Public Instruction and Ideology

  • Brian William Head
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idees/International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 112)


Tracy had argued in 1798 that legislators and rulers were the true teachers of humanity, and that a sound moral instruction was dependent on a proper framework of legislation and administration.1 It was necessary, however, that these authorities should be suitably enlightened in their actions: “truth is the sole road to well-being”, and truth consisted in a knowledge of the laws of our own nature and those governing our environment.2 The élitist character of the educational writings of Tracy and other idéologues arose partly from their environmental determinism and partly from their scientism. Progress could be achieved by modifying the institutional environment which conditioned the people’s actions and beliefs; but only an élite equipped with scientific knowledge of man and the social environment could intervene in a decisive manner to control the direction of social change.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 4.
    K. Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845) no. 3; and The Holy Family (1845), chapter 6, section (d) on French materialism.Google Scholar
  2. 32.
    H.C. Barnard, Education and the French Revolution (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 199–202.Google Scholar
  3. 39.
    Cf. the favourable review in la Décade philosophique, 10 messidor an IX (29 June 1801), pp. 14–31. The review is unsigned, but is attributed to Garat by J. Kitchin, op. cit., p. 190n. A critical review appeared in the Mercure de France on 1 thermidor an IX (20 July 1801), pp. 192–7 (signed “P”): the critic believed that the moral and political sciences deserved to be omitted from the curriculum and that the Council of public instruction had been useless.Google Scholar
  4. 77.
    Cf. Tracy, letter to Droz, 27 vendemiaire an X (19 October 1801), reprinted by A. Aulard in la Revolution franqaise, vol$158 (1910), pp. 361–2; and the fragment of a letter by Tracy cited in la Decade, 20 fructidor an IX (7 September 1801 ), pp. 496–7.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian William Head

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations