Cabet, Etienne

Cabet, Etienne

Cabet, Etienne (ātyĕnˈ käbāˈ), 1788–1856, French utopian socialist. He was elected to the chamber of deputies in 1831, but his bitter attacks on the government resulted in his conviction for treason. He escaped prison by exiling himself to Great Britain (1834–39), where he developed a theory of communism influenced by Robert Owen. Cabet's Voyage en Icarie (1840) depicted an ideal society in which an elected government controlled all economic activity and supervised social affairs, the family remaining the only other independent unit. The book was extremely popular, and Cabet gained many followers. A group of them attempted unsuccessfully (1848) to found an Icarian community on the Red River in Texas. The next year Cabet established a temporary colony at the old Mormon town of Nauvoo, Ill., but serious dissension arose in 1856, and he was not reelected president. He died soon after in St. Louis. Most of the Icarians moved to lands they had purchased near Corning, Iowa, where branch communities survived until 1898. Other works by Cabet include Histoire populaire de la Révolution française (4 vol., 1839–40), Colonie icarienne aux États-Unis d'Amérique (1856), and Le vrai Christianisme suivant Jésus Christ (1846).


See C. H. Johnson, Utopian Communism in France: Cabet and the Icarians, 1839–1851 (1974)

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Cabet, Étienne


Born Jan. 1, 1788, in Dijon; died Nov. 8, 1856, in St. Louis, USA. French publicist, writer, lawyer, utopian communist.

Cabet, the son of an artisan, was a participant in the Carbonari movement and the Revolution of 1830. As a historian of revolution, he wrote the Popular History of the French Revolution 1789-1830 (vols. 1-4, 1839-40). In 1833 he became the publisher of the journal Le Populaire. Because of repression he emigrated to Belgium. In 1834, Cabet went to live in Great Britain, where he became acquainted with R. Owen. In 1940 he wrote the book How I Became a Communist and the novel Voyage to Icaria (Russian translation, vols. 1-2, 1935). In the novel, Cabet depicted communism as an association founded on social equality, brotherhood, unity, and democracy in accordance with the principles of reason and the demands of nature.

Cabet’s Utopia had petit bourgeois features, such as the equalization of consumption, the preservation of privately owned agricultural enterprises, and the preservation under communism of a pantheistic kind of religion. He believed that communism could be achieved through persuasion and peaceful reforms. As a whole his Utopia has much in common with the views of 18th-century Utopian communists. In comparison with the teachings of the most important socialist thinkers of the first half of the 19th century, Cabet’s Utopia represented a step backward. However, because of the undeveloped class consciousness of the proletariat at that time, his Icarian Communism was widely accepted by French artisans and workers. K. Marx characterized him as being France’s “most popular, although the most superficial, representative of communism”(K. Marx and F. En-gels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, p. 146). In 1843, Cabet began publishing The Icarian Almanac… With the assistance of R. Owen in 1848 he obtained a plot of land in Texas and organized a colony of Icarians there. Dissension among the members led to a crisis, which resulted in the exclusion of Cabet from the colony. In 1856, shortly before his death, he founded another community.


Lux, H. E. Kabe i ikariiskii kommunizm. St. Petersburg, 1906. (Translated from German.)
Hepner, A. Ikariitsy o Severnoi Amerike. St. Petersburg, 1906. (Translated from German.)
Volgin, V. P. Frantsuzskii utopicheskii kommunizm. Moscow, 1960. Pages 207-38.
Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1956.
Bonnaud, F. Cabet et son oeuvre. Paris, 1900.
Prudhommeaux, J. Icarie et son fondateur, E. Cabet. Paris, 1907.
Angrand, P. E. Cabet et la République de 1848. Paris, 1948.
Cretinon, J. F., and F. M. Lacour. Voyage en Icarie. … Paris, 1952.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cabet, Étienne

(1788–1856) Utopian, social reformer, author; born in Dijon, France. Trained as a lawyer, he was a radical member of the French Chamber of Deputies (1831) and founded Le Populaire (1833), a publication that promoted the workingmen's cause. In 1834 the government prosecuted him for certain articles and he went into exile in England. Back in France he published a Utopian romance, Voyage en Icarie (1839), which outlined what he called the Icarian doctrine, a detailed blueprint for a new society. This and his other writings attracted a large audience and followers for establishing a Utopian community in America; Cabet joined them in 1849 and they established it at the abandoned Mormon town of Nauvoo, Ill. But his autocratic rule turned many in the community against him and in 1856 he left for St. Louis, Mo., where he soon died. His death did not stop the creation of Icarian colonies in: Cheltenham, Mo.; Corning, Iowa; and Cloverdale, Calif.; but all were dissolved by 1895.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.