Saint Simonian

Saint-Simonianism was a French political and social movement of the first half of the 19th century, inspired by the ideas of Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon (1760–1825).

Saint-Simon has been "variously portrayed as a utopian socialist, the founder of sociology and a prescient madman".[1] His ideas, expressed largely through a succession of journals such as l'Industrie (1816), La politique (1818) and L'Organisateur (1819–20)[2] centered on a perception that growth in industrialization and scientific discovery would have profound changes on society. He believed, nonetheless, that society would restructure itself by abandoning traditional ideas of temporal and spiritual power, an evolution that would lead, inevitably, to a productive society based on, and benefiting from, a " ... union of men engaged in useful work", the basis of "true equality".[3] These ideas influenced Auguste Comte (who was, for a time, Saint-Simon's secretary), Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and many other thinkers and social theorists.

Saint-Simon's writings

Saint-Simon's earliest publications, such as his Introduction aux travaux scientifiques du XIXe siècle (Introduction to scientific discoveries of the 19th century) (1803) and his Mémoire sur la science de l'homme (Notes on the study of man) (1813), (the latter of which is a eulogy to Napoleon), demonstrate his faith in science as a means to regenerate society. In his 1814 essay De la réorganisation de la société européenne (On the reorganisation of European society), written in collaboration with his then secretary Augustin Thierry, Saint-Simon seems to have foreseen the European Union, expecting however that England would take the lead in forming a continent sharing the same laws and institutions.[4]

For his last decade Saint-Simon concentrated on themes of political economy. Together with Auguste Comte, (then only a teenager), Saint-Simon projected a society bypassing the changes of the French Revolution, in which science and industry would take the moral and temporal power of medieval theocracy.[4]

In his last work however, Le Nouveau Christianisme (The New Christianity) (1825), Saint-Simon reverted to more traditional ideas of renewing society through Christian brotherly love. He died shortly after its publication.[2]

The arts

In his last years and in the period after his death, Saint-Simon's ideas, which gave prominence to art as a prized aspect of work, interested numerous artists and musicians, amongst them Hector Berlioz, Félicien David (who wrote a number of hymns for the movement) and Franz Liszt. For a brief period, the historian and writer Léon Halévy acted as secretary to the philosopher.

The movement after Saint-Simon's death

Following Saint-Simon's death, his followers began to differ as to how to promulgate his ideas. A 'charismatic' faction, led by Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin purchased the newspaper Le Globe as their official organ, and formed an increasingly religiously-minded ritualistic group based on a community founded at Ménilmontant, before being banned by the authorities in 1832. Following this some of Enfantin's followers visited North Africa or the Middle East in search of Messianic revelations, and the formal Saint-Simonian movement expired.

However, others who had been associated with the group and were not so interested in the increasingly bizarre antics of Enfantin, (such as Olinde Rodrigues and Gustave d'Eichthal) developed Saint-Simonian notions practically and involved themselves in the development of the French economy, founding a number of leading concerns including the Suez Canal Company and the bank Crédit Mobilier.[1]

People associated with the movement



  • Goyau, G. Saint-Simon and Saint-Simonism in the Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, 1912
  • Hewett, Caspar, , 2008
  • Leopold, David Saint-Simon, Claude-Henri de Rouvroy in E. Craig (ed.). Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, London, 1998.
  • Osama W. Abi-Mershed. Apostles of Modernity: Saint-Simonians and the Civilizing Mission in Algeria. Palo Alto, Stanford UP, 2010.
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