Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) is one of the most important thinkers of 19th century. Saint-Simon was a French early socialist theorist whose thought influenced the foundations of various 19th century philosophies; perhaps most notably Marxism, Positivism and the discipline of sociology. He was born an aristocrat; the political ideologies he adopted in later life do not fall into the aristocratic category. In this assignment, I am going to summarize Saint-Simon’s ideas.
After the famous French Revolution, most of the philosophers pointed out the importance of individual rights, the necessity to limit ruler class’ power and they went towards liberalism. Saint-Simon is one of the typical examples of after revolution thinkers. In addition to other after revolution thinkers’ ideas, he is important with his socialist ideas that later impressed many socialist thinkers. Saint-Simon is accepted as one of the founders of socialism. Although he is accepted as one of the founders of socialism, when we analyse his views we see that he is very close to be a liberal thinker. He is known as the founder of the term “civil society”. He is also affected by Auguste Comte’s positivism. Saint-Simon trusts in the supremacy of science and scientific knowledge. So, he uses some statistics oriented ideas. He also believes in the importance of modernity, industrialisation and most importantly the production. Saint-Simon is not critical about the industrial-technological development of modern society, he thinks that industrialisation is necessary for modernity and he considers societies with developed industry as modern societies. He is very optimistic about the future of society. The type of government that he has in mind is a kind of technocrat government. By technocrat government he means a technical government that consists of civil people who are expert in their jobs. However, he is strongly against of political elite in other words the aristocracy. Saint-Simon thinks that there should be the system of meritocracy in a state. By meritocracy he wants to explain the hierarchical positions is a society that is formed according to capacity of people. According to Saint-Simon, people who have higher capacity or in other words people who produce more should earn more than people who produce less, who have less capacity. This is the basic idea of meritocracy. So, as far as he can concern, the government should consist of specialised, expert citizens that have highest capacities. The most important thing for him is the production. Factory owners (capitalists), different kinds of workers (proletariat) or artisans; briefly no matter what they do, people who produce something and have a role in production process are accepted as good citizens. In contrary, aristocrats and landowners in other words people who do not produce something are criticised severely by him and called as “parasites”. His system may seem like an elitist system but this is not a political elite system, this is a kind of scientific elite system. He thinks that for example the minister of economy in a state should be a professor of economics who knows the logic of economic events or a satisfied businessman who has a big experience in economic area. In other words, in the selection of leader, the criterion will be the merit; the capacity of people and the candidate that has the biggest capacity in his own era will be the leader, ruler of this era. He claims that the hierarchy should be reorganised according to merits of people. Later, many socialists used his ideas about capacity.
Saint-Simon did never mention his ideas about class struggles because he never believed in that. He also did not talk about an open economic market in his theory and that prevents him to be a perfect liberal. He is called as “utopian socialist” not a “utopian communist” because as I mentioned before he never believes in class struggles and he sees no difference between a worker and a factory owner. However, in communism there is a distinct, sharp difference between workers and bourgeoisie. Bourgeoisie is criticised severely in communism and even shown as the enemy of proletariat class whereas in Saint-Simonian thinking there is no difference between different parts of production. He thinks that both a worker and a factory owner are elements of production so; they are both useful and good citizens. In addition, he is not against of private property. What he wants is to live in a society in which people get what they deserve according to their capacity and of course the use of this capacity. This idea of merit makes him a utopian socialist instead of a utopian communist. The concept of communism and even socialism were identified with the famous German thinker Karl Marx but before Marx there was socialism too. Saint-Simon was one of the before Marx socialists. Saint-Simon is not critical about the evolution of societies. In addition, Saint-Simon thinks that the state should be invisible and it should only deal with responsibilities that people cannot deal with. However, in socialism all the properties belong to the state, which represents the whole society and the powerful state has control over all functions in a society. Also, in Marxist ideology we see a dictatorship of proletariat (working class), a thing that Saint-Simon will strongly disagree. Saint-Simon also never thinks of the necessity of an army because in his ideology army and wars prevent people to produce more. He can be considered as a pacifist thinker because in his method of thinking only useful war can be made against the nature by using technology. As I have shown, there are many differences between Saint-Simon’s utopian socialism concept and the concept of utopian communism.