Are Saint-Simonians Responsible for Modernity

Stsimon2 Sebastian Gießmann in Atopia:

Having moved from downtown Paris to the forest ridges of the pastoral Ménilmontant in 1832, a group of young men under the name of Saint-Simonians sets out for new goals. Their name derives from the Earl of Saint-Simon (1760–1824), who tends to be recognized mostly as an economist by now. His biography, however, is abundant with twists and turns. The royalist soldier who fights in the independence wars of North America and Mexico in the 1770’s turns into a carpetbagger after the French Revolution of 1789, earning a fortune through deals with the former church estates. Saint-Simon then becomes a patron of art and science, squandering all his money between 1795 and 1805.

He decides to conduct his own research, starting mostly with physiological thoughts. Those already included a philosophy of sociability and community. Treatises like A Letter of an Inhabitant of Geneva to his Contemporaries (Lettres d’un habitant de Genève à ses contemporain, 1802) and Treatise on the Science of Man (Mémoire sur la science de l’homme, 1813) were often distributed in handwritten copies only. After the downfall of Napoléon, he manages to get a post as a librarian at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. After a slow recovery from poverty, Saint-Simon earned success by publishing articles and newspapers. By focusing on political economy from then on, he became a preacher of industrial progress and peace in a capitalist Europe. Within that framework, social justice (not equity) is the main reference point. Saint-Simon’s final years bring a last and definitive turn to religion—a New Christianism—that was going to be continued by his adversaries.