It is rather troublesome to speak of a French utopian thought since the category of Utopia or Utopian Thought is too vast and not easily intelligible for a variety of reasons: firstly, because there is the difficulty in marking out a clear distinction, as Marx and Engels tried to do, between utopian thought and other forms of thought, including scientific thought; secondly, because of the important differences existing among the various expressions of what, with an elliptical expression, we mean a utopian thought; thirdly, because some authors who we consider as adhering to the utopian thought, not only do they not consider themselves so, but have waged a harsh battle against concepts of Utopia (just think of Proudhon). Maybe, it would have been easier to adopt the category of heterodox thought, though I have never really liked such a term for several reasons: firstly, because this is even more indeterminate; and because it is generally built per differentiam, with reference to external contents, that is in relation to approaches and analytical procedures of that universe of reasoning which is defined orthodox. The category of heterodoxy reminds me of that concept of idealism which Hegel attributed to Schelling: a night when every cow is black. In the end, I held to be more useful to adopt the category of utopian thought, since in each case the reflection of the authors under consideration is determined by the search for organising the economy and society conceived as a possible alternative to capitalism. Upon the bases of such an approach, these authors, mature a critical attitude towards the current state of things and towards the theories, (economic theories, especially), which proclaim that state of things as the only one possible. Besides, it is interesting to take note, that the critical attitude to political economy emerges rather slowly, after a phase of opening in relation to economics and after a phase of sharing its analytical procedures and its cognitive goals. We will develop these ideas by way of the following four headings: 1. the attraction of classical economics and its utopian dimension; 2. the end of the great illusion; 3. Malthus’ trauma; 4. the criticisms of political economy.
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