Why did Marx believe that capitalism would fall on its own

According to the article, Answer these two questions.

Why did Marx believe that capitalism would fall on its own? Why did his predictions not come true? (hint: how has the economy changed since Marx’s time?

Describe Robert Owen’s “New Lanark” community? What were his innovations? Did he suspend either private property or market economics? Are there people today who follow a similar business model?

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universe of mankind as an arena in which the natural forces of society would inevitably bring about a better life for every- one. On the contrary, those natural forces that once seemed teleologically designed to bring harmony and peace into the world now seemed malevolent and menacing. If humanity did not groan under a flood of hungry mo~~s, i~ seemed that it might suffer under a flood of commodities without takers. And in either event, the outcome of a long struggle for progress would be a gloomy s!at~ where the worker just barely subsisted, where the capitalist W!!5 cheated of his ef- forts, and where the landlord gloated.

Indeed, here is another common element to be recog- nized in the visions of Smith as well as Malthus and Ricardo besides the structure of what we would call a capitalist econ~ omy. This was the vision of the working class as essentiall passive. There is no hint in any of the three that the laborin~ poor might ever take it into their heads to introduce changes in the system-indeed, to build a new system of their own But that leads us into the next chapter, where we will watch · new vision guide the course of the worldly philosophy. a



The Dreams of the Utopian Socialists

It is not difficult to understand why Malthus and Ricardo should have conceived of the world in gloomy terms. En- gland in the 1820s was a gloomy place to live; it had emerged triumphant from a long struggle on the Continent, but now it seemed locked in an even worse struggle at home. For it was obvious to anyone who cared to look that the burgeoning fac- tory system was piling up a social bill of dreadful proportions and that the day of reckoning on that bill could not be de- ferred forever.

Indeed, a recital of the conditions that prevailed in those early days of factory labor is so horrendous that it makes a modem reader’s hair stand on end. In 1828, The Lion, a radi- cal magazine of the times, published the incredible history of Robert Blincoe, one of eighty pauper-children sent off to a factory at Lowdham. The boys and girls-they were all about ten years old-were whipped day and night, not only for the ·slightest fault, but to stimulate their flagging industry. And compared with a factory at Litton where Blincoe was subse- quently transferred, conditions at Lowdham were rather hu- mane. At Litton the children scrambled with the pigs for the slops in a trough; they were kicked and punched and sexually ab?s_ed; and their employer, one Ellice Needha~, ~ad 0e chilling habit of pinching the children’s ears until his nruls met through the flesh. The foreman of the plant was even


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H h B lincoe up by bis wrists over a machine so

worse e ung h ·t d h · h h h

: kn es were bent and then e pi e eavy we1g ts on t at 1s e l · k al . h ld The child and us co-wor ers were most his s ou ers. • . l l naked in the cold of winter and (seeming y as a pure y gratu- . di ti’ floun·sh) their teeth were filed down! · 1tous sa s c at· th Without a doubt such frightful brut 1ty ~as e excep- . th r than the rule· indeed we suspect a httle of the re-

tton ra e , . fonner’s zeal has embellished the account. But with full discount &!:~~011,.,the_stQ!Y.~as none_theless all toou- lustrative ~f -~ _climate m which 1Kiactices of the most-

/ callousinhumanity were ac<:_eptea as e ~ tural of ev-enfsciiict,even more important, as noboays ousmess .- A six-

\ – teen-hour workfng·day was nocuncommon, witln he working force tramping to the mills at six in th~ m?m~ng_ and trudging home at ten at night. And as a crowning mdigmty, many fac- tory operators did not permit their work-people to carry their own watches, and the single monitory factory clock showed a . strange tendency to accelerate during the scant few minutes allowed for meals. The richest and most farsighted of the in- dustrialists might have deplored such excesses, but their fac- tory managers or hard-pressed competitors seem to have regarded them with an indifferent eye.

And the horrors of working conditions were not the only cause for unrest. Machinery was now the rage, and machin- ery meant the displacement of laboring hands by uncom- plaining steel. As early as 1779 a mob of eight thousand workers had attacked a mill and burned it to the ground in unreasoning defiance of its cold implacable mechanical effi- ciency, and by 1811 such protests against technology were sweeping England. Wrecked mills dotted the countryside, and in their wake the word went about that “Ned Ludd had passed.” The rumor was that a King Ludd or a General Ludd was directing the activities of the mob. It was not true, of course. The Luddites, as they were calle<l , were fired by a pt~rely spontaneous hatred of the factories that they saw as pnsons and th~ wagework that they still despised.

