Utopian Socialism

Welsh entrepreneur Robert Owen (1771-1838) was appalled by the working and living conditions in and around the factories of the Industrial Revolution. In 1813-1814 he published his New View of Society. He acquired textile factories in New Lanark (Scotland, 1799) where he created a workers' paradise, with limited working hours, recreational facilities, school etc. To the surprise of his countrymen, the enterprise was progitable. In 1826 Owen began a second model factory, New Harmony, in Indiana (USA); it went bankrupt in 1830.
In France, Charles Fourier (1772-1837) rejected laissez-faire policy and industrial economy outright and developed a utopian model of an economic community. His main publication was the Theory of Social Organization (1820). However he was a philosopher and, unlike Owen, had no enterprise to experiment with. He hoped for entrepreneurs to approach him and ask him to implement his principles; he spent much of his life waiting for an opportunity which would never come.

A number of sources treat Claude-Henri Comte de Saint Simon as another Utopian Socialist; here he is dealt with in a separate chapter.

Fourier's and Owen's vision of perfect harmony at the workplace ultimately had to fail; yet they did inspire entrepreneurs to partially, within the limits set to them by a competitive economy, take steps to improve the life of their employees. An example may be the Krupp working towns in Essen, Prussian Rhineland.

Utopian Socialism, from the Wood
The Utopian Socialists : Charles Fourier, from The History Guide. Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History
Biography of Robert Owen, from Spartacus Schoolnet
Robert Owen.com
DOCUMENTS Charles Fourier, excerpt from Theory of Social Organization, from Modern History Sourcebook
Works by and on Charles Fourier, posted by Christian Ronse

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 28th 2003, last revised on November 16th 2004

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