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Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald

Louis de Bonald
Louis de Bonald, by Julien-Léopold Boilly.
Born Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald
(1754-10-02)2 October 1754
Died 23 November 1840(1840-11-23) (aged 86)
Era 18th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
Notable ideas

Louis Gabriel Ambroise, Vicomte de Bonald (2 October 1754, Le Monna (part of Millau), Rouergue (now Aveyron) – 23 November 1840, Le Monna), was a French counter-revolutionary[1] philosopher and politician. Mainly, he is remembered for developing a set of social theories that exercised a powerful influence in shaping the ontological framework from which French sociology would emerge.[2][3][4][5]


  • Life 1
  • Ideas 2
  • Quotes 3
  • Works 4
    • Complete Works 4.1
    • Writings in English translation 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Bonald came from an ancient noble family of Provence. He was educated at the Oratorian college at Juilly,[6] and after serving with the Artillery, he held a post in the local administration of his native province. Elected to the States General of 1789 as a deputy for Aveyron, he strongly opposed the new legislation on the civil status of the clergy and emigrated in 1791. There he joined the army of the Prince of Condé, soon settling in Heidelberg. There he wrote his first important work, the highly conservative Theorie du Pouvoir Politique et Religieux dans la Societe Civile Demontree par le Raisonnement et l'Histoire (3 vols., 1796; new ed., Paris, 1854, 2 vols.), which the Directory condemned.[7]

Upon returning to France, he found himself an object of suspicion and at first lived in retirement. In 1806, he, along with Chateaubriand and Joseph Fiévée, edited the Mercure de France. Two years later, he was appointed counsellor of the Imperial University, which he had often attacked previously.[8] After the Bourbon Restoration he was a member of the council of public instruction and, from 1816, of the Académie française.[9] From 1815 to 1822, de Bonald served as a deputy in the French National Assembly. His speeches were extremely conservative and he advocated literary censorship. In 1825, he argued strongly in favor of the Anti-Sacrilege Act, including its prescription of the death penalty under certain conditions.[7]

In 1822, de Bonald was made Minister of State, and presided over the censorship commission. In the following year, he was made a peer, a dignity which he had lost by refusing to take the required oath in 1803. In 1816, he was appointed to the Académie française. In 1830, he retired from public life and spent the remainder of his days on his estate at Le Monna.[7]

De Bonald had four sons, two of whom, Victor and Louis, led lives of some note.


Bonald was one of the leading writers of the theocratic or traditionalist school,[10][11] which included de Maistre, Lamennais, Ballanche and baron Ferdinand d'Eckstein.[12] His writings are mainly on social and political philosophy, and are based ultimately on one great principle, the divine origin of language. In his own words, "L'homme pense sa parole avant de parler sa pensée" (man thinks his speech before saying his thought); the first language contained the essence of all truth. From this he deduces the existence of God, the divine origin and consequent supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures, and the infallibility of the Catholic Church.[7]

While this thought lies at the root of all his speculations, there is a formula of constant application. All relations may be stated as the triad of cause, means and effect, which he sees repeated throughout nature. Thus, in the universe, he finds the first cause as mover, movement as the means, and bodies as the result; in the state, power as the cause, ministers as the means, and subjects as the effects; in the family, the same relation is exemplified by father, mother and children. These three terms bear specific relations to one another; the first is to the second as the second to the third. Thus, in the great triad of the religious world—God, the Mediator, and Man—God is to the God-Man as the God-Man is to Man. On this basis, he constructed a system of political absolutism.[7]


  • "Monarchy considers man in his ties with society; a republic considers man independently of his relations to society."
  • "There was geometry in the world before Newton, and philosophy before Descartes, but before language there was absolutely nothing but bodies and their images, because language is the necessary instrument of every intellectual operation — nay, the means of every moral existence."
  • "Man thinks his word before he speaks his thought, or, in other words, man cannot speak his thought without thinking his word."
  • "The deist is a man who in his short existence has not had time to become an atheist."


  • 1796: Théorie du Pouvoir Politique et Religieux.
  • 1800: Essai Analytique sur les Lois Naturelles de l’Ordre Social.
  • 1801: Du Divorce: Considéré au XIXe, Impr. d'A. Le Clere.
  • 1802: Législation Primitive (3 volumes).
  • 1817: Pensées sur Divers Sujets.
  • 1818: Recherches Philosophiques sur les Premiers Objets des Connaissances Morales.
  • 1815: Réflexions sur l’Intérêt Général de l’Europe.
  • 1818: Observations sur un Ouvrage de Madame de Staël.
  • 1819: Mélanges Littéraires, Politiques et Philosophiques.
  • 1830: Démonstration Philosophique