Table of Contributors    Table of Contents    Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

Pecqueur, Constantin (1801-1887)

One of the most highly-regarded socialist economists of his day, Pecqueur was appointed to the Luxembourg Commission set up to study the "organization of labor" following the February revolution. The father of French collectivist socialism, his pre-revolutionary treaties on political economy are said to have influenced Karl Marx.

Pecqueur was born into a well-to-do family at Douai (Nord). An early follower of Saint-Simon, then of Fourier, he established himself as an independent economic thinker after publishing eight highly-regarded books on political economy between 1837 and 1844. Georges Duveau's description of Pecqueur as "a minor socialist writer" may reflect latter day assessments of his scholarship, but this was not how his contemporaries saw him. "Among the French socialist of that generation," wrote George Lichtheim, "[Pecqueur's] contribution to theoretical economics and to the understanding of the new [industrial] society, was understanding." His two-volume study, Economie sociale des interets du commerce, de l'industrie, de l'agriculture et de la civilisation en général, sous l'influence de l'application de la vapeur, which claimed to show how changes in material conditions such as the introduction of steam power give rise to intellectual developments, won Pecqueur the imprimatur of the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 1839. The study also found favor with Karl Marx, who admired Pecqueur's "materialist method." Pecqueur's ideas began to reach a wider audience in 1844, when he started publishing critiques of classical economics in Paris's leading Left-wing newspaper, Ledru-Rollin's La Réforme. Unlike his Fourierist and Proudhonist contemporaries, Pecqueur did not take a pessimistic view of industrialism. Rather, he lamented that the capitalists who controlled the means of production had failed to grasp the revolutionary social and economic consequences of the vast new productive capacity made possible by the industrial mode of manufacturing. In this, he seems to have anticipated Marx's notion, expressed in The Communist Manifesto that "The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them."

Pecqueur's remedy for the shortcomings of capitalist ownership of the means of production was to transfer ownership to the community, i.e. the state. This view landed him in the social democratic camp of Louis Blanc, whose political ally he became in 1848. Thus, when Blanc became chairman of Government Commission for Labor, better known as the Luxembourg Commission, in February 1848, Pecqueur was one of the economists appointed to the commission, along with more orthodox economists such as Pierre G.F. Le Play, Charles Brook Dupont-White, and Fran&ccedul;ois Wolowski. He was also named assistant director of the Bibliothèque Nationale, but never actually occupied the post.

As a member of the Luxembourg Commission, Pecqueur worked closely with the other major socialist figure on the commission, the Fourierist Victor Considérant, in a fruitless attempt to forge a consensus in favor of government support for agricultural colonies, workers' housing, and co-determination of wages in the work place. On all of these topics, his ideas hewed close to those of Considérant, whose advanced Fourierist views he appears to have basically shared. Indeed, as time went on, Pecqueur seems to have reverted increasingly to the Fourierism of his earlier days. In 1849-50, in an ephemeral social science journal he founded, called Le Salut du Peuple, he attacked Proudhon for refusing to admit his great debt to Fourier. Pecqueur charged that Proudhon, who had been a virulent critic of the Luxembourg Commission, had lifted the idea of the exchange bank and the right to work from his utopian predecessor.

According to George Lichtheim, "Pecqueur's originality as a theorist rests on his understanding of the consequences inherent in the industrial revolution. In his writings he developed a rudimentary sociology of class and a general theory of historical development which formed a link between Saint-Simonism and Marxism."

Bruce Vandervort


Malon, Benoit Constantin Pecqueur, doyen du collectivisme français Paris, 1887.

Marcy, C. Pecqueur, foundateur du collectivisme d'état Paris, 1934.

Zouaoui, A. Socialisme et internationalisme, Constantin Pecqueur Geneva, 1964.

Table of Contributors    Table of Contents    Return to Encyclopedia Home Page

jgc revised this file ( on October 25, 2004.

Please E-mail comments or suggestions to

© 1998, 2004 James Chastain.