplan | Press | © UrbanEtc 2003