But tl~e disturbances raised a real apprehension in the ~ou~try. Ricardo almost alone among tJ1e respectable people ctdmitted that perhaps machine1y cl.id not always operate to


. ediate benefit of the workman, and for this opinion the irnm egarded as having slipped, for once, from his usual he was r To most observers, the sentiment was less reflec- acumf · 10wer s were.getting out of hand and should be tive: t t dealt with. And to the gentler classes, the situation severe J to indicate the coming of a violent and terrifying Ar- seemddon. Southey, the poet, wrote, “At this moment noth- ~ag;ut the Army preserves us from that m?st dread~ul of all ing . ·r s an insurrection of the poor agamst the nch, and cal~

1 ie ‘the Army may be depended upon is a question

ho~ h o~gscarcely dare ask myself”; and Walter Scott la- whic d ” the country is mined beneath our feet. ” mente , · · ·

But all throu_gh this dark and troubled period, one spot in Britain shone like a beacon through the storm. In the dour mountains of Scotland, a good day’s post from Glasgow, in country so ppmitive ~hat the tollgate keepers at first refused gold coins (never having seen them before), stood the gaunt seven-story brick mills of a little community called New Lan- ark. Over the hilly roads from Glasgow rode a constant stream of visitors-twenty thousand signed the guestbook at New Lanark between 1815 and 1825-and the visiting crowds included such dignitaries the Grand Duke Nicholas, later to be Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, Princes John and Maximilian of Austria, and a.whole covey of parish depu- tations, writers, reformers, sentimental ladies, and skeptical businessmen.

What they came to see was the living proof that the squalor and depravity of industrial life were not the only and inevitable social arrangement. Here at New Lanark were neat rows of workers’ homes with two rooms in every house; here were streets with the garbage neatly piled up awaiting disposal instead of being strewn in filthy disarray. And in tl1e factories a still more unusual sight greeted the visitors’ eres. Over each employee hung a little cube of wood with a difl_er- ent color painted on each side: black, blue, yell.ow, and wlute. F~om lightest to darkest, the colors stood for different grades ~f deportment: white was excellent; yellow, good; blue, indif- ferent; black, bad. At a glance the factory manager coul<l


judge the deportment of his work force. It was mainly yellow

and white. – For another surprise there were no children in the facto- ries-at least none under the age of ten or eleven-and those that did work toiled only a short ten-and-three-quarter-hour ~f tvJn~

1 -.\ day. Furthermore, they were never pu~ished: ~o one in fact

;,,, e,n was punished, and save for a few adult mcomgibles who had 1..J &’1 to be expelled for chronic ·?runkenness o~ s?me such vice,

1 ~M . discipline seemed to be wielded by bemgmty ra~er than

fear. The door of the factory manager stood open, and any- ‘) one could (and did) pres~nt his objections to any rul~ or reg-

ulation. Everyone could mspect the book that contamed the

L; ‘ detailed report of his deportment and thus served as referent

r the assignment of his colored cube, and he could appeal if felt that he had been unjustly rated.

Most :remarkable of all were the little children. Instead I of running wild and fierce through the streets, they were ( found by the visitors to be fast at work and play in a large : schoolhouse. The littlest were learning the names of the

_ \ rocks and trees they found about them; the slightly older /:: ,, (‘ , were learning grammar from a frieze where General Noun r•, ~i , 1 • i • contested with Colonel Adjective and Corporal Adverb. Nor ,

was it all work, delightful as the work seemed to be. Regu- larly the children gathered to sing and dance under the tute- lage of young ladies who had been instructed that no child’s question was ever to go unanswered, that no child was ever bad without reason, that punishment was never to be in-

, flicted, and that children would learn faster from the power u.r example than from admonition. It must have been a wonderful and, indeed, an inspiring

sight. And for the business-minded gentlemen who were less likely to be carried away by the sight of happy children than the tenderhearted ladies, there was the irrefutable fact that New La~ark was profitable, marvelously profitable. This was an establishment run not only by a saint but by an eminently practical one, at that. .

