Early French socialism was already a richly elaborated political, intellectual and literary movement when Karl Marx was still a student at the University of Berlin. With its roots in the Revolution of 1789, the movement took itself to be a uniquely French contribution to political science. Its moral precepts were those of the Revolution: liberty, equality and fraternity. Its organisational principles were association and community. Its method was science. These general characteristics were coloured by many other ideas, not all of which were shared by different elements of the larger movement. Yet the central tenets of socialism and communism were widely agreed. The impoverished masses were the primary object of moral concern. The laisser-faire economy, with its inevitable social degradation ensuing from competitive and disorganised industrialism, was to be replaced by centralised management of production and distribution. All manifestations of privilege, individualism and inequality must be abolished. Education, marriage, the family and religion were to be appropriated as social institutions devoted to communal aims. These early socialists also noted the division of society into antagonistic social classes, with an urban proletariat arising from industrial expansion. It was generally appreciated that a new capitalist class had established itself as an oppressive aristocracy of wealth, and it followed that a socialist transformation implied the destruction of private property.
KeywordsMaterial Force Class Struggle Moral Progress Secret Society Early Socialist
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Notes and References
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