Comte De Saint-Simon


Author: Author’s name is Comte de Saint-Simon.  Saint-Simon is considered to be a French social theorist (Comte de Saint-Simon 1).  He was not in support of a Laissez-faire economy.  Instead, Saint-Simon wanted “an industrialized state directed by science,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 1).  Furthermore, Saint-Simon wanted industrialists to become enlightened and after their enlightenment, for he felt that they could help the poor.  He also fought in the American Revolution.

Context: The article does not say when exactly it was written, but on Encyclopedia Britannica they make mention of many of his works.  A few of his successful works were in 1803, 1814, and  1816-18.  It claims that his work in 1803 spoke to the importance of science, which this piece does. ((Encyclopedia Britannica, Henri de Saint-Simon)).

Language: Saint-Simon seemed to be challenging the way Europe currently stood economically when he wrote this piece.  The tone of his voice could be characterized as frustrated, for he was not happy with the way Europe continued to use this Laissez-faire attitude.

Audience: He claims that Europe relies on this Laissez-faire attitude and that it is considered to be “the inevitable solution,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2).  Saint-Simon disagreed with this point and wants Europe to change their ways.  Due to the fact that St. Simon disagreed with this Laissez-faire mentality and constantly mentioned “honest and hard-working men,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2) as “innumerable victims,” (Comte de Saint- Simon 2) it seems as though Saint-Simon was speaking to the masses, as he wanted them to change their line of thinking and stop going along with the Laissez-faire attitude.

Intent: As stated above, it seems that Saint-Simon’s intent was to encourage the masses to look around and see how they were being manipulated by the Laissez-faire economy and his piece showed a way in which they could improve the European economy.

Message: Laissez-faire is defined as, “policy of minimum governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society,” ((Encyclopedia Britannica, laissez-faire)).  However, while many Europeans found this to be “inevitable solution,” Saint-Simon disagreed and stated that a Laissez-fair economy created a “struggle to the death,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2) mentality amongst Europeans.  Furthermore, by creating this mentality, Saint-Simon claimed that while some individuals may be successful, “the price is the complete ruin of innumerable victims.”  In fact, because many working men become “innumerable victims,” Saint-Simon claimed that this caused people to go to the endth measure, for “more than honesty and hard work are needed,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 2).  Saint-Simon concludes that when working men see that hard work does not get enough done, they resort to deceitful tactics and become “lost to humanity,” (Comte de Saint- Simon 2).  Therefore, because working men, seeing that there hard-work was useless, turn to drastic measures and lose their humanity.  This, Saint-Simon argued, is a major problem occurring in Europe and will only be fixed if the Laissez-faire economy is done away with.

His solution to this, was, as the introduction stated, “an industrialized state directed by science, and an enlightened class of industrialists to address the needs of the poor,” (Comte de Saint-Simon 1).  While this solution had flaws, for Saint-Simon acknowledges these very flaws in his introduction, he believed that a state which was directed by science could not be any more flawed than a Laissez-faire economy, which continuously hurt the humanity of Europe and brought chaos to Europe.


*Once again, I had trouble with footnoting.  Below are the sources I used for the Context section and Message section.*

“Henri de Saint-Simon”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.       Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2015 (context section)

“laissez-faire”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2015. (message section)

Early Socialist Thinkers: Owen, Saint-Simon, and Marx

1.) “The Legacy of Robert Owen to the Population of the World”

Author: Robert Owen. Welsh cotton manufacturer. Utopian socialist and a founder of the cooperative movement. Founder of (failed) New Harmony colony in the U.S. Had a vision of an ideal society.

Context: Great Britain, 1844. Industrial Revolution. Many of the Factory Acts were in place, including many that regulated child labor.

Language: Persuasive, confident, hopeful

Audience: The Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of Great Britain and Ireland

Intent: To persuade listeners to begin a bloodless revolution driven by morality and wisdom.