It was not only a practical saint who was responsibl~ for New Lanark but a most improbable one. Like so many of

th e



rly nineteenth-century reformers on whom · 1 k ea S ‘ali t R b we oo hack he Utopian oc1 s s, o ert Owen, the “b l as t L k ~’ . enevo ent Mr

Owen of New anar , was a strange mixture f . . · h . d fl O practical1h , and naYvete, ac 1evement an 1asco, common sense and 1: nacy. He~e was a man who advocated the abandonment of the plow m favor _of ~e spade; a man who from scratch be- came a great c~p1talist and from a great capitalist a violent opponent of pnvate property; a man who advocated benevo- lence because it would pay dividends, and who then urged the abolition of money.

It is hard to believe that one man’s life could take so many twists. It began as a chapter straight from Horatio Alger. Born of poor parents in Wales in 1771, Robert Owen left school at the age of nine to become apprenticed to a linen draper with the unlikely name of McGuffog. He might have stayed a linen draper always and watched the store n~me change to McGuffog and Owen, but in true business-hero style, he chose to go to Manchester; and there, at the age of eighteen and on the strength of £100 borrowed from his brother, he set himself up as a tiny capitalist manufacturing textile machinery. But the best was yet to come. A Mr. Drinkwater, the owner of a large spinning establishment, found himself one. morning without a factory manager and advertised in the local paper for applicants. Owen had no knowledge of spinning mills, but he got the post in a fashion that might have provided a test for countless writers on the virtues of Pluck and Luck. “I put on my hat,” wrote Owen over a half-century later, “and proceeded straight to Mr. Drinkwater’s counting house. ‘How old are you?’ ‘Twenty this May,’ was my reply. ‘How often do you get drunk in ~he week?’ … ‘I was never ‘ I said ‘drunk in my life,’ blushmg , , k~ ~carlet at this unexpected question. What sal~ do yo~ as · Three hundred a year,’ was my reply. What? Mr. D~nkwa- ter said, with some surprise, repeating the words, Three hundred a year! I have had this morning I know. not ?0w many seeking the situation and I do not think all their askings together would amount to what you . require.’ ‘I cannot be governed by what others seek,’ said I, ‘and I cannot take less.’ ”

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I . h ··•cte,,·s·tic Owen gesture and it. succeeded. twas a c an. ·· ·\

} b Came the boy wonder of the text1 e world-

At twenty 1e e · · h .. · .-, · young man with a rather stnug t nose m ~\ very ‘im enfgagmg d Wl·th large frank eyes that advertised his can- ong ace, an < , fr d h’ dor. Within six months Mr. Drinkwater _o 1ere 1m a quarter interest in the business. But this was still only the prelude to a fabulous career. Within a few years Owen had heard of a set of mills for sale in the squalid village of New Lanark—co- incidentally they were 0W11ed·by a man with whose. daughter he had fallen in love. To acquire either the mills or the hand of the daughter looked like an impossible feat: Mr. Dale, the mil1-oW11er, was a fervid Presbyterian who would never ap- prove of Owen’s radical free-thinking i~eas, and then th~re was the question of how to fmd the capital to buy the mills. Nothing daunted, Owen marched up to Mr. Dale as he had once marched up to Mr. Drinkwater and the impossible be- came done. He borrowed the money, bought the mills, and won the hand of the daughter in the bargain.

Matters might well have rested there. Within a year Owen had made New Lanark a changed community; within five years it was unrecognizable; in ten years more it was world famous. It would have been accomplishment enough for most men, for in addition to winning a European reputa- tion for farsightedness and benevolence, Robert Owen had made a fortune of at least £60,000 for himself.

But matters did not ·rest there. Despite his meteoric rise, Owen conceived of himself as a man of ideas rather than as a mere man of action; New Lanark had never been for him an idle exercise of philanthropy: Rather, it was an opportunity to test out theories that he had evolved for the advancement of humanity as a whole. For Owen was convinced that mankind was no better than its environment and that if that environ- me~t was changed, a real paradise on earth might be ~chieved. In New Lanark he could, as it were, test his ideas ma laboratory, and since they succeeded beyond all mea- sureh, there seemed no reason why they should not be given tot e world.

