Henri de Saint-Simon  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Saint-Simonianism

Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, often referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon (17 October 1760 – 19 May 1825) was a French early socialist theorist. He was born an aristocrat; the political ideologies he adopted in later life do not fall into the aristocratic category. Saint-Simon defied the formalities and conventions of his social class and fled to America to fight in the American Revolution when he was 16.

When he was nearly 40 he went through a varied course of study and experiment to enlarge and clarify his view of things. The result of his experiments was that he found himself completely impoverished, and lived in penury for the remainder of his life. His early writings were mostly scientific and political.

In opposition to the feudal and military system he advocated a form of state capitalist-technocratic socialism, an arrangement where industrial chiefs should control society. In place of the church, he felt the direction of society should fall to the men of science. Men who are fitted to organize society for productive labour are entitled to rule it.

Theory

In the school of Saint-Simon we find a great advance on the vague and confused views of the master. In the philosophy of history they recognize epochs of two kinds, the critical or negative and the organic or constructive. The former, in which philosophy is the dominating force, is characterized by war, egotism, and anarchy; the latter, which is controlled by religion, is marked by the spirit of obedience, devotion, and association. The two spirits of antagonism and association are the two great social principles, and on the degree of prevalence of the two depends the character of an epoch. The spirit of association, however, tends more and more to prevail over its opponent, extending from the family to the city, from the city to the nation, and from the nation to the federation. This principle of association is to be the keynote of the social development of the future. Under the present system the industrial chief exploits the proletariat, the members of which, though nominally free, must accept his terms under pain of starvation. The only remedy for this is the abolition of the law of inheritance, and the union of all the instruments of labour in a social fund, which shall be exploited by association. Society thus becomes sole proprietor, entrusting to social groups and social functionaries the management of the various properties. The right of succession is transferred from the family to the state.

The school of Saint-Simon insists strongly on the claims of merit; they advocate a social hierarchy in which each man shall be placed according to his capacity and rewarded according to his works. This is, indeed, a most special and pronounced feature of the Saint-Simon socialism, whose theory of government is a kind of spiritual or scientific autocracy. With regard to the family and the relation of the sexes the school of Saint-Simon advocated the complete emancipation of woman and her entire equality with man. The "social individual" is man and woman, who are associated in the exercise of the triple function of religion, the state and the family. In its official declarations the school maintained the sanctity of the Christian law of marriage. Connected with these doctrines was their famous theory of the "rehabilitation of the flesh," deduced from the philosophic theory of the school, which was a species of Pantheism, though they repudiated the name. In this theory they rejected the dualism so much emphasized by Catholic Christianity in its penances and mortifications, and held that the body should be restored to its due place of honour. It was a vague principle open to varying interpretations by Saint-Simon's followers. Enfantin's interpretation would have been considered highly immoral at the time: it was a kind of sensual mysticism, a system of free love with a religious sanction.




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