- Louis J. Kern
Fourier, Charles (07 April 1772–10 October 1837), utopian social theorist, was born Charles Fourrier in Besançon, Franche-Comté, France, the son of Charles Fourrier, a wealthy cloth merchant, and Marie Muguet. He received a solid classical but otherwise indifferent education at the Jesuit Collège de Besançon (1781–1787) and therefore was essentially an autodidact. It was expected that as the sole surviving son he would succeed his father as head of the family firm, and he began his apprenticeship in the cloth trade at age six. In temperament and sensibilities, however, he was unsuited to commercial life; he found its necessary chicanery morally repugnant. Nevertheless, with the death of his father (1781), and in accordance with the terms of his will, Charles was compelled to enter a commercial career by age twenty or forfeit a substantial patrimony of 42,932 livres. Since his writings remained largely unremarked until 1832, and generated, in any case, no reliable source of revenue, Fourier ironically relied on what he called “the jailhouse of commerce” for support throughout his life. He was by turns a mercantile clerk, a traveling salesman, and a ...