Message: A complete reworking of society was necessary. “Men of industry” should unite to begin the bloodless revolution that will lead to a new and improved state of human existence.

Why?: Many factory owners during the Industrial Revolution abused their workers with long hours, unsafe conditions, and low wages. Owen ran his factories more benevolently and saw a utopic vision in which all of society was based on moral correctness and wisdom.

2.) “The Incoherence and Disorder of Society”

Author: Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon. French political and economic theorist. Businessman. Believed in a meritocracy. Fought in the American Revolution. Supporter of French Revolution and imprisoned during the Reign of Terror.

Context: Saint-Simon lived in France under Napoleon and during the Bourbon Restoration (constitutional monarchy). Frequent occurrences of civil unrest.

Language: Passionate, sarcastic at times, easy to read

Audience: The industrial class–everyone engaged in productive work.

Intent: Disprove the principle behind laissez-faire economics. Advocate for a meritocracy.

Message: Industry needed to address the needs of the industrial class. Economics cannot be focused merely on statistics; society needs to take care of people and their needs.

Why?: Saint-Simon fought in the American Revolution, and his time in America likely exposed him to a society with fewer class distinctions than the one in which he lived. He also supported the French Revolution’s principles of equality, liberty, and fraternity, and his own work argues in favor of these principles as well. The Bourbon Restoration provided a more conservative government to France, and Saint-Simon may have reacted against his government’s conservative attitudes.

3.) “Estranged Labor” from Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

Author: Karl Marx. German philosopher, economist, and socialist. Moved to Paris in 1843. Prolific Writer. Father of Marxism.

Context: Marx lived in France during the July Monarchy, which was a time of liberal constitutional monarchy. Paris was the de facto headquarters for revolutionaries from all over Europe.

Language: Challenging to follow, very convoluted arguments, passionate tone

Audience: The intended audience (workers; the common man) likely differs from the audience who would be capable of actually comprehending Marx’s argument (academics and philosophers).

Intent: Turn society against capitalism.

Message: Capitalism hurts the laboring class because the more wealth a worker produces, the poorer he becomes. He is alienated from his product and estranged from himself. Society is divided into these propertyless workers and the owners of that property.

Why?: Other economic thinkers of the time, such as Ludwig Feuerbach influenced Marx, and he lived in Paris at a time when revolutionary minds filled the city. The July Monarchy followed the more conservative Bourbon Restoration, bringing a more liberal view into focus. Marx met many people who shared his views, and his views fermented and strengthened in this atmosphere.



The Economic Option

All three of the historians that we examined had different viewpoints regarding economics than did Adam Smith. While Smith believed laissez-faire capitalism was the best economic method a country could employ, his opponents (Marx, Saint-Simon and Owens) all believed that it belittled the poor to such an extent that it was not a viable option. Although the capitalist method increases production to unforeseen levels, it creates an undeniable divide between social classes. The owners of the companies become much richer than the working class people, while all they have to do is sit down and watch the money being made in front of their eyes. Although this was clear exploitation of the working class, Smith believed that this was the best method because it helped the country grow economically, even though the people suffered. Marx was against this. He thought that if the gap between the rich and the poor got to an uncontrollable level the whole economy would come crashing down. The workers would get angry enough to rebel against the owners and the whole governmental system would plunge into anarchy, finally resulting in the “purest form of socialism”, communism. Saint-Simon also thought that the capitalist society would not work in the long run – when competitors in the same job went up against each other they would try to beat out the other person instead of being the best worker that they could be. He supported more of an “equality” economy where the owners would work to support their employees so they their workers would enjoy putting in the hours at the factory.

Which method do you think is best? There are pros and cons to each type of economy, but I feel you have to side with the one that provides the most growth for the country as a whole over individuals. Marx’s plan would lead to inevitable conflict, while Saint-Simon’s wouldn’t provide as much production that is desired. I would choose Adam Smith’s capitalism because it vaults the specific country into a whole new class on the world scale, while raising the bar for all of the people in said country.

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.