He soon h d hi h ·d d , d . h . a s c ance. The Napoleonic Wars subs1 e an m t e1r wak f h t e came trouble. A succession o w a


M. !thus would have called “general gluts” wracked th . ,.l 6 8 . h h e coun-f·1.0m 181 to 1 20 wit t e. excehtion of a s·ingl try; . . ( · e year, b isiness was very bad. The misery t 1reatened to explod . “l~read and blood” riots broke o~t, and a kind of hyste;~ ,ripped the country. The Dukes of York and Kent and a body ~f notables formed a committee to look into the causes of the distress, and pure_Iy as a ~atter of course_ they called upon Mr. Owen, the philanthropist, to present his views.

The committee was hardly prepared for what it got. It had no doubt expected a plea for factory reform, for Mr. Owen was widely known for his championship of a shorter ·working day and the abolition of child labor. Instead the no- tables found themselves reading a blueprint for social reorga- nization on a sweeping scale.

What Owen suggested was that the solution to the prob- .f’ lem of poverty la):’ m making the ~fi productive:1″ITTl’iis~ -, _~ … he advocated the formation of Vi ages of Cooperation in which eight hundred to twelve hundred souls would work to- gether on farm and· in factory to form a self-sustaining unit. The families were to live in houses grouped in parallelo- \ , grams-the word immediately caught the public eye-with \ each family in a p’rivate apartment but sharing common sit- / ‘-~ ting rooms and reading rooms and kitchens. Children over \ ‘:..£., the age of three were to be boarded separately so that they ( could be exposed to the kind of education that would best – , mold their characters for later life. Around the school were gardens to be tended by the slightly older children, and l c, around them in tum would stretch out the fields where crops : w?uld be grown-needless to say with the aid of spades ~d 1 ~thou~ the use of plows. In the distance, away from the hv- 1 ing areas, would be a factory unit; in effect this would b~ planned garden city, a kibbutz, a commune. b The committee of notables was considerably taken

a 1:k. It ~as hardly prepared to urge the adopti~n ~! Ji . ned social communities in a day of untrai:nmeled laisse,., aire. Mr. Owen was thanked and Mr. Owen’s ideas were carefully ignored. But Owen was nothing if not ~i_ngle- h~rposed. He insisted upon a review of the applicability ~f 15

plans and flooded Parliament with tracts ex-pounding his


views. Again his determination won the day. In 1819 a special committee (including David Ricardo) was put together for the purpose of trying to raise the necessary ~96,000 to estab- lish one full-fledged experimental Village of Cooperation.

· Ricardo was skeptical, although willing to give the plan a trial, but the country was not skeptical at all; it found the idea an abomination. One editorialist wrote: “Robert Owen, Esq., a benevolent cotton-spinner … conceives that all human beings are so many plants which have been out of the earth for a few thousand years, and require to be reset. He accordingly determines to dibble them in squares after a new fashion .”

William Cobbett, then in exile in America for his own radical ideas, was even more scornful. “This gentleman,” he wrote, “is for establishing communities of paupers! … Won- derful peace, happiness, and national benefit are to be the re- · sult. How the little matters of black eyes, bloody noses, and pulling of caps are to be settled, I do not exactly see. Mr. Owen’s scheme has, at any rate, the recommendation of per- fect novelty, for of such a thing as a community of paupers, I believe no human being has ever before heard …. Adieu, Mr. Owen of Lanark.” ·

Owen did not, of course, envision a community of pau- – pers. He believed, on the contrary, that pauper~..9ould be-

co me-tneproducersof wealth were given a chan~ ~orr,-ancl that their deploralJie social habits could be easily transformed into virtuous ones under the influence of a ae=

. ~cent environment. And it was notoiify .paupersw ho wereto Ee thus elevated. The Villages of Cooperation were to be so manifestly superior to the turmoil of industrial life that other communities would naturally follow suit.

