The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Destutt De Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude (1754–1836)

  • R. F. Hébert
Reference work entry


French philosopher and economist, Tracy was born into a noble family of the ancien régime at Paris on 20 July 1754 and died in the same city on 10 March 1836. His life spanned the most tumultuous period of French history, from the twilight of the Old Regime to the dawn of capitalism, romanticism and socialism. One of the last philosophes, Tracy began as an eighteenth-century classical metaphysician, preoccupied with the sensationalist doctrine of Locke and Condillac, and ended up, in the words of Auguste Comte, as the philosopher ‘who had come closest to the positive state’. In the interim he knelt at the feet of Voltaire; served alongside Lafayette in the Royal Cavalry, and as deputy to the French Estates General and the Constituent Assembly; was imprisoned during the Reign of Terror; released after Thermidor (escaping the guillotine by a mere 2 days); subsequently helped to establish his country’s first successful national programme of public education; led the opposition to Napoleon from his seat in the French Senate; regained his title under the Bourbon Restoration; counted among his associates the likes of Mirabeau, Condorcet, Cabanis, DuPont de Nemours, Jefferson, Franklin, Lavoisier, Ricardo and Mill; and retained his early sympathies for liberty throughout.


Capitalization theory of taxation Destutt de Tracy, A. L. C. Ideology Labour theory of value Physiocracy Productive and unproductive labour 

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  1. Allix, E. 1912. Destutt de Tracy, économiste. Revue d’Economie Politique 26: 424–451.Google Scholar
  2. Kennedy, E. 1978. Destutt de Tracy and the Origins of ‘Ideology’. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.Google Scholar
  3. Picavet, F.J. 1918. In Les Idéologues, ed. chs 5 and 6. Paris: F. Alcan.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. F. Hébert
    • 1
  1. 1.