Antoine-Louis-Claude Destutt de Tracy (1754–1836)

[Created: 24 March, 2018]
[Updated: November 17, 2021]



Antoine Destutt de Tracy (1754–1836) was one of the leading intellectuals of the 1790s and early 1800s and a member of the “ideologues” (a philosophical movement not unlike the objectivists, who professed that the origin of ideas was material–not spiritual). In his writings on Montesquieu, Tracy defended the institutions of the American Republic, and in his writings on political economy he defended laissez-faire. During the French Revolution he joined the third estate and renounced his aristocratic title. During the Terror he was arrested and nearly executed. Tracy continued agitating for liberal reforms as a senator during Napoleon’s regime. One of his most influential works was the four-volume Éléments d’idéologie (first published in 1801–15) (Tracy coined the term “ideology”). He also wrote Commentaire sur l’ésprit des lois (1819), which Thomas Jefferson translated and brought to the United States. In 1823 he published his Traité d’économie politique (1823), much admired by Jefferson and Bastiat.


Destutt de Tracy, Eléments d’idéologie (Paris: Mme. Levi, 1825-) 5 vols. (1803–1815, 1817–1818).

Destutt de Tracy, Eléments d’idéologie. IVe et Ve parties. Traité de la volonté et de ses effets (Paris: V. Courcier, 1815).

Destutt de Tracy, Antoine. Commentaire sur l’esprit des lois de Montesquieu; suivi d’observations inédites de Condorcet sur le vingt-neuvième livre du même ouvrage. Édition entièrement conforme à celle publiée à Liége en 1817 (Paris: Delaunay, 1819). [PDF 17.3 MB]

Antoine Louis Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy, A Treatise on Political Economy: to which is Prefixed a Supplement to a Preceding Work on the Understanding or Elements of Ideology; with an Analytical Table, and an Introduction on the Faculty of the Will (Georgetown: Joseph Milligan, 1817).

Antoine Louis Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy, A Treatise on Political Economy. Translated by Thomas Jefferson. Edited and with an Introduction by Jeremy Jennings (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2011).

Antoine Louis Claude, Comte Destutt de Tracy, Traité d’économie politique (Paris: Bouguet et Lévi, 1823). Vol. 4 of Eléments d’idéologie reprinted as a stand alone volume with a new title. [PDF 11 MB]