During the first half of the 19th century, Saint-Simonianism was one of the most influential utopian movements in France. From approximately 1825 to 1835, hundreds of engineers, physicians, and lawyers joined the movement. The Saint-Simonian doctrine put great emphasis on the reole of the arts. Saint-Simonian engineers and architects developed a whole range of ideas about territories, cities, and their architecture. Some of them were pioneers of the French railway. They played a decisive part in the emergence of our modern notion of technological network. Saint-Simonians' proposals for the city helped shape the political and cultural context that gave birth to the transformation of Paris by Baron Haussmann during the Second Empire. Their ideas about architecture help us understand the relationship between technological rationalism and historicism in the 19th century. With their vision of human history as moving and conflicting civilizations, the Saint-Simonian vision announced the emergence of geopolitics.
The book pays a special attention to the Saint-Simonian approach to territories, cities, and architecture. Through this case study, it proposes a reexamination of the relations between space and utopia in the 19th century. Ultimately, the book aims at contradicting the common assumption that modernity in the first industrial age was synonymous with disenchantment with the world. Although many Saint-Simonians were engineers versed in the most recent developments of science and technology, they lived in a world permeated by religious beliefs and wonders.