Charles Comte, Charles Dunoyer and Liberal Thought in France
Industrialism had many and varied origins. While some scholars detect its first ramifications in the thinking of the physiocrats1, others—and they are more numerous2—trace its birth to the work of Saint-Simon. It is true that Saint-Simon, who is often called the first socialist, strove constantly in his writings to define the principles of an industrial doctrine and an industrial society. Caught up in the turmoil of his times, he was acutely interested in the question of how society had moved from a feudal and theological system to an industrial and scientific one. Saint-Simon dreamed of a society freed from the yoke of the metaphysicians, one that would give pride of place to scholars and industrialists, to whom he willingly assigned the task of “completing the Revolution”3. The idea was to promote the establishment of a new elite, an industrial class that, he insisted, “must be accorded first rank, because it is the most important of all; because it can do without all the others, while no other class can do without it—in a word, because everything is accomplished ← 1 | 2 → through industry, we must do everything for industry. The other classes must work for it, because they are its creatures, and it alone sustains them”4. For Saint-Simon, industrialism was less a scientific theory than a political project. “We invite all industrialists who are motivated by the public good and who recognize the relationships that exist between the general interests of society and those...
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