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The Foundations of Industrialism

Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer and Liberal Thought in France


Robert Leroux

From its beginnings, the doctrine of industrialism has inspired writers of varying persuasions. Saint-Simon is often closely associated with it, however, he represents only the socialist variant of the doctrine. By contrast, the variant that relates to liberalism has been virtually overlooked. Jean-Baptiste Say, Benjamin Constant and Joseph Droz, for example, provided crucial elements that would eventually lead two friends, Charles Comte (1782–1837) and Charles Dunoyer (1786–1862), to define industrialism in a more complete manner that was in fact radically opposed in many aspects to the notions of Saint-Simon. This shows that the term «industrialism» has many meanings. Mechanization, the production of wealth, the age of trades and 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 Charles Dunoyer, 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, as Robert Leroux explains, 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.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Leroux, Robert. Title: The foundations of industrialism: Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer and liberal thought in France / Robert Leroux. Other titles: Aux fondements de l’industrialisme. English Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2016. Series: American university studies. X, Political science; vol. 72 | ISSN 0740-0470 Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016008402 | ISBN 978-1-4331-3416-6 (hardcover: alkaline paper) ISBN 978-1-4539-1865-4 (e-book) Subjects: LCSH: Liberalism—France—History—19th century. | Economics—France—History—19th century. | Comte, Charles, 1782–1837—Political and social views. | Dunoyer, Charles, 1786–1862—Political and social views. | Industrialization—France—Philosophy—History—19th century. | Industrial revolution—France. | France—Economic conditions—19th century. | France—Intellectual life—19th century. Classification: LCC JC574.2.F8 L4613 2016 | DDC 338.501—dc23 LC record available at Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

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