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The enigmatic legacy of Fourier: Joseph Charlier and basic income
History of Political Economy (2001)
  • John Cunliffe
  • Guido Erreygers, University of Antwerp
Until now it was believed that the first fully-fledged basic income proposal, known as ‘State Bonus’, was formulated in 1919, and that crucial aspects of the basic income approach can be traced back to Thomas Paine and Charles Fourier. This paper focuses upon the Fourierist tradition. First we demonstrate that Fourier’s idea of the ‘right to the minimum’ differs considerably from the modern ‘basic income’. Next we review how the idea of the minimum was associated with the ‘right to work’ by some of Fourier’s disciples, notably Victor Considérant. Finally we show that, inspired by Fourierist writings, the almost entirely forgotten Belgian writer Joseph Charlier transformed Fourier’s minimum proposal into a genuine basic income scheme, which he first proposed in great detail in 1848, and continued to defend for some fifty years.
  • basic income,
  • Joseph Charlier,
  • Charles Fourier,
  • Victor Considérant
Publication Date
September, 2001
Citation Information
John Cunliffe and Guido Erreygers. "The enigmatic legacy of Fourier: Joseph Charlier and basic income" History of Political Economy Vol. 33 Iss. 3 (2001)
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