Too Much Devotion

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Benjamin Ricketson Tucker

Too Much Devotion.

In a recent number of the "Credit Foncier of Sinaloa" is a letter from Godin, the founder of the Familistere at Guisesur-Aisne, in which he reproaches Fourier's theory with having made more partisans to the idea of individual happiness for self than to the sentiment of devotion to the cause of humanity, i. e., to the love of the well-being of all and of general progress.

Instead of making individual attraction and happiness the basis of my conception, I have inculcated the principles of sacrifice and devotion. This, in my judgment, is the only way to the salvation of humanity.

He repudiates Fourier's theory of the passions, and of groups and series in attractive industry. He adopts from Fourier only the general idea of association, industrial and domestic. "His conception of attractive industry rests upon false ideas." Wherein their falsehood consists M. Godin does not explain. He farther contests the natural availability of every type of character for social accord under properly adaptive conditions. He avows the ordinary Christian view of this life as but a short station in eternity, the importance of which consists in its relation to ulterior existences for the individual.

The good he has been able to accomplish in the material life is what serves him in his elevation, in his ulterior existences.

It is in that other existence, my friend, that we will be able to enjoy together the fruits of the efforts we are making here below in the same thought of devotion to humanity. There distances will disappear, and, affection uniting spirits, we will know each other in societies fit for our loves. Here, on the contrary, our desires are of another world; nothing is done to give satisfaction to the aspiration of hearts burning to do good.

Well, Mr. benevolent capitalist with a fair talent for organization, who have made a fortune and built a palace for your workmen, you have had your own way some twenty years or so. What is the upshot? Is your industrial association a living germ, an organic growth, illustrating principles that will ensure its persistence after your controlling will is removed? He says elsewhere:

From those to whom I have shown nothing but devotion and from whom I ought to have received the most precious support, I have experienced the greatest difficulties and the most systematic opposition, and these are renewed today, when I am about organizing the association.

He means probably its corporative tenure of the property which has been hitherto held in his own name.

It seems then that certain ungrateful wretches are reluctant to be happified on the devotional system.

I find but incredulity and carelessness on the part of those who are the most interested in our success, those who have for a long time been benefited by the institutions of insurance, education, and amusement that have been established in the Familistere. I find resistances particularly among clerks. Each one would consent to enjoy the advantages of the association, but for himself alone; nothing for others. The dignity of the clerk believes itself in danger from association with the workman. You will see by the minutes of my last conference that I have motives of melancholy, not to say discouragement.

Suppose, M. Godin, that, instead of blaming the selfishness of your clerks, whose arrogance you probably foster by paying them better than your workmen in the foundry, you had adopted from the theory of the Series, which you decry, the

provision of interlocked groups. Then your clerks would either be working in the foundry a part of the time, or else performing accessory and subordinate functions, to the sensible improvement of their health and sociability. Your bureau of clerks, being drawn, moreover, from the educated children of your workmen, would preserve with these alliances of kinship and affection. They would not constitute a caste of clerks whose self-interest or whose ideas of respectability were distinct from those of your foundry men.

The great difficulty, M. Godin, is that you have not elevated yourself, in this world, to the conception of Fourier's luminous genius, which discerned the method of utilizing those passions whose lout ensemble constitutes self-interest, and whose legitimate satisfaction blossoms forth in altruism or devotion, spontaneous, not imposed as duty. With all your benevolence you are but a routinist. Your motto, "Le Devoir," betrays the limitations of a narrow and superannuated system of discipline, while the harmonic future of mankind, nay, of animality entire, lies in the formula of "Attractions proportional to essential destinies," whose modus operandi is the spontaneity of individualism in the natural or selective distributions of serial industry.

Edgeworth.


  • Marx Edgeworth Lazarus, “Too Much Devotion,” Liberty 4, no. 5 (July 3, 1886): 7.