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Darby Leahy, Conner Willis, Michael Gosney


Essay Part 1
History 325
Professor Klein

Throughout the eighteenth and beginnings of the nineteenth century, many new views of
society and its structure brought life to socialist movements across most of the Western world.
The wave of the Enlightenment caught like wild fire and was invading the minds of many who
sought out to improve the world in which they lived. These men who strove for advancement
ranged from middle-class to members of the aristocracy; however, their ideas were all quite
similar. Inspired by the French Revolution and the corrupt political systems that smothered the
majority of Europe and Great Britain, these men were determined to make changes to help the
majority of the population rather than the few noble men who seemed to thrive while others fell
short of surviving. Their ideas reflected similar practices such as implementing education for all
starting in the early years of childhood to help shape the new generations and building
cooperative societies in which all would benefit. Although, these men gained support from many,
their movements towards creating cooperating societies and throwing over the government
hierarchy were quickly put to rest by the powerful political leaders whom made sure these
movements never gained flight. Despite the similarities in the early socialists concepts like
cooperation, education, and happiness; it was the differences that these socialist could never
agree upon that led to their eventual failure.
The beginnings of socialist movements in the eighteenth century can be directly linked
with movements such as the Enlightenment. The new concept that human life and condition can
be understood through reason and science rather than religious faith brought to life many new

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concepts of reform. Robert Owen was a man who was directly influenced by the Enlightenment
thought. Owen was a part of the bourgeoisie, a middle class factory owner whom at the end of
the Napoleonic era wrote to the aristocracy in his 1813 text A New View of Society. Owens
ideas reflect those of an Enlightenment thinker based on his expression of rationalism amongst
individuals and their ability to become educated, moving from an ignorant being into one with
intelligence. Along with his enlightened theories, Owens solutions to the injustice that exists in
society and government became socialist visions. Owens thoughts for the betterment of society
display all the model elements of socialism: with community welfare put first, you as an
individual will benefit, for the sake of human justice and happiness. That his
individual happiness can be increased and extended only in proportion as he actively
endeavours to increase and extend the happiness of all around him.1 Owen implemented his
new ideas gradually transforming his New Lanark factory into a small community in which
everyone, besides children who attended school, worked in the factory or helped play some other
role in providing to benefit the community. This system in New Lanark played out quite well;
however, Owen believed it was the governments job to put into practice his ideas and reform the
society.
Much like Robert Owen was Charles Fourier, who also had visions of a new world and
attempted at creating his own cooperating society. Fourier proposed society should be built of
small communities called Phalanxes that would be composed of sixteen hundred to eighteen
hundred members all placed according to their personalities. The Phalanx would combine
agricultural and industry and provide each member with a specific job. Fourier presented his idea
that the community would have elected officials to help keep balance and order and there would
1

Owen, Robert. A New View of Society & Other Writings. London: J.M. Dent & Sons;, 1927.

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be no existence of private property as all members worked for the common good. Universal
happiness and gaiety will reign. A unity of interests and views will arise, crime and violence
disappear. There will be no individual dependence---no private servants, only maids, cooks, and
so forth all working for all (when they please).2 Fourier and Owen were very similar in their
ideas to racially change the way in which people lived in efforts to create happiness for all. Owen
and Fouriers ideas were both alike and created specific plans while attempting to create
functioning communities based on their principles. Owens New Lanark was more successful
than any of Fouriers Phalanxes but each ultimately failed at changing the way in which the
whole of society was structured.
The wave of socialist movements throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century
gained many followers due to the impact of the industrial revolution and the unfair treatment of
factory workers. Displeased English workers began to form labor unions to express and defend
their interests. During the 1790s, workers all over England began to press their demands; thus,
shocking employers and factory owners and encouraging the state to place a ban on workers
unions in 1799.3 The lower to middle class people who made up the majority of society aligned
with socialist thinkers because they felt their interests were finally being recognized, this is
apparent in the thoughts proposed by Louis Blanc and the collective Chartism movement that
swept Britain. Blanc criticized the new machine technology brought forth from the industrial
revolution. Blancs piece The Organisation of Labour written in 1840 suggested that the
government should be regulating the means of production by ridding the economy of
2

Fourier, Charles. Theory of Social Organization,1820. New York: C.P. Somerby, 1876.

Smaldone, William. European Socialism: A Concise History with Documents. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield
Publishers, Inc., 2014.

