Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer and Liberal Thought in France
Chapter 1. The Foundations of Industrialism
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THE FOUNDATIONS OF INDUSTRIALISM
From its beginnings, the doctrine of industrialism has inspired writers of varying persuasions. The name of Saint-Simon, of course, is often closely associated with it,1 but in fact he represents only the socialist variant of the doctrine, as the sociologist Émile Durkheim2 demonstrated so well. By contrast, the variant that relates to liberalism has been virtually overlooked3. Jean-Baptiste Say, Benjamin Constant and Joseph Droz, for example, provided crucial elements that would, some years later, allow Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer to define industrialism in a more complete manner, and one that was in fact radically opposed in many aspects to the notions of Saint-Simon. What this shows is that the term “industrialism” has many meanings. Mechanization, the production of wealth, the age of trades and ← 7 | 8 → specialization, the notion that progress is unstoppable, the question of liberty and individualism—these are the main themes that we find in the writings of the liberal proponents of industrialism. For Charles Comte, and for Charles Dunoyer as well, industrialism was a kind of philosophy of history, the purpose of which was to identify the tortuous stages through which the idea of liberty had developed. In doing this, they shared a conviction, or perhaps a concern, based on clear historical evidence, that liberty is a fragile thing, and that its victory will never be final.
Industrialism recognized that liberty has been a rather fragile commodity throughout history....
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