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Monday, November 12, 2012

Saint-Simonism (Part 2)

….continuing from my previous post about Saint-Simon:

a very rough sketch of Saint-Simonism

Some speculation:
- first, I'm clearly omitting (a lot of) information concerning the social backdrop of Saint-Simon's life.  Most obviously, the French Revolution and the reign of terror, which were right around the time of Simon's imprisonment, and preceded his first pamphlet.  I think a lot of the ideas in the first pamphlet could use such historical contextualization.
- second, it's interesting to consider Saint-Simon's interest in the middle ages here.  Whether or not his family actually had ancestral ties to Charlamagne, Simon seemed to have believed this was the truth.  And yet he lived through a time period when the centuries-old french monarchy was destroyed in an incredibly short amount of time.  I can't help but think that Simon's ideas seem to contain a divided opinion of the monarchy.  His idealization of the middle ages, on the one hand, suggests an acknowledgement that the monarchy of the 18th century was a failure. His social model, on the other hand, seems to reveal a belief in an elitist class structure not unlike a monarchy.  Simon seems to have believed that the problem with the monarchy was structural, that reprogramming it could restore a balance.
- third, the role of religion outlined in the second pamphlet is interesting, as it seems to be vague.  Again, it is structural and practical.  But, from my reading of Booth, Simon doesn't clearly identify his own religious views and seems more interested in the structural dimensions of his models.  This leaves room to future followers of Simon to 'fill in the blank' so to speak.  Will saint-simonism become a social order that utilizes religion, or a religion whose byproduct is an organized society? 
- fourth, echoes of utopianism or even hints of the avant-garde can be heard in one of Simon's statements: 'the golden age of humanity is ahead of us.' 
- finally - disclaimer, this isn't real research as i am merely paraphrasing Booth's book on him, so some of my points and questions here could be way off, please chime if so. 


c1820s: Saint-Simon is poor, his resources exhausted from an unsettled lifestyle, but he has some followers and devotees who believe in his ideas.  At the time of his death, Saint-Simon wishes to create a newspaper (to be called Producteur) which will circulate his ideas (precisely which ideas, I am not sure.  it should be noted that his ideas sometimes contradict themselves).  At the time of his death, one of his followers, named Rodrigue, decides to see this project through, and takes it upon himself.

1825- First publication of Producteur launched by Rodrigue, honoring the death of Saint-Simon.  The newspaper starts out as a weekly publication, with about 20 subscribers.  As Rodrigue is developing the newspaper, he is seeking talent and skill: people who are interested in Saint-Simon's ideas, and who have the ability to write about them.  Two key people come into their own as early Saint-Simonists working for the Productuer: Enfantin (b. 1796) and Bazaard (b ?), who become key organizers.

Enfantin: meets Rodrigue as a student, encounters Saint-Simon's work in 1823.  Enfantin's pre-Saint-Simonist interests included politics, economy, schemes to liquidate the public debt, and speculation on the gender of god.  Booth describes Enfantin as a highly influential personality, exerting a cult-like power over his students and followers.  In anyone believed that Saint-Simonism would become the religion of the future, it was probably Enfantin. 

Bazaard: Joins Saint-Simonism at age 36, after many years of political organizing.  Bazaard was one of the seven founders of the Carbonari movement in France and showed a strong disposition towards politics and conspiracy.  Saint-SImonism apparently inspired in him the idea that violence was not necessary to solve the many social problems of 19th century France.  While Enfantin's idealism gave the Saint-Simonist group grand concepts, Bazaard's knack for practical organization turned those theories into praxis that made the group stable. 

1826/27- Producteur is shut down, as the demands of the paper have exhausted its sponsors and writers.  However, a strong bond between Rodrigue, Enfantin, and Bazaard has come into play and their accomplishments with the paper have made them noteworthy people around Paris.  The three men keep in touch but drift away from one another slowly, even as Saint-Simonism continues to grow in membership.  Bazaard initiates a weekly lecture explaining the ideas of Saint-Simonism, brining in even more support throughout the city.

1828- Sacred College of Apostles is formed, as a way to manage the growing group.  Enfantin, Rodrigue, and Bazaard are included with several other key orators and professors.  This leads to the publication of a new paper, "Le Organisateur," which becomes the new representative publication of the group.

Key ideas emerge as the group grows.  These include total gender equality amongst members, because the group held the belief that god was androgynous, and therefore the patriarchal orders of christianity went against god's nature.  This led to a loosening of the bonds of marriage and greater liberty for women participating in the group.  In addition, the group believed, following Saint-Simon's example, that there was no fall from grace, no original sin, and that humanity is constantly getting better with each generation.  Therefore, violent revolution is not necessary or even desirable.  The group advocated for slow, gradual changes in social structure, believing that one day, these changes would result in a utopian idealist world.  Also noteworthy, the group believed in free-trade for the sake of international peace, and in a completely nationalized educational system for all citizens.  Stablizing the social world in this way allowed gradual positive change to happen, and would prevent violent uprisings from setting humanity back. 

