Bed and Breakfast, Wiscoy, New York, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"
United States (Artist's nationality)
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In 1808, Charles Fourier, a clerk living in Lyons, France, published The Theory of the Four Movements. In it he criticized the immorality of the business world and the anarchy of free competition, arguing that, “truth and commerce are as incompatible as Jesus and Satan.”
Fourier advocated a new system of cooperation based on what he called “phalanxes,” meticulously planned model communities with exactly 1,620 people of all classes (twice the number of distinctive human personality types he had identified), whose lives would be structured for maximum collaboration and fulfillment.
Underlying Fourier’s theory was the notion of “passional attraction,” which he defined as “the drive given to us by nature.” In his view, complete sexual gratification would lead to perfect harmony. During Fourier’s lifetime a few communities were initiated in France—including one begun by the industrialist Godin, who set up his cast-iron kitchen goods factory in Gurse as a modified Fourierist Phalanx.
There is much in Fourier’s writing that is laughable nonsense: he believed that the ideal world he was helping to create would last eighty-thousand years during which six moons would circle the Earth, there would be thirty-seven million poets equal to Homer, thirty-seven million mathematicians equal to Newton and the seas would become oceans of lemonade. But there was also much that was perceptive in his writings and he was able to attract a widespread following.
After Fourier’s death in 1837, many of his followers came to the US and founded a succession of short-lived communities. Over two dozen phalanxes were established—thus making Fourierism the most popular secular community movement of the entire nineteenth century. None of the American phalanxes were full-scale, either in numbers or in constructing a large “phalanstery” according to Fourier’s grandiose and imaginative plans. One of the most renowned of all American communal experiments, Brook Farm, in Roxbury, Massachusetts, became a Fourierist phalanx and flourished as such, until a disastrous fire brought about its end in 1846.
Among these phalanxes was the Mixville Association in Wiscoy, New York, founded in 1844. When this photograph was made, in 1996, it was functioning as a bed and breakfast.
From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005
Image: 26.5 × 33.2 cm (10 7/16 × 13 1/8 in.); Paper: 27.9 × 35.5 cm (11 × 14 in.)
Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall
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