< Author | Library >
<< Previous | Contents | Next >>
We have seen how, as a consequence of the Revolution and of the cold, destructive, criticism of the eighteenth century, there was a demand for constructive thought. This was a desire common not only to the Traditionalists but to De Biran and Cousin. They aimed at intellectual reconstruction. While, however, there were some who combated the principles of the Revolution, as did the Traditionalists, while some tried to correct and to steady those principles (as De Biran and Cousin), there were others who endeavoured to complete them and to carry out a more rigorous application of the Revolutionary watchwords, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. The Socialists (and later Comte) aimed at not merely intellectual, but social reconstruction.
The Revolution and the War had shown men that many changes could be produced in society in a comparatively short time. This encouraged bold and imaginative spirits. Endeavours after better things, after new systems and a new order of society, showed themselves. The work of political philosophers attempted to give expression to the socialist idea of society. For long there had been maintained the ecclesiastical conception of a perfect social order in another world. It was now thought that humanity would be better employed, not in imagining the glories of a "hereafter," but in "tilling its garden," in striving to realise here on earth something of that blessed fellowship and happy social order treasured up in heaven. This is the dominant note of socialism, which is closely bound up at its origin, not only with political thought, but with humanitarianism and a feeling essentially religious. Its progress is a feature of the whole century.
The most notable expression of the new socialistic idea was that of Count Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825), a relative of the celebrated Duke. He had great confidence in the power of science as an instrument for social reconstruction, and he took over from a medical man, Dr. Burdin, the notions which, later on, Auguste Comte was to formulate into the doctrines of Positivism. Saint-Simon's influence showed itself while the century was young, his first work Lettres d'un Habitant de Genève appearing in 1803. In this he outlined a scheme for placing the authoritative power of the community, not in the hands of Church and State, but in a freely elected body of thinkers and artistes. He then endeavoured to urge the importance of order in society, as a counterpart to the order erected by science in the world of knowledge. To this end was directed his Introduction aux Travaux scientifiques du Dix-neuvième Siècle (1807-8). He also indicated the importance for social welfare of abandoning the preoccupation with an imaginary heaven, and pointed out that the more social and political theory could be emancipated from the influence of theological dogmas the better. At the same time he quite recognised the importance of religious beliefs to a community, and his sociological view of religion foreshadowed Guyau's study, an important work which will claim our attention in due course.
In 1813, Saint-Simon published his Mémoire sur la Science de l'Homme, in which he laid down notions which were the germ of Auguste Comte's Law of the Three Stages. With the peace which followed the Battle of Waterloo, a tremendous stimulus was given in France to industrial activity, and Saint-Simon formulated his motto "All by industry and all for industry." Real power, he showed, lay not in the hands of governments or government agents, but with the industrial class. Society therefore should be organised in the manner most favourable to the working class. Ultimate economic and political power rests with them. These ideas he set forth in L'Industrie, 1817-18, La Politique, 1819, L'Organisateur, 1819-30, Le Système industriel, 1821-22, Le Catéchisme des Industriels, 1822-24. Since 1817 among his fellow- workers were now Augustin Thierry and young Auguste Comte, his secretary, the most important figure in the history of the first half of the century.
Finding that exposition and reasoned demonstration of his ideas were not sufficient, Saint-Simon made appeal to sentiment by his Appel aux Philanthropes, a treatise on human brotherhood and solidarity. This he followed up in 1825 by his last book, published the year of his death, Le Nouveau Christianisme. This book endeavoured to outline a religion which should prove itself capable of reorganising society by inculcating the brotherhood of man in a more effective manner than that of the Christian Church. Fraternité was the watchword he stressed, and he placed women on an equal political and social footing with men. He set forth the grave deficiencies of the Christian doctrines as proclaimed by Catholic and Protestant alike. Both are cursed by the sin of individualism, the virtue of saving one's own soul, while no attempt at social salvation is made. Both Catholics and Protestants he labelled vile heretics, inasmuch as they have turned aside from the social teaching of Christianity. If we are to love our neighbour as ourselves we must as a whole community work for the betterment of our fellows socially, by erecting a form of society more in accord with Christian principles. We must strive to do it here and now, and not sit piously getting ready for the next world. We must not think it religious to despise the body or material welfare. God manifests Himself as matter and spirit, so Religion must not despise economics but rather unite industry and science as Love unites spirit and matter. Eternal Life, of which Christianity makes so much, is not to be sought, argued Saint-Simon, in another world, but here and now in the love and service of our brothers, in the uplift of humanity as a whole.
