Pierre Leroux

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Pierre Leroux
Leroux, 1865
Leroux, 1865
BornPierre Henri Leroux
(1797-04-07)7 April 1797
Paris, France
Died12 April 1871(1871-04-12) (aged 74)
Paris, France
OccupationPhilosopher, economist

Pierre Henri Leroux (7 April 1797 – 12 April 1871) was a French philosopher and political economist. He was born at Bercy, now a part of Paris, the son of an artisan.


Pierre Leroux in exile, 1856.

His education was interrupted by the death of his father, which compelled him to support his mother and family. Having worked first as a mason and then as a compositor, he joined P. Dubois in the foundation of Le Globe which became in 1831 the official organ of the Saint-Simonian community, of which he became a prominent member. In November of the same year, when Prosper Enfantin became leader of the Saint-Simonians and preached the enfranchisement of women and the functions of the couple-prêtre, Leroux separated himself from the sect.[1] In 1834, he published an essay entitled "Individualism and Socialism" which, despite its message of scepticism towards both tendencies, introduced the term socialism in French political discourse.[2]: 105  In 1838, with Jean Reynaud, who had seceded with him, he founded the Encyclopédie nouvelle (eds. 1838–1841). Amongst the articles which he inserted in it were De l'égalité and Refutation de l'éclectisme, which afterwards appeared as separate works.[1]

Statue of Pierre Leroux at Boussac.

In 1840, he published his treatise De l'humanité (2nd ed. 1845), which contains the fullest exposition of his system, and was regarded as the philosophical manifesto of the Humanitarians. In 1841 he established the Revue indépendante, with the aid of George Sand, over whom he had great influence. Her Spiridion, which was dedicated to him, Sept cordes de la lyre, Consuelo, and La Comtesse de Rudolstadt, were written under the Humanitarian inspiration.[1] Leroux also became embroiled in the philosophical controversy between F.W.J. Schelling and the Young Hegelians in the early 1840s. A favourable comment about Schelling prompted a public reply from Hegel's disciple Karl Rosenkranz.[3]

In 1843, he established at Boussac (Creuse) a printing association organized according to his systematic ideas, and founded the Revue sociale.[1] At the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848 Leroux proclaimed the republic in the town of Boussac, becoming its mayor on February 25.[citation needed] Subsequently, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly, and in 1849 to the Legislative Assembly,[1] where he sat with the radical socialist deputies and often spoke, though his speeches were criticised as abstract and mystical. Within the Assembly, Leroux represented the Seine Department.[4]

An opponent of Louis Bonaparte, Leroux went into exile after the coup d'état of 1851, settling with his family in Jersey, where he pursued agricultural experiments and wrote his socialist poem La Grève de Samarez.[2]: 106  Karl Marx nominated Leroux for the Central Committee of the International Workingmen's Association.[5] On the definitive amnesty of 1869 he returned to Paris.[1]


Caricature of Leroux in 1848–49 by Cham.

Leroux's fundamental philosophical principle is that of what he calls the "triad"—a triplicity which he finds to pervade all things, which in God is "power, intelligence and love," in man "sensation, sentiment and knowledge".[1]

Leroux was described as a Protestant.[6] His religious doctrine is pantheistic; and, rejecting the belief in a future life as commonly conceived, he substitutes for it a theory of metempsychosis. In social economy he preserves the family, country and property, but finds in all three, as they now are, a despotism which must be eliminated. He imagines certain combinations by which this triple tyranny can be abolished. His solution seems to require the creation of families without heads, countries without governments and property without right of possession. In politics he advocates absolute equality — a democracy.[1]

His views might be considered anti-Semitic in present times. Leroux believed that Jewish-controlled banks had replaced the social institution of the churches with modern values which he had a negative view of: "We are destined to a future where individualism and egoism will triumph at the expense of the social good; the Jews, a people who epitomize individualism and egoism, are thus predestined to triumph over others." Leroux is highly critical of the modern capitalist economic system which he blames on Jews. According to Leroux Jews, who had once crucified Jesus, were crucifying the Christian world with capitalist tyranny.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Chisholm 1911, p. 485.
  2. ^ a b Griffiths, David A. (1983). "Pierre Leroux Redivivus". Nineteenth-Century French Studies. University of Nebraska Press. 12 (1–2): 105–115. JSTOR 23536496.
  3. ^ Rosenkranz, K., Über Schelling und Hegel. Ein Sendschreiben an Pierre Leroux. Königsberg, 1843. An online version of the German text of Rosenkranz' piece can be found at: https://archive.org/details/ueberschellingu00rosegoog. Karl Marx, in an 1843 letter to Ludwig Feuerbach, attempted to gain the latter's co-operation with the Franco-German Annals and proposed that Feuerbach write a critique of Schelling. Marx wrote: "How cunningly Herr von Schelling enticed the French, first of all the weak, eclectic Cousin, then even the gifted Leroux. For Pierre Leroux and his like still regard Schelling as the man who replaced transcendental idealism by rational realism, abstract thought by thought with flesh and blood, specialised philosophy by world philosophy! To the French romantics and mystics he cries: "I, the union of philosophy and theology," to the French materialists: "I, the union of flesh and idea," to the French sceptics: "I, the destroyer of dogmatism," in a word, "I ... Schelling!" Cp. Marx to Feuerbach, October 3, 1843. Marx/Engels Collected Works, Vol. 27, Moscow, 1962. Online at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df-jahrbucher/feuer.htm.
  4. ^ "Pierre, Henri Leroux" (in French). National Assembly. Retrieved 1 October 2021.
  5. ^ Breckman, Warren (2013). Adventures of the Symbolic: Postmarxism and Democratic Theory. Columbia University Press. p. 58. ISBN 9780231143943.
  6. ^ "Pierre Leroux(1797-1871)". Welcome to Ohio University. 2004-10-20. Retrieved 2022-10-14.
  7. ^ Brustein, William L.; Roberts, Louisa (2015). The Socialism of Fools: Leftist Origins of Modern Anti-Semitism. Cambridge University Press. p. 38.


Further reading[edit]

  • J. Maîtron (ed. by), Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier français. Première partie: 1789-1864 (Paris, 1964): t. II, pp. 501–503.
  • Jack Bakunin, Pierre Leroux and the birth of democratic socialism, 1797-1848 (New York, 1976)
  • Jacques Viard, Pierre Leroux et les socialistes européens (Arles, 1982)
  • Armelle Le Bras-Chopard, De l'égalité dans la différence : le socialisme de Pierre Leroux (Paris, 1986)
  • Marisa Forcina, I diritti dell’esistente. La filosofia della “Encyclopédie nouvelle” (1833-1847) (Lecce, 1987)
  • Barbel Kuhn, Pierre Leroux: Sozialismus zwischen analytischer Gesellschaftskritik und sozialphilosophischer Synthese: ein Beitrag zur methodischen Erforschung des vormarxistischen Sozialismus (Frankfurt am Main, 1988)
  • Miguel Abensour, Le Procès des maîtres rêveurs (Paris, 2000)
  • Bruno Viard, Pierre Leroux, penseur de l’humanité (Aix-en-Provence, 2009)
  • Andrea Lanza, All'abolizione del proletariato! Il discorso socialista fraternitario. Parigi 1839-1847 (Milano, 2010)

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