Saint Simon

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  • Topic: Auguste Comte, Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, Saint-Simonianism
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  • Published : May 23, 2011
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Saint Simon
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 utopian socialist thinker. Saint-Simon was born in Paris. He belonged to a younger branch of the family of the duc de Saint-Simon. He claimed his education was directed by Jean le Rond d'Alembert, though no proof of this exists; it is likely that Saint-Simon himself invented this false intellectual pedigree. At the age of sixteen he was in America helping the Thirteen Colonies in the American Revolution against Britain. From his youth, Saint-Simon was highly ambitious. He ordered his valet to wake him every morning with, "Remember, monsieur le comte, that you have great things to do."] Among his early schemes was one to connect the Atlantic and the Pacific by a canal, and another to construct a canal from Madrid to the sea He was imprisoned in the Luxembourg Palace in Paris during the Terror. He took no part of any importance in the Revolution, although he profited from it by amassing a sizable fortune through land speculation; he said that this was motivated not by self-interest but by the desire to facilitate his future projects. Early career

When he was nearly 40 he went through a varied course of study and experiment to enlarge and clarify his view of things. One of these experiments was an unhappy marriage — undertaken so that he might have a salon. After a year's duration the marriage was dissolved by mutual consent. The result of his experiments was that he found himself completely impoverished, and lived in penury for the remainder of his life. The first of his numerous writings, Lettres d'un habitant de Genève, appeared in 1802; but his early writings were mostly scientific and political. In 1817 he began in a treatise entitled L'Industrie to propound his socialistic views, which he further developed in L'Organisateur (1819), a periodical on which Augustin Thierry and Auguste Comte collaborated. The first number caused a sensation, though one that brought few converts. In 1821 appeared Du système industriel, and in 1823–1824 Catéchisme des industriels. The last and most important expression of his views is the Nouveau Christianisme (1825), which he left unfinished. For many years before his death, Saint-Simon had been reduced to the direst straits. He was obliged to accept a laborious post, working nine hours a day for £40 a year, to live on the generosity of a former valet, and finally to solicit a small pension from his family. In 1823 he attempted suicide in despair, losing his sight in one eye. Only very late in his career did he link up with a few ardent disciples. Politics

As a thinker Saint-Simon was not particularly systematic, but his great influence on modern thought is undeniable, both as the historic founder of French socialism, which influenced the thought of Karl Marx, and as suggesting much of Auguste Comte's theory of industrial progress, which in turn influenced Émile Durkheim. Apart from the details of his socialist teaching, which are vague and unsystematic, the ideas of Saint-Simon as to the reconstruction of society are very simple. One of these ideas is "the Hand of Greed," the image Saint-Simon uses to describe the basic avarice of human beings. In the simplest forms of society, human beings try to survive. All people therefore have the motivation to try to gain a higher place in society, no matter how insignificant the higher statuses at which their aim may be. To create his form of utopian socialism, society must eradicate this way of thinking and behaving over time through education. His opinions were conditioned by the French Revolution and by the feudal and military system still prevalent in France. In opposition to the destructive liberalism of the Revolution he insisted on the necessity of a new and positive reorganization of society. So far was he from advocating fresh social revolt that he appealed to Louis XVIII to begin building the new...
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