The group became incredibly organized, and was very popular with the working classes in Paris, quickly growing to include at least 1500 members.  Membership was roughly 50% female, 50% male.  The organization included a missionary in every arrondissement in Paris (12 missionaries total).  Each missionary had one female and one male representative who organized Saint-Simonist happenings in that neighborhood.  Each missionary also had a doctor on staff, who provided free health care to all registered members.  Weekly lectures continued throughout this time, bolstering support and membership. 

….there is a lot more in the Booth book on the growing conflict within the inner hierarchies of Saint-Simonism, and its eventual eclipse by other socialist groups, for anyone who wants to dive in.  The breadth of ideas and social issues that the group reflects is pretty astounding, when you think about the differences between its beginnings and its results in the 1830s. 


  1. [Part 1 of 2]

    Thanks Tim, this is great! Even the outline fills in a whole lot of blanks in my own understanding--what I know most about is the group's break-up in the mid-'30s, when the feminist splinter group broke off on their own. Some reflections on your synopsis that relate to my own research--

    --The rejection of violent means of change is a main theme of Fourier too, who was part of the same generation. It seems to have been a major impetus behind the utopian movement generally.

    --I wasn't aware of Saint-Simon's fascination with the Middle Ages, but it helps to explain why the avant-garde Romantics were drawn to him. The Middle Ages were persona non grata, as it were, during the 17th and 18th Centuries, and the Romantics were just beginning to reconsider them at this time (this links up with the post about architectural preservation from at beginning of the blog). All across the board the Middle Ages were being thrust into discourse, I think to upset and triangulate the intellectual hegemony of the Enlightenment. A strange mix of conservatism and progressive thought.

    It seems like the main innovation over a monarchy in his governing system was the elimination of heredity; his system seems basically like a Technocracy or Meritocracy. This makes sense in relation to Napoleon's introduction of Promotion for Merit at precisely this time, a pretty new ideaat that time, as obvious as it seems to us; and to the huge growth of centralised bureaucracy under Napoleon as well.

    (continued in next comment)

  2. [Part 2 of 2]

    --Rodrigue (I've come across his name as Olinde Rodrigues, I assume it's the same person) seems increasingly interesting; I knew that he was an early follower of Saint-Simon but didn't realise that he was so central to the movement's dissemination. What first piqued my interest is that he was the first person to use the term "avant-garde" in the context of politicized experimental art, in a Saint-Simonist anthology in 1825. I plan to work on translating that next year (it's a pretty long essay), it's never appeared in English to my knowledge..
    Since I can't implant links in a comment, the essay in French can be read here:,+le+savant+et+industriel&source=bl&ots=cjUp9MK_KU&sig=HuuZQ00_J5Ser818i7l6reyrW0U&hl=en&sa=X&ei=VLAQUP_MH8200QHiyYHoCQ&ved=0CFwQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=olinde%20rodrigues%20l%27Artiste%2C%20le%20savant%20et%20industriel&f=false

    My knowledge of the movement begins with Enfantin and Bazard founding the commune in Paris in 1830-31, mostly from the book by Moses and Rabine. Rodrigues is rarely if ever mentioned in that book--had he pretty much withdrawn from the organised movement by this time?

    After the Revolution of 1830, there was a period of greater press freedom--Enfantin & Bazard bought 'The Globe', which until then had been the main Liberal Romanticist journal. But by 1833 or '34 press freedom was being gradually squelched again, two Saint-Simonist communes were shut down by police after public smear campaigns, and the leaders had been prosecuted multiple times for crimes against Public Morality.

    Around that time, Enfantin and Bazard split over the issue of Feminism. Enfantin wanted to keep feminism at the centre of the movement's concerns, even to make it more central, while Bazard wanted to draw back from the issue. Almost immediately, the most active working-class women who were doing organising broke off due to remaining sexist elements even in Enfantin's hierarchy, and founded the Journal des Femmes, written and published exclusively by women. In the later '30s Enfantin and a group of Saint-Simonist men set off for the Middle East on a quest to find the 'Eternal Woman', a kind of female Christ-like figure. Apparently the women they'd been working with for 10 years didn't count. They briefly founded a Saint-Simonist community in Egypt (I believe) and had some connection with an attempt to build the Suez Canal, but my knowledge on all of this stuff is pretty murky...

  3. No problem, thanks for bringing this stuff up to begin with. Fascinating history. It would be pretty great if old copies of L'Organisateur or Journal des Femmes were still around....I'd think there must be copies at least of Journal des Femmes?
    Also, with the Suez Canal, before Saint-Simon was imprisoned, but after he left the army, he had drafted plans for a canal somewhere (which was never actually built). Can't remember if it was the Suez or the Panama, or another one, and I don't know enough history to fill in the gaps here, but the similarity with the later group is kind of funny.

    and yes, from reading Booth, I do think Rodrigue had withdrawn from the group by the 30s, but not sure about the details there.