Saint-Simon believed in a fated progress and an inevitable betterment of the condition of the working classes. The influence of Hegel's view of history and Condorcet's social theories is apparent in some of his writings. His insistence upon organisation, social authority and the depreciative view of liberty which he held show well how he was the real father of many later doctrines and of applications of these doctrines, as for example by Lenin in the Soviet system of Bolshevik Russia. Saint-Simon foreshadowed the dictatorship of the proletariat, although his scheme of social organisation involved a triple division of humanity into intellectuals, artists and industrials. Many of his doctrines had a definite communistic tendency. Among them we find indicated the abolition of all hereditary rights of inheritance and the distribution of property is placed, as in the communist programme, in the hands of the organising authority. Saint-Simon had a keen insight into modern social conditions and problems. He stressed the economic inter-relationships and insisted that the world must be regarded as "one workshop." A statement of the principles of the Saint- Simonist School, among whom was the curious character Enfantin, was presented to the Chambre des Députés in the critical year 1830. The disciples seem to have shown a more definite communism than their master. The influence of Saint-Simon, precursor of both socialism and positivism, had considerable influence upon the social philosophy of the whole century. It only diminished when the newer type of socialist doctrine appeared, the so-called "scientific" socialism of Marx and Engels. Saint-Simon's impulse, however, acted powerfully upon the minds of most of the thinkers of the century, especially in their youth. Renouvier and Renan were fired with some of his ideas. The spirit of Saint-Simon expressed itself in our period by promoting an intense interest in philosophy as applied to social problems.
Saint-Simon was not, however, the only thinker at this time with a social programme to offer. In contrast to his scheme we have that of Fourier (1772-1837) who endeavoured to avoid the suppression of liberty involved in the organisation proposed by Saint-Simon.
The psychology of Fourier was peculiar and it coloured his ethical and social doctrine. He believed that the evils of the world were due to the repression of human passions. These in themselves, if given liberty of expression, would prove harmonious. As Newton had propounded the law of the universal attraction of matter, Fourier endeavoured to propound the law of attraction between human beings. Passion and desire lead to mutual attraction; the basis of society is free association.
Fourier's Traité de l'Association domestique et agricole (1822), which followed his Théorie des Quatre Mouvements (1808), proposed the formation of associations or groups, phalanges, in which workers unite with capital for the self-government of industry. He, like Saint- Simon, attacks idlers, but the two thinkers look upon the capitalist manager as a worker. The intense class- antagonism of capitalist and labourer had not yet formulated itself and was not felt strongly until voiced on behalf of the proletariat by Proudhon and Marx. Fourier's proposals were those of a bourgeois business man who knew the commercial world intimately, who criticised it and condemned the existing system of civilisation. Various experiments were made to organise communities based upon his phalanges.
Cabet, the author of Icaria (1840) and Le nouveau Christianisme, was a further power in the promotion of socialism and owed not a little of his inspiration to Robert Owen.
The most interesting and powerful of the early socialist philosophers is undoubtedly Proudhon (1809- 1865), a striking personality, much misunderstood.
