Saint-Simonian Engines

in The Romantic Machine

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780226812205
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226812229 | DOI:
Saint-Simonian Engines

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During the first half of the nineteenth century, a new religion called Saint-Simonianism, named after Henri de Rouvroy, Count Saint-Simon (1760–1835), was making waves. The Saint-Simonians relied on symbolism and a metaphysics based on nature's infinite powers, which might be seen as an endorsement of Thomas Carlyle's “romantic” preference for “the primary, unmodified forces and energies of man” against the dangers of “The Mechanical Age.” Yet Carlyle gradually cooled toward the Saint-Simonians, probably because of their refusal to take seriously his central opposition between the dynamical and the mechanical. In contrast to Carlyle, the Saint-Simonians saw machines as mediators between the spirit and the world, and openly espoused a form of pantheism that was directly tied to their technological and scientific interests. This chapter shows how they relied on imagery from the physical sciences and engineering to pursue their visions of a new world in which rewards and power would depend on individuals' contributions to society. The Saint-Simonians' theories of conversion in industrial mechanics are closely tied to their efforts to bring followers to their “New Christianity.”

Keywords: Saint-Simonianism; Count Saint-Simon; Thomas Carlyle; machines; pantheism; physical sciences; engineering; theories of conversion; industrial mechanics; metaphysics

Chapter.  12609 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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