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competition.4 Chartism was a working-class movement that strove for political reform in Britain
during the early nineteenth century. Chartism was a direct response to the rising unemployment
and poor living conditions that plagued Britain. In 1838, a collective of countrymen submitted
The Peoples Petition to Parliament. Their petition expressed their feelings of being drowned
in taxes while lacking enough employment to financially survive. The writers of the petition
recognize that the laws of the government only benefit the aristocracy when they should be
written in effort to benefit the nation. We perform the duties of freemen; we must have the
privileges of freemen.5 Chartist supporters proposed that if they were required to obey the laws,
their benefit must be kept in mind while the laws are created.
Pierre Proudhon is another example of a socialist whose ideas reflect similar concepts as
Owen, Fourier, Blanc, and Chartism. Pierre Proudhon, however, had specific interests in the
concept of private property and all its impossible complexities. Proudhon, was an anarchist and
the most radical of the early socialists. Proudhon, like Fourier, witnessed the damage private
property brought to everyone besides the owner and wanted to see an end to poverty it brought to
renters.6 Despite the differences in each of these socialist thinkers plans, their ideas were
generally the same. Inspired by Enlightenment thought, they focused on the flaws in societal
structure and basic socialist principles such as education, cooperation, and happiness for all.
Henri de Saint-Simon was arguably the most different amongst these early socialists.
Although, Saint-Simon was born an aristocrat, he viewed the nobility and clergy as parasites who

Blanc, Louis. The Organization of Labour. London: H.G. Clarke, 1848.


Lovett, William, and R. H. Tawney. "Chartism: The People's Petition, 1838." In Life & struggles of William
Lovett : In His Pursuit of Bread, Knowledge and Freedom; With Some Short Account of the Different
Associations He Belonged to and of the Opinions He Entertained. London: Bell, 1920. pp. 478-482.
6
Proudhon, Pierre. "Chapter IV. That Property is Impossible." In What is property? An Inquiry into the
Principle of Right and of Government. Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Library, 1996. pp. 152-224.
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were living off the rest of society. Saint-Simon advocated for a socialist government composed
of a natural hierarchy in which the officials were the productive. Saint-Simon believed the
scientists, industrialists, artists, and technicians to be the productive members of society who
were best qualified to run the government effectively. Unlike the former socialists, SaintSimons focus was not on societal structure but on morality and how to perfect Christianity.
God has said Men should treat each other as brothers. This sublime principle comprises all
that is divine in the Christian religion.7 Saint-Simon believed that if man could return to focus
on this Christian concept that Men should treat each other as brothers then the good of the
community would be put first and finally happiness will be had not only for the individual, but
for all.
Each of the early socialist had the same basic principles throughout their ideas: by
educating and reforming society to live in a way in which everything is focused on the good of
the community rather than the competitive nature of a society that centers on the good of the
individual- each and every one can find happiness. Owen and Fourier believed that this called for
changes in the living conditions and by creating small peaceful communities they could alter the
corrupt government systems. Others like those who composed the Chartism movement, believed
that gradual conversion to small communities would be insufficient and change could only be
brought on by revolutionary acts to overthrow the government officials. The eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries brought about many socialist movements supported by the working class.
However, each failed due to the lack of political power these parties held. The lack of political
power led to these organized parties going bankrupt or becoming legally shut down by
government officials. The differences in each socialists theories may be minor but it was these
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Saint-Simon, Henri. New Christianity, 1825. London: B.D. Cousins and P. Wilson, 1834.

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minor differences that led to the major failures of each movement. Without the support of each
other and cooperation to help make change possible, these intelligent men were unable to ever
put their wide-scale plans into action.

Primary Sources:
Blanc, Louis. The Organization of Labour. London: H.G. Clarke, 1848.

Fourier, Charles. Theory of Social Organization,1820. New York: C.P. Somerby, 1876.

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Lovett, William, and R. H. Tawney. "Chartism: The People's Petition, 1838." In Life & struggles of William
Lovett : In His Pursuit of Bread, Knowledge and Freedom; With Some Short Account of the Different
Associations He Belonged to and of the Opinions He Entertained. London: Bell, 1920. pp. 478-482.

Owen, Robert. A New View of Society & Other Writings. London: J.M. Dent & Sons;, 1927.

Proudhon, Pierre. "Chapter IV. That Property is Impossible." In What is property? An Inquiry into the
Principle of Right and of Government. Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Library, 1996. pp. 152-224.

Saint-Simon, Henri. New Christianity, 1825. London: B.D. Cousins and P. Wilson, 1834.

Secondary Sources:

Smaldone, William. European Socialism: A Concise History with Documents. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield
Publishers, Inc., 2014.