While Saint-Simon, a count, came from the aristocracy, Fourier from the bourgeoisie, Proudhon was a real son of the people, a mouthpiece of the proletariat. He was a man of admirable mental energy and learning, which he had obtained solely by his own efforts and by a struggle with poverty and misery. Earnest and passionate by nature, he yet formulated his doctrines with more sanity and moderation than is usually supposed. Labels of "atheist" and "anarchist" have served well to misrepresent him. Certainly two of his watchwords were likely enough to raise hostility in many quarters. "God," he said, "is evil," "Property is theft." This last maxim was the subject of his book, published in 1840, Qu'est-ce que la propriété? (ou, Recherches sur le principe du droit et du gouvernement) to which his answer was "C'est le vol!" Proudhon took up the great watchword of Egalité, and had a passion for social justice which he based on "the right to the whole product of labour." This could only come by mutual exchange, fairly and freely. He distinguished between private "property" and individual "possession." The latter is an admitted fact and is not to be abolished; what he is anxious to overthrow is private "property," which is a toll upon the labour of others and is therefore ultimately and morally theft. He hated the State for its support of the "thieves," and his doctrines are a philosophy of anarchy. He further enunciated them in Système des Contradictions économiques (1846) and De la Justice (1858). In 1848 he was elected a député and, together with Louis Blanc and Pierre Leroux, figured in the Revolution of 1848. Blanc was a man of action, who had a concrete scheme for transition from the capitalist régime to the socialist state. He believed in the organisation of labour, universal suffrage and a new distribution of wealth, but he disapproved strongly of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of violent revolution. Proudhon expressed his great admiration for Blanc.
The work of both of these men is a contradiction to the assertion put forward by the Marxian school that socialist doctrine was merely sentimental, utopian and "unscientific" prior to Marx. Many of the views of Proudhon and Blanc were far more "scientific" than those of Marx, because they were closer to facts. Proudhon differed profoundly from Marx in his view of history in which he saw the influence of ideas and ideals, as well as the operation of purely economic factors. To the doctrine of a materialistic determination of history Proudhon rightly opposes that of a spiritual determination, by the thoughts and ideals of men.* The true revolution Proudhon and Blanc maintained can come only through the power of ideas.
[Footnote *: Indeed, it is highly probable that with the growing dissatisfaction with Marxian theories the work of Proudhon will come into greater prominence, replacing largely that of Marx. On the personal relations of Proudhon with Marx (1818-1883), who was nine years younger than the Frenchman, see the interesting volume by Marx's descendant, M. Jean Longuet (Député de la Seine), La Politique internationale du Marxisme (Karl Marx et la France) (Alcan). On the debt of Marx to the French social thinkers see the account given by Professor Charles Andler in his special edition of the Communist Manifesto, Le Manifeste Communiste (avec introduction historique et commentaire), (Rieder), also the last section of Renouvier's Philosophie analytique de l'Histoire, vol. iv.] All these early socialist thinkers had this in common: they agreed that purely economic solutions would not soothe the ills of society, but that moral, religious and philosophic teaching must accompany, or rather precede, all efforts towards social reform. The earliest of them, Saint-Simon, had asserted that no society, no system of civilisation, can endure if its spiritual principles and its economic organisation are in direct contradiction. When brotherly love on the one hand and merciless competition on the other are equally extolled, then hypocrisy, unrest and conflict are inevitable.
<< Previous |
< Author | Library >
[Footnote *: Indeed, it is highly probable that with the growing dissatisfaction with Marxian theories the work of Proudhon will come into greater prominence, replacing largely that of Marx.
On the personal relations of Proudhon with Marx (1818-1883), who was nine years younger than the Frenchman, see the interesting volume by Marx's descendant, M. Jean Longuet (Député de la Seine), La Politique internationale du Marxisme (Karl Marx et la France) (Alcan).
On the debt of Marx to the French social thinkers see the account given by Professor Charles Andler in his special edition of the Communist Manifesto, Le Manifeste Communiste (avec introduction historique et commentaire), (Rieder), also the last section of Renouvier's Philosophie analytique de l'Histoire, vol. iv.]
All these early socialist thinkers had this in common: they agreed that purely economic solutions would not soothe the ills of society, but that moral, religious and philosophic teaching must accompany, or rather precede, all efforts towards social reform. The earliest of them, Saint-Simon, had asserted that no society, no system of civilisation, can endure if its spiritual principles and its economic organisation are in direct contradiction. When brotherly love on the one hand and merciless competition on the other are equally extolled, then hypocrisy, unrest and conflict are inevitable.
<< Previous |