The liberal case for a socialist property regime:the contribution of Francois Huet

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This paper examines the analysis of property regimes in the thought of the French philosopher, Francois Huet, as presented especially in his one major work on that subject, Le Regne Social du Christianisme (1853). There, Huet developed his concern with social issues which began in the mid-1840s, when he was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Ghent. From 1846, he formed a study group of students now known as the ‘Huet Society’, which discussed social questions such as property rights and inheritance, and considered various reform proposals in the works of Fourier, Proudhon, Saint-Simon and others. In the aftermath of the 1848 Revolutions, Huet resigned his Chair following an official campaign against his allegedly subversive views. From 1850 until his death in 1869, Huet lived in Paris where he concentrated on his studies, producing a large number of published works. Apart from Le Regne, those works were concerned principally with Catholic theology, at least until 1864 when Huet renounced his faith and sought to develop a version of pantheism. However, in La Science de l'esprit (1864), which immediately preceded that renunciation, Huet restated at length and in virtually identical form the core argument of Le Regne. Even in one of his last works, La Revolution Religieuse (1868), moreover, Huet expressed his continuing endorsement of its ‘fundamental idea’ of ‘a guarantee of property to all’, and argued that after fifteen years it was still in advance of current liberal critiques of property regimes.

Keywords: Christian socialism; inheritance; liberal socialism; nineteenth century; property rights

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Central England.

Publication date: January 1, 1997

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