Competitive Industry

In Comte de Saint-Simon’s The Incoherence and Disorder of Industry, Saint-Simon disapproves and criticizes laissez-faire capitalism for its brutal competitive nature. He views industrialists as self-centered and vain. He claims, “the industrialist is very little concerned about society’s interests.” Saint-Simon has a Hobbesian view on the Industrial Revolution. He suggests that when two men pursue the same career, they inevitably become enemies; their lives become nasty, short, and brutish as they seek glory over each other’s career. Saint-Simon reasons that when masses of people charge into production, the result is disastrous with few industrialists succeeding and the majority victimized and suffering. The hardworking men that lose in these crises become broke and dismayed. These men assume new roles of dishonest characteristics in order to prevent capsizing in the laissez-faire capitalism. In Saint-Simon’s words, these men are “lost to humanity.” Saint-Simon supports an industrialized system where its leaders view society as the primary component and work to settle the needs of the poor.

While Saint-Simon views the laissez faire capitalism competition as disastrous, Adam Smith in his Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations, believes that through division of labor, laissez faire will increase productivity resulting in a higher standard of living. Smith focuses on the value production as the means to success whereas Saint-Simon emphasizes the ill will of man. Saint-Simon’s position assumes that personal and social interests do not coincide and thus government intervention is required to protect the poor. Saint-Simon in his Hobbesian view has little faith in the ability of men to work together for society’s interests rather than personal interests.

4 thoughts on “Competitive Industry

  1. I liked that you included Saint-Simon’s phrase, “lost to humanity.” I think that concept is a good way to understand the paradox of how the effects of an industrial revolution with technological advances can actually coerce mankind into its most primitive or natural state.

  2. I certainly agree with your connection between Saint-Simon’s view of the division of labor and Hobbes’ state of nature. However, in mentioning his phrase “lost to humanity”, you may have also done well do draw similarities between his views and those of Marx, who describes the separation of a laborer from himself by means of putting effort into producing something and then selling that product for petty wages, thereby creating a dichotomy between the laborer and the consumer. I’d be interested to hear more on this idea.

  3. I think it was a great idea to pull in Hobbes idea of a nasty, brutish, short life. It is valuable to use Saint-Simons words but it adds to the point to include someone else’s ideas. It is also good to draw Adam Smith into the mix, creating not just a comparison of two authors but also adding a third. I think this post goes a long way in showing a possible negative of the industrial revolution.

  4. It’s astonishing that even after all these enlightened thinkers, people are still thinking only of themselves. They aren’t considering themselves as part of a society; connecting their fate to the populace. Everybody is out to save themselves, evidence of Hobbes’ belief ; that people are naturally selfish.

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