Utopian Socialism

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North American Phalanx building in New Jersey, inspired by Charles Fourier's concept of phalanstère. Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) was a French aristocrat who came to believe that in the France of his day an unproductive conflict existed between the "workers" and the "idlers." The workers included both wage workers and manufacturers, merchants, and bankers while the idlers were the nobility and priests. Saint-Simon imagined that the society of his day could be replaced by a rational and harmonious society led by an elite of philosophers and scientists. The leaders of this society would be, he imagined, driven by the good for all in society. He argued that a "New Christianity" could be introduced to provide a new religious bond for society. Scientists would be the priests of this new religion. The new religion would be a Christianity simplified to its most basic elements and purged of unnecessary (and divisive) dogma. Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a successful businessman who devoted much of his profits to improving the lives of his employees. His reputation grew when he set up a textile factory in New Lanark, Scotland and introduced shorter working hours, schools for children and renovated housing. He also set up an Owenite commune called New Harmony in Indiana, USA. This collapsed when one of his business partners ran off with all the profits. Owen's main contribution to socialist thought was the view that human social behaviour is not fixed or absolute, and that human beings have the free will to organize themselves into any kind of society they wished. Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was by far the most utopian of the Socialists. Rejecting the industrial revolution altogether and thus the problems that arose with it, he made various fanciful claims about the ideal world he envisioned. Despite some clearly non-socialist inclinations, he contributed significantly - if indirectly - to the socialist movement. His writings about turning work...
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