Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude


Born July 20, 1754, in Paris; died there Mar. 10, 1836. French bourgeois political figure, philosopher, and economist.

Born into a distinguished aristocratic family, Destutt de Tracy was one of the early representatives of the vulgar school of bourgeois political economy. He was a deputy from the nobility to the Constituent Assembly of 1789–91. A monarchist, he emigrated after the overthrow of the monarchy in France on Aug. 10, 1792. Under the Directory he was a member of the Committee of Public Enlightenment, during Napoleon’s reign he was a senator, and after the restoration of the Bourbons he was elevated to the peerage.

In his philosophical views Destutt de Tracy was an eclectic. Condillac’s sensationalism and the physiological ideas of Cabanis influenced him, and he was a friend of both philosophers. His main work was Eléments d’idéolo (vols. 1–4, 1801–15), which presented his philosophical, ethical, and economic ideas. According to Destutt de Tracy, morality is subjective; there is no objective criterion of good and evil, since each individual has his own desires which correspond to his needs. He advocated nonintervention by the state in the economy, and he considered the capitalist class, especially the industrialists, to be the only productive, socially useful class, partly because it gave the workers the opportunity to earn a living. Marx characterized the views of Destutt de Tracy as an example of confused and pretentious nonsense.


Eléments gie. Paris, 1817–18.
Traite d’économie politique. Paris, 1823.


Marx, K. “Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti.” (Vol. 4, Das Kapital.)
Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 26, part 1, pp. 262–75, 278, 343.
Stepanowa, V. Destutt de Tracy. Zürich, 1908. (Dissertation.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.