Antoine Louis Claude Destutt, Comte de Tracy, 1754-1836

The liberal French nobleman Destutt de Tracy was one the leading idéologues that sought to extend Enlightenment liberalism to post-Revolutionary France. He was, together with Say, the founder of the French Liberal School.  

Destutt de Tracy's main work was the series Eléments d'idéologie (1801-1815) which followed up on the philosophy, psychology and economics of Condillac.  Like Condillac, Destutt de Tracy sought to ground value in psychology, particularly utility.  He explicitly repudiated Adam Smith's cost theory of value (although he was sympathetic with much of the rest of his analysis).  Tracy's insistence that value must be measured in invariable units inspired Ricardo's search. 

Destutt de Tracy's support for laissez-faire doctrines invoked the wrath of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Prevented from printing his Commentaires in 1806, Destutt de Tracy had to resort to asking the American president, Thomas Jefferson, to publish an English language version.  It was only published in France in 1819.  Jefferson also supervised the translation of Tracy's main economics treatise, the Traité de la volonté (Vol. 4 of the Eléments) into English in 1818, under the title Treatise on Political Economy.  It was reprinted in French in 1823 as Traité d'économie politique

It was Tracy who originally coined the term "ideology", but he used it to denote the "science of ideas" in the sensorialist sense.  The term was given its negative slant by Napoleon and, later, Marx and Engels.

Major Works of A.L.C. Destutt de Tracy 

Resources on A.L.C. Destutt de Tracy

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