New Harmony. Early Socialism and the Future
Theoretical Practice 3(29)/2018
Language: Polish and English
Editors: Katarzyna Czeczot, Piotr Kuligowski
Abstract submission deadline: January 31, 2018
Text submission deadline: April 30, 2018
Planned date of publication: September 2018
You may submit text for the reviewing process without prior sending of an abstract.
The issue of early socialism is still poorly researched. Marx’s and Engels’ critiques of this phenomenon, formulated especially during the emotional discussions within the European left in the 19th century, so far organize the thinking about this current in categories of its utopianism. It causes that, for instance, the authors of academic handbooks on the history of political doctrines present a picture of early socialism as a homogenous political current, founded by naïve utopists (of which only Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Owen are usually mentioned) and from the beginnings doomed to failure. Therefore, the general intention of presented thematic proposal is, on the one hand, to reinstate researches in this field and, on the other hand, to overcome existing schemes of thinking about early socialism. Instead of repeating clichés (for instance, about the lability of utopian settlement projects), we would like to propose reflection on concrete practices and on the significance of early socialism to the shaping of the 19th century social movements.
Reflection on the history of those schools of thinking opens up a capacious reservoir, in which an attentive researcher can find not only utopias so necessary today, but also inspiring examples of the organizing of the 19th century social movements. In the history of early socialism, one can distinguish several stages. The first of them was the emergence of ‘schools of social sciences,’ which were usually forming around certain ‘researchers.’ The schools were aiming at the reclaiming of the world’s harmony, lost as a result of the vehemence of the French Revolution as well as the bloody episode of the Napoleonic wars. At the same time, however, the creators and followers of these schools were courageously transcending beyond the existing ways to solve political problems. They were looking for totally new tools, thanks to which the future could qualitatively differ from the past. In other words, the new harmony did not mean a return to feudalism, but a prelude to a society based on the principles of equality, peace, order, fraternity and sisterhood.
The media, which were used by early socialists in their daily political activities, were, first and foremost, books, brochures and magazines. The feature of these media was often a specific language, saturated with religious metaphors and enabling reflection on fields which had been previously imperceptible or even non-existent in the political imagination. The contents which were presented in these media got through to a susceptible ground not only in the bourgeois spheres, but also in the ranks of proletariat. Thanks to reading the contents out loud during meetings in workshops or on the streets, they contributed to the emergence of the proletarian public sphere. Nevertheless, the main method to achieve program objectives was to build another world by setting up colonies, which were conceived not only as practical examples of the realisation of early socialist slogans, but also as the beginnings of a new society. The emergence of even one model settlement in the United States or in South America ought to, according to the proponents of these ideas, encourage thousands of people to follow this way. In fact, the goal of the pacifist activity of the early socialists was to avoid revolution by gradually eliminating capitalism through establishing new colonies, which were to create gradually larger federal organisms.
We hope the submitted articles will draw attention to the internal paradoxes of early socialism. One of such paradoxes reveals attempts to transfer Fourier’s or Cabet’s political ideas into Polish political thought, which have almost always come across the problem of combining pacifist intuitions with the simultaneous pursuit of inciting armed rebellion against both the domination of the nobility and the power of the partitioning states. Another of these paradoxes in early socialism is linked to the intention of setting up a new world outside Europe (usually in the United States). This kind of aspiration, on the one hand, was capable of generating enormous emotions and hopes among the ranks of the 19th century proletariat. On the other hand, in the result of attempts to fulfil such promises those who had the most critical attitude to the capitalism were resigning from participation in the ongoing struggles in order to create communities outside Western capitalist centers. We are convinced that there are more similar contradictions, and their indication may be the first step to extracting new, non-obvious meanings from these histories.
We also have the intention to go beyond the established schemes for assessing the experiences of early socialism. Therefore, we insist on the rejection of simple narrations created by the authors focusing on the impermanence of many settlement projects. Obviously, the conclusion that most of this type of communities disintegrated after a few months or years is based on empirical premises. Nevertheless, instead of just simply extrapolating the failure of early socialist attempts to go beyond capitalism, we want to ask how these unsuccessful experiments influenced the trajectories of anti-capitalist movements in later times. What did Marx learn from Charles Fourier or Robert Owen? How did the experiences of early socialism influence the formation of modern cooperativism? Do the creators of phalansteries or other communities inspire contemporary squatters and other participants in alternative housing projects?
We encourage you to formulate further questions and to look for paradoxes within this research area, in the belief that the distinctive feature of any early socialism was undoubtedly crossing of the boundaries of the imagination.
Exemplary areas of inquiry:
- Utopian socialism – a wrong category?
- Economic, philosophical and social sources of early socialism.
- Shakers as the precursors of early socialism?
- Theories and practices of Robert Owen and his followers (e.g. Frances Wright, and others).
- The theories and practices of the French early socialists (Claude de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Etienne Cabet) and their followers (e.g. Victor Considerant, Theodore Dezamy, Barthelemy Prosper Enfantin, and others).
- Theories and practices of the German early socialists (e.g. Wilhelm Weitling, Moses Hess, and others).
- Theories and practices of the Polish early socialists (e.g. Jan Czyński, Ludwik Królikowski, Bogdan Jański, Stanisław Worcell, and others).
- Early socialism and proletariat – (de)mobilizing and shaping the political imagination.
- Creating a new world or escapism? – early socialist settlement projects in Americas.
- Russia as a phalanx. East in the view of early socialists.
- To tell the new world. Language and media of early socialism.
- The secular religions? – Christ’s figure and Christian motifs in the discourses of early socialists.
- Women as early socialists, early socialists on the women’s issue.
- An Icarien in phalanx. The discussions of early socialists.
- Early socialism as inspiration for Marx and Marxists.
- Early socialism as a subject of criticism from the perspective of Marx and Marxists.
- The apostles. Experiences of early socialism in co-operative ideas.
- Untold story? A critical review of the state of research on early socialism.
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