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Title: Le Livre Nouveau: The Vision of Monastic Saint-Simonism
Authors: Mickey, Paul F.
Department: History
Class Year: 1971
Abstract: “Le Livre Nouveau: the Vision of Monastic Saint-Simonism” examines Le Livre Nouveau, a significant unpublished document stored in the Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal in Paris, and the work’s principal author, Barthélemy-Prosper Enfantin. A complete annotated copy of Le Livre Nouveau is appended to the thesis. The thesis, which won the Walter Phelps Hall prize for best European history thesis, places Le Livre Nouveau in the context of European intellectual history, examining influences from Plato and Pythagoras to Newton and Fourier who shaped the thinking of Henri Comte de Saint-Simon and his disciples. And it describes the wide-ranging influence of Saint-Simonian thought on Ferdinand de Lesseps and the creation of the Suez Canal; Auguste Comte and positivism; the thinking of Karl Marx and the fundamental tenets of socialism (“from each according to his abilities, to each according to his work"); Emile Durkheim and the disciple of sociology; Utopian experiments such as New Harmony, Indiana; the development of socially responsible bank lending; feminism; industrialism; and even totalitarianism. Le Livre Nouveau was primarily the work of Enfantin, leader of the Saint-Simonian movement in 1832, and is the crowning achievement of the monastic phase of that movement, when Enfantin led forty of his disciples to a celibate retreat in the rural Parisian suburb of Menilmontant. Enfantin gathered seven of the deepest thinkers at the retreat to a series of four seances between July 14 and July 27, 1832, at which the group recorded its philosophy, in effect seeking to lay out new Christian scriptures and foretell the union of male and female and the procreation of a new savior (who was to be born of “Pere Enfantin” and a “female messiah” he dreamed of finding). The four seances dealt with “goals and metholodgy”; the “catechism,” focusing on language and the female spirit; the group’s world-view; and the “certitude” of their vision, based on mathematics and probability theory. The thesis seeks to capture the philosophical grandeur and apocalyptic pretension of an unusually talented and energized group of young men, many of whom were trained in math and science at l’Ecole Polytechnique and motivated by the military encounters of the Napoleonic era and subsequent revolution in Paris, and all of whom believed deeply in the idea of progress and the creation of a better world through clear understanding of the laws of the universe. Monastic Saint-Simonism was the object of considerable public attention in the summer of 1832, when crowds came to watch the celibates work and sing in exotic colorful garb. It fell apart when French authorities put Enfantin and others on trial for unlawful assembly and for offending public morals (based on the charge that they were preaching “free love”). Enfantin spent time in jail; thereafter, drawing on his intellect and charisma, he went on to a career as a prolific writer and an industrialist (serving as the lead director of the new Lyon Railroad Company).
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Location : This thesis can be viewed in person at the Mudd Manuscript Library. To order a copy complete the Senior Thesis Request Form. For more information contact
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Appears in Collections:History, 1926-2020

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