Comte de Saint-Simon

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Saint-Simon, Comte de


(Claude Henri de Rouvroy). Born Oct. 17, 1760, in Paris; died there May 19, 1825. French thinker; sociologist, Utopian socialist.

Saint-Simon was educated at home under the supervision of d’Alembert. As an officer in the French Army, he fought in the War of Independence of the North American colonies against Great Britain. In 1783 he returned to France. He welcomed the French Revolution, adopting a bourgeois liberal point of view. During the revolution he made a tremendous fortune. Under the Convention, he displayed a loyal attitude toward the Jacobin authorities. Later, he supported the Directory, as well as the Consulate of Napoleon Bonaparte. He suffered financial ruin in 1797.

Dissatisfied with the bourgeois revolution, Saint-Simon planned to “correct” its results by means of a scientific, sociological system designed to serve as the instrument for the creation of a rational society. Beginning with the idea of “social physicism,” based on a mechanistic extension of the Newtonian law of universal gravitation to social phenomena, Saint-Simon elaborated a conception of “social physiology,” in which 18th-century rationalistic views were combined with historicism in the interpretation of social phenomena. Ultimately explaining the development of society in terms of the changes in dominant philosophical, religious, and scientific ideas, Saint-Simon thought that “industry,” by which he meant all forms of economic activity, and the corresponding forms of property and classes were of decisive significance in history. According to Saint-Simon, every social system develops its own ideas and dominant forms of property gradually and to their conclusion. Subsequently, the creative, “organic” era gives way to a “critical,” destructive era that leads to the construction of a higher social system. Thus, in his sociological system, Saint-Simon took the first step toward viewing social phenomena as aspects of an integral organism developing according to certain lawlike principles.

Saint-Simon’s picture of world history is permeated by the idea that progress is the movement of humanity from lower to higher social forms, through stages of religious, metaphysical, and positive scientific thinking. Saint-Simon believed that the main steps in progress were the transition from primitive idolatry to polytheism and slavery, which was based on polytheism, and the subsequent replacement of polytheism by Christian monotheism, which led to the establishment of the feudal system of social estates. According to Saint-Simon, by the 15th century a new critical era began. The feudal, theological, social-estates system went through a deep crisis, and a scientific world view emerged, championed by secular scholars and industrialists. The French Revolution was a necessary stage in the consolidation of this progressive historical shift, but the revolution deviated from the correct approach of building a scientific social system, leaving the country in a disorganized condition.

Saint-Simon’s philosophical and historical system provided the foundation for his Utopian plan for the creation of a rational social structure as an “industrial system.” Saint-Simon showed that in building the new society, the approach most advantageous for most of the people involved an increase in industrial and agricultural production, the maximum development of the productive forces of society, and the eradication of all social parasitism. According to Saint-Simon, the basic features of the industrial system included the transformation of society into a universal association of people; the introduction of compulsory, productive labor for all; the opening of equal opportunities for all members of society to use their abilities; and the institution of distribution “according to abilities.” Also among the main features of the industrial system were state planning of industrial and agricultural production; the transformation of state power into an instrument for organizing production; and the gradual establishment of a world association of peoples and world peace, with the obliteration of national boundaries.

Failing to understand the opposition between the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, Saint-Simon merged the two classes into a single class, the industriels. In his industrial system the bourgeoisie, which retains ownership of the means of production, is responsible for ensuring the growth of social wealth for the working people. However, Saint-Simon sought genuine means of eliminating the class exploitation of the proletariat. In his last work, The New Christianity, he declared his goal to be the emancipation of the working class (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 25, part 2, p. 154). The idealistic foundations of Saint-Simon’s world view made it impossible for him to attain this goal except through a mystical overcoming of class contradictions. His religious conception of the “new Christianity” was supposed to supplement the material incentives of the industrial system with the moral demands of the new religion, the motto of which was “All men must become brothers.”

Saint-Simon greatly influenced advanced social thought and the development of socialist ideas in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and a number of other countries. Among the Russian thinkers of the first half of the 19th century who were directly influenced by Saint-Simon were the Decembrist M. S. Lunin, V. G. Belinskii, A. I. Herzen, and N. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin. B. P. Enfantin, S.-A. Bazard, B.-O. Rodrigues, and other disciples of Saint-Simon formed a Saint-Simonian school that systematized and, in some respects, further elaborated Saint-Simon’s doctrine, developing its socialist tendencies. However, Saint-Simonism soon degenerated into a religious sect, and in the early 1830’s the school broke up. The ideas of Saint-Simon strongly influenced A. Comte. Saint-Simon’s doctrine was one of the sources of scientific socialism.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–6. Paris, 1966.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., Moscow-Leningrad, 1923.
Izbr. soch., vols. 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Nemetskaia ideologiia. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, pp.496–512.
Engels, F. Razvitie sotsializma ot utopii k nauke. Ibid., vol. 19, pp. 193–96.
Engels, F. Anli-Dühring. Ibid., vol. 20.
Engels, F. Dialektika prirody. Ibid.
Plekhanov, G. V. “K voprosu o razvitii monisticheskogo vzgliada na istoriiu.” Izbrannye filosofskie proizvedeniia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1956. Pages 536–63.
Plekhanov, G. V. “Frantsuzskii utopicheskii sotsializm XIX v.” Ibid., vol. 3. Moscow, 1957. Pages 521–66.
Plekhanov, G. V. “Utopicheskii sotsializm XIX v.” Ibid., pp. 586–602. Ark, A-n. Anri de Sen-Simon, ego zhizn’ i uchenie. Moscow-Leningrad. 1926.
Volgin, V. P. Sen-Simon i sen-simonizm. Moscow, 1961.
Zastenker, N. E. “Anri de Sen-Simon.” In the collection Istoriia solsialisticheskikh uchenii. Moscow, 1962. Pages 208–27.
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Kan, S. B. Istoriia sotsialisticheskikh idei (do vozniknoveniia marksizma), 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
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Weill, G. Un Précurseur du Socialisme, Saint-Simon et son oeuvre. Paris, 1894.
Gurvitch, G. Les Fondateurs français de la sociologie contemporaine: Saint-Simon et P.-J. Proudhon. Paris, 1956.
Manuel, F. The New World of Henri Saint-Simon. Cambridge, Mass., 1956.
Walch, J. Bibliographie du Saint-Simonisme. Paris, 1967.
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