Henri de Saint Simon 101: Father of French Socialism
Zatrun Published at April 23, 2023

Henri de Saint Simon 101: Who is the Founder of French Socialism? In this article of, we will cover in detail everything you need to know about Henri de Saint Simon, who is recognised as the founder of French socialism and the father of sociology, which he considers to be the science of society.

Who is Henri de Saint Simon?

Henri de Saint Simon (17 October 1760, Paris – 19 May 1825), also known as Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, is recognised as the founder of French socialism and the father of sociology, which he sees as the science of society. Henri de Saint Simon was a French philosopher and economist who saw society as a product of effort, production, action, and creation.

Born in Paris in 1760 to an unrecognised noble family, Saint Simon studied classical literature and Enlightenment philosophy. He rejected Catholicism and embraced republicanism at the age of thirteen. in 1779 he went to the United States and fought in the revolution as an officer and received two wounds. Later, when the French Revolution began, he quickly renounced the title of Count and supported the Sans-culottes.

During this process, he devoted most of his energy to Count J. of Redern, a Prussian diplomat. He devoted himself to making a fortune through the joint sale of national properties with Sigismund Ehrenreich. Due to a case of mistaken identity, he was briefly imprisoned during the Terror. After his release, the scientists bought a mansion near the Palais Royal, where Monge and Lagrange were regular guests and later became close friends. When the Count of Redern feared bankruptcy and ended their partnership, Saint Simon decided to start a new career focused on human intelligence. His major works are:

  • “On the Re-Organisation of the Community in Europe” (De la Réorganisation de la Société européenne)
  • “About the Industrial System” (Du Système industriel)
  • “The Catechism of Industrialists” (Catéschisme des Industriels)

Father of French Socialism

The French philosopher and economist Henri de Saint Simon is considered the founder of French socialism. His vision was to reform society by regulating it according to the needs of the industrial age. He argued that while the age of positive science had already begun, it was time to establish a social science based on scientific thinking. In particular, the greatest dream of Henri de Saint-Simon, also known as the founder of positivism, is the reformation of human society.

Henri de Saint-Simon believed that the French Revolution did not bring happiness to the lower classes, because the universal declaration of human rights did not eliminate their ignorance and poverty. He thought that the happiness of all people in society could only be achieved through a social reform based on the knowledge of social laws, and this required a reform in the sciences. For this reason, Saint-Simon’s philosophy focuses primarily on society and emerges as a philosophy of society.

According to him, in addition to being a unique and original being, man is subject to determinism, which dominates nature, just like the law of gravity in physics and chemistry. There is a law of progress that governs societies. The task of sociology is to show the existence of this law and teach people to obey it. According to Henri de Saint Simon, people did not create this law. We see this law in political, moral, economic and other events. Therefore, sociology, as a science, adopts a historical method of observation. Saint-Simon tried to obtain the general laws of the social and political evolution of European civilisation by regularly explaining this law of progress.

His Other Thoughts

Henri de Saint Simon argues that human social history has passed through different stages, namely polytheism/slavery, theism/feudalism and positivism/industrialism, corresponding to different ways of thinking. According to him, the laws of social change and order can be found through the knowledge of positivism. The primary task of society is to develop production that reproduces the necessary means of life, because happiness can only be achieved with it.

In the new order, workers in the industrial sector will guide society. It aims to describe workers in various production sectors such as artisans, farmers, manufacturers, bankers who invest in loans for production, and specialists in different production fields. According to Saint-Simon, workers who direct production will save the poor from poverty. Production, scientifically and rationally organised, will elevate all employees in every way.

Everyone will get their share of production as long as they work and fulfill their responsibilities. Leaders who manage production will manage people according to the needs of development, not according to their tastes. New information will shed light on a new religion that explains to people their duties and prevents these leaders from abusing power.

According to Henri de Saint Simon, all sciences began with unscientific methods and assumptions. In addition, every science is loaded with religious and metaphysical beliefs. Henri de Saint Simon believed that real science, free of theological and metaphysical concepts, replaced an imaginary science with a theological basis and developed with metaphysical concepts. According to him, progress is achieved by purifying science from these elements that were mixed with it at the beginning. Henri de Saint Simon claimed that the era of positive science has already begun.

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