Socialism and the Religious Imagination

Dr Philip Lockley

in Visionary Religion and Radicalism in Early Industrial England

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199663873
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744792 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs

Socialism and the Religious Imagination

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This concluding chapter reconsiders James Smith’s socialist career from 1833 to the early 1840s in the light of his theological understanding of human agency and the millennium. It first reassesses the influence of Smith’s Southcottian experience on the ideas he promoted within the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union of 1833-34. Later parts explore Smith’s subsequent ideas articulated in his Shepherd journal, especially concerning socialism (Owenite, Saint-Simonian and Fourierist), individualism and the imagination. Smith’s eventual shift away from all socialisms was not merely the result of disillusion; it stemmed from Smith’s contemplation of the prospective place of religion in a socialist society. Smith resolved that the individualism of the human creative imagination – a reflection of God’s own creativity – must be prioritised over a potentially constrictive socialism. Advocating the importance of ‘practical mysticism’, Smith’s later writings are a significant religious reflection on the limits of all human political plans and imagined futures.

Keywords: grand National Consolidated Trades Union; fourierist; individualism; practical Mysticism; owenite; the Shepherd; saint-Simonian; james Elishama Smith; socialism

Chapter.  11760 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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