But it was obvious that Owen held his views alone. Seri- ous-minded people saw in Owen’s scheme a disturbing threat to th_e ~stablished of things, and radical-minded peop!e saw m It only a. farce. The necessary money for· the trial Vil- lage ~ as neve_r raised, but now there was no stopping the in- donutable philanthropist. He had been a humanist; no:w he became a profess ional humanitarian. He had made a fortune; now he dedicated it to the realization of his ideas. He sold his

I I t


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·nterest in New Lanark and in 1824 set about b ‘Id· 1 · f h fi u, mg h · wn commumty o t e uture. Not unnatural! h h 15

o fi h’ ·1· fi h b y e c ose America or IS m1 1eu, or w ere etter to build t . h d f I h h d kn u op,a t an ·n the mi st o a peop e w o a own political J·b c

1 ? . 1 erty 1or fifty years. For a site he bought from a relirrious sect of c . f . e,· ennans known as Rapp1tes a tract o thirty thousand acres

O th

banks of the Wabash in Posey County, Indiana. o~ th: Fourth of July, 1826, he dedicated it with a Declaration of Mental Independence-independence from Private Prop- erty, Irrational Religion, and Marriage-and then left it to u l shift for itself with its lovely wishful name of New Harmony. -~ f

i It could not and did not succeed. Owen had envisioned a -..J · ‘;: : _t1!Qpia spr_ung full-blown into the..w.o_rld,.filldlw_was not~-:– ~ ·3 , $1. par~d to-F~rom the e ‘& :..

. old society._The.re was PQ_J:1~: eight hundred sett!~ \J poured in, h_el!e~ kelter1- a few weeks. T~ e wafnot Y ~~ I, even elementary precaution against fraud. Owen was bilfed “I by an associate who piled insult upon injury by setting up a whiskey distillery on land that · he had unfairly taken. And· since Owen was not there, rival communities sprang up: Macluria under one William McClure, and others under other dissidents. The pull of acquisitive habit was too strong for the bond of ideas; in retrospect it is only astonishing that the community managed to exist for as long as it did.

By 1828 it was apparent that the enterprise was a failure. Owen sold the land (he had lost four-fifths of his entire for- tune in the venture) and went off to talk ‘about his schemes to President Jackson and then to Santa Anna in Mexico. Neither of these gentlemen expressed more than polite ~ntereSt

Owen now returned to England. He was still the benev- olent (if slightly cracked) Mr. Owen, and his career ~a_s about to take its final unexpected twist. For while most opmion had mocked at his Villages of Cooperation, his teachings had sunk t–, dee into one section of the count : the workin classes. This was th . • an e ea ers o , – — –:—-:,::e time o t e 1rst tra e umons, – the Spinners”ana the 2,otters and the bmlaers had come t~ 0 reP-ard~ – ~–fcl t tFie ·r interests -~ –.. ~wen as a man who cou speak or e,

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· d d as their leader. Unlike his peers, they took his teach- m ee ‘ fC . b . ings seriously-while the Villages o oopera~on were e~ng debated by committees of notables, re~ w_orking cooperative societies based on his tracts were spnngmg up throughout the country on a more modest scale: producers’ c?operatives and consumers’ coog_eratives and even a few ill-fated ~t- temP.ts to [oQo~ M,r~w.Jm.’ s ideas to tfie lette!.fill..9 cJo awax_ whmoney,

Without exception, the producers’ cooperatives failed and the moneyless exchange~ ended in moneyless but equally final bankruptcies. But one aspect of the cooperative move- ment took root. Twenty-eight devoted men who called themselves the Rochdale Pioneers began the consumer coop- er~tive mo~ t. To Owen it was onl of p~ si~_2~teresf, but with time it rew to be one ol great sourcesof

. ./ stren o e Lab · i _ Curiously, the movement in which he took least interest was to survive all the projects into which he poured his heart and strength.

Owen had no time for cooperatives, for a good reason; on his return from America he had conceived a huge moral

· crusade, and he plunged into it with a typical vigorous aban- don. The onetime poor boy, onetime capitalist, one-time so- cial architect, now drew around him the leaders of the working-class movement. He bestowed a properly impressive name on his project: the Grand National Moral Union of the Productive and Useful Classes. The name was soon short- ened to the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union, and since that was still quite a mouthful, to the Grand National. Under its banner the trade-union leaders rallied, and in 1833 the English working-class movement was officially launched.

. !!_ was -~~~~wide union:::the precui:.§.Of of the in~ – tnal ! r~ umons of our dayJtsJI1emb~.riliip was fiye n un- dred fhousand-a mammoth_J}g!!!_e for y-iat t~ – and it em~race? virtual!~ every important union in all of _§)!gland._ lrut, unllrea mo em union, its goals were not limited to hours ai:id ~ ages or even to management prerogatives. T~e Grand National was to be an instrument not only of soc1al bettennent but of deep social change. Hence, while its pro· gram asked fo r better wages and working condi tions, it went



to expound a fuzzy amalgam of Villages of C . on f d b ooperation the abolition o money, an a num er of other ideas f h ‘ f Ow , ‘ti rom t e · otpourri o en s wn ng. P Owen stumped the country for his final cause. It was a fiasco. England ~as no more prepar~d for a national trade union than Am~nca for a local paradise. Local unions could not control their members, and local strikes weakened th national body. ~en and his lieutenants fell out; they ac~ cused him of atheism, and he charged t~em with fomenting class hatred. The government stepped m and with violence and vengeance did its best to disrupt the growing movement. The employing classes heard in the Grand National the knell of private property and called for prosecution under anti~ union laws. No youthful movement could have withstood such an onslaught. Within two years the great union was dead, and Owen at the age of sixty-four had played his last historical role.

He continued for another twenty years, the grand old man of labor, urging his cooperative ideas, his preference for the spade, his naive distrust of money. In 1839 he had an au- dience with Queen Victoria despite the protests of a group of the best people known as the Society for Peaceably Repress- ing Infidelity: But he was finished. In his last years he found a refuge in spiritualism, in endless tracts endlessly the same, and in his wonderful Autobiography. In 1858, eighty-seven years old and still hopeful, he died.

What a romantic and fantastic story! And looking back, it is his story rather than his ideas which interests us. Owen was ~ever a truly original and certainly never a flexible thipker. Robert Owen is not a man to think differently of a book for

having read it,” was the devastating way in which one con- temporary writer characterized him and Macaulay, who fled at the sound of his voice, called him,”always a gentle bore.”

. He was not, by any stretch of the imagination, ~ -econ~- m1st. But he was more than that; he was an economic innova- tor who reshaped the raw data with which economiSts have to tal. Like all the Utopian Socialists, Owen wanted the_wo~d : anged; hut while others wrote, powerfully or otherwise, e

ent ahead and tried to change it.


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cl th ght perhaps he did leave one great And on secon ou ‘ . cl · h· d . h’ cl h. It . charmingly illustrate mt 1s anec ote idea be m im. is . b rt Dale Owen from the autobiography of his son, Ro e .

‘Wh the child screams from temper, my dear Caro-

li ,, . ‘denh. father (Robert Owen), “set him in the middle ne sai IS d , ak h · f th, floor and be sure- you on t t e Im up until 0 e nursery , · b

he stops crying.” “But my dear, he 11 go _on_ crymg y the hour.” “Then let him cry.” “It may hurt his httle lungs, and perhaps throw him into spasms.”‘? think not: At all events, it will hurt him more if he grows mto an ungovernable boy. Man is the creature of circumstances.”

“Man is the creature of circumstances.” And who makes the circumstances but man himself? The world is not in- evitably good or bad but to-the extent that we make it so. In that thought Owen left behind him a philosophy of hope more powerful than all his fanciful notions about spades and plows or money or Villages of Cooperation.

Robert Owen is certainly the most romantic of that group of nineteenth-century protesters against raw capital- ism, but he is by no means the most peculiar. For sheer per- versity of character, honors must go to Count Henri de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon, and for indisputable eccentricity of ideas there is no peer of.Charles Fourier.

Saint-Simon, as his rolling name suggests, was an aristo- crat;-his family claimed descent from Charlemagne. Born in 1760, he was brought up to be conscious of the nobility of his ancestry and of the importance of maintaining the luster of his name; every morning, as a youth, he was awakened by his valet, who would cry: “Arise, Monsieur le Comte, you have great things to do today.”

The knowledge that one is a chosen vessel of history can do strange things to a man. In Saint-Simon’s case, it provided the excuse for an extravagant self-indulgence. Even as a boy he confused a devotion to principle with sheer pigheaded- ne~s; it is said that when a passing wagon interfered with a childhood game, he threw himself down across the road and obstinately refused to budge-and who was to throw a young count into the ditch? Later this same obstinacy led him to

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