[OPE-L] Considerant's _Principles of Socialism_

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Oct 18 2006 - 10:39:16 EDT

Principles of Socialism: Manifesto of 19th Century Democracy

Victor Considerant

Translation by Joan Roelofs

Washington Studies in World

Intellectual History, vol. 2

About the translator

      Joan Roelofs is Professor Emerita of Political Science at Keene
State College, New Hampshire, an activist in Green and peace
organizations, and an editor of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism.  Her
broad interests include French and British socialist thought,
and practical decentralist alternatives to globalization.  She is the
author of Greening Cities: Building Just and Sustainable Communities
(Bootstrap Press, 1996), and Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask
of Pluralism (SUNY Press, 2003).


      Considerant's Principes du Socialisme: Manifeste de la démocratie
au XIX siècle  was first published in Paris in 1843 as an introduction to
a new journal, Démocratie Pacifique, and then as a pamphlet in 1847. It
was a predecessor and important resource for Marx and Engels' Communist
Manifesto. Although the leading disciple of  "utopian" Charles Fourier,
by the 1840s Considerant was promoting a moderate,  eclectic variant of
socialism. Fourier's brilliant, eccentric visions of Harmonie had
disappeared; nevertheless, Considerant retained his basic principles of
associated labor; peaceful change; and a guarantee of adequate
subsistence, work, and education for all.

       Considerant began his Manifeste by stating that the political
principle of democracy triumphed with the French Revolution, supplanting
earlier conceptions of right based on force or aristocratic birth. However,
after the Revolution, the economy had been left to chaotic free competition.
The result was increasing misery, hostility between capital and labor, and
the likelihood of revolution if a better system was not implemented. A new
feudal aristocracy of the wealthy capitalists had replaced the old

      Monopolistic capitalism was decimating even the middle class, as
small owners and farmers lost all because of speculators, monopolists, and
the irrationality of free competition. Revolution and international wars
must be avoided by using social science, i.e., Charles Fourier's theory of
association, to organize society for peace and  to ensure the well being
of all people. Communism was not the solution; both its appeal to violent
overthrow and its plan to equalize wealth were mistaken. A new system was
required for the productive development of resources, which would
recognize both the right to property and also the right to work and an
adequate standard of living. Political participation should gradually be
extended to all as the people's level of education increased.


      "If 'democracy' is ever going to mean more than whatever the
current occupant of the White House wants it to mean for his own
political purposes, then we all need to know more about what the
great political thinkers have said on this subject over the
years. Of these, few have said more interesting things than Victor
Considerant. He is also one of the least known. Thus, it is with great
pleasure that I greet Joan Roelofs' fine translation of Considerant's most
important work on democracy. It remains as stimulating and provocative
as ever, and Roelofs' Introduction does an excellent job in
contextualizing both Considerant and his ideas. Highly recommended."

Bertell Ollman, Professor, Department of Politics, NYU, author of Dance
of the Dialectic: Steps in Marx's Method.

"Victor Considerant's Principles of Socialism is one of the key texts of
nineteenth- century French socialism. It is good to have it available to
English speakers in Joan Roelofs' clear, careful translation."
Jonathan Beecher, Prof. History, UC, Santa Cruz, author of Victor
Considerant and the Rise and Fall of French Romantic Socialism (2001)

"Considerant was one of the most important of those who formulated the
socialist critique of 'bourgeois' society in the 1840s. It is more than
likely that his Manifesto of 19th Century Democracy helped to inspire
Marx and Engels' portrayal in their Manifesto. Professor Roelofs has done
a great service to the general reader in at last making available
Considerant's work."

Gareth Stedman Jones, Editor, with Ian Patterson, of Charles Fourier,
The Theory of the Four Movements (1996)

ISBN 0-944624-47-2  /  120pp $14.95

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