Henri de Saint-Simon Biography
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Count of Saint-Simon (October 17, 1760 – May 19, 1825) was born in Paris, France. Historian and political theorist, he was one of the founders and theorists of modern socialism. The Count of Saint-Simon was part of the military who fought in the War of Independence of the United States (1775-1783), later joined the revolutionary cause in Paris becoming a Republican.
He was appointed president of the Paris Commune in 1792, at which time he renounced his noble title and changed his name to Claude Henri Bonhomme, after being accused of speculation and spending a short time in jail focused on writing, publishing the books The industrial system (Du système industriel) and New Christianity (Nouveau Christianisme).
He was born into an aristocratic family. Among his relatives is Duke Louis de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon, author of Memories (1739-1752), a book in which he described the court of Louis XIV of France. Due to family tradition, he began his military career at an early age actively participating in the United States War of Independence (1775-1783), in favor of the colonies. After returning to the country began the revolutionary movement that ended in the outbreak of the French Revolution (1789-1799), political and social conflict that marked the history of the eighteenth century, driving profound changes in various parts of the world as the establishment of the republican model. During the development of the revolution, Saint-Simon became a Republican and was appointed president of the Paris Commune in 1792.
In the course of his government he was accused of speculation of national assets and criticized for his close relationship with Georges-Jacques Danton, which caused him to be detained between 1793 and 1794. During the Directory (1795-1799), Saint-Simon lived on comfortably, since he had a good fortune, at that time his home was visited by prominent figures of the time such as Gaspard Monge, Joseph-Louis de Lagrange, and Guillaume Dupuytren. Later, he traveled to Germany, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, in the course of the trip he began writing his first works.
At the beginning of the 19th century, he published his first work entitled Letter from a resident in Geneva to his contemporaries (Lettres d’un habitant de Genève à ses contemporains), where he outlined what he would later define as capacity theory. After spending several years living comfortably, his fortune began to decrease, which is why he faced serious economic problems. To sustain himself he wrote several scientific and philosophical articles with which he managed to stabilize his economic situation. For this same period he mentioned one of his best-known phrases in the newspaper L’Organisateur:
If France lost its main physicists, chemists, bankers, merchants, farmers, blacksmiths, etc., it would be a body without a soul. On the other hand, if I lost all the men considered most important in the State, the fact would not bring more pain than the sentimental one
This statement was seen negatively and he was prosecuted for it. Starting the 1820s he published his next work called The Industrial System (Du système industriel, 1821) and four years later he published his most exalted work New Christianity (Nouveau Christianisme, 1825), a work in which he criticized the doctrine of Jesus and sat the basis for establishing a new Christianity that was more in line with the original evangelical teachings. After the publication of the book, he was ruined again, which is why he planned to take his life off of a shot. However, he failed and was injured in one eye, a short time later driven by one of his disciples decided to create the newspaper Le Producteur, but shortly before his appearance, he passed away. The renowned French theorist died on May 19, 1825, in Paris.
After his death, his approaches and ideas were disseminated by his disciples who created the ideological movement known as Saint-simonianism which was of great relevance in later generations influencing the formation of utopian socialism. His ideas were exalted by philosophers Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim. Saint-Simonianism’s thinking was based on his personal experience during the development of the French Revolution and the fall with the coup d’état orchestrated by Napoleon Bonaparte. In this, he stated that the government should be managed by industrialists such as workers, peasants, and owners, mentioned that the place that clerics had in the social order should be occupied by scientists; religion should guide social classes so that they improve their quality of life.
Finally, he mentioned that the redistribution of goods should be based on the capacity of each individual. These ideas influenced the work of Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill, and various socialist philosophers.