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Utopian Socialists: Owen, Saint-simon, Fourier

In the beginning there were basically three groups of socialists, although there were lesser groups representing broadly similar tendencies. The three principal groups were the Fourierists and Saint-Simonians in France and the Owenites in Great Britain. There were obvious similarities between them: (1) they regarded the social question as by far the most important of all; (2) insisted that it was the duty of all good men to promote the general happiness and welfare of everyone in society; (3) regarded this task as incompatible with the continuance of a social order that was maintained strictly on the basis of a competitive struggle between individuals for the means of living; and (4) were deeply distrustful of politics and politicians, believing that the future control of social affairs ought to lie not with parliaments or ministers or kings and queens but with the "producers." They held that, if the economic and social aspects of men's lives could be properly ordered, the traditional forms of government and political organization based on conflict and competitiveness would soon be superseded by a new world order of international peace and collaboration.

On the other hand, there were wide diversities separating these three groups. The Fourierists and Owenites were community-makers. They set out to establish a network of experimental communities based on their ideas that would become the foundation stones of a new social order. The Saint-Simonians differed from these two groups in that they were strong believers in the virtues of large-scale organizations and scientific planning. Their principal aim was to transform nations into great productive corporations dominated by a sort of "technocracy" composed of scientists and technicians. Unlike the Fourierists and Owenites, who eschewed political activity, the Saint-Simonians were not opposed to using the existing political channels as a means to bring about the transformations they were advocating.

Thus, at this juncture in its historical development, socialism meant collective regulation of the affairs of people on a cooperative basis, with the happiness and welfare of all as the ultimate goal, and with the main emphasis not on "politics" per se but on the production and distribution of wealth. Enemies of individualism, the socialists sought to strengthen the socializing influences that brought people together in a harmonious whole. They therefore emphasized education as an instrument for conditioning patterns of behavior, social attitudes, and beliefs.

It deserves mention that in this description of socialism nothing is said about the proletariat or the class struggle between it and the capitalist class. This is because the members of the aforementioned socialist schools did not think in these terms. They did not see capitalists and workers as rival classes, nor did they believe that a revolutionary struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie was necessary to put their social plans into effect.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adam Smith Biography to Spectroscopic binarySocialism - Industrial Revolution And The Rise Of Socialism, Utopian Socialists: Owen, Saint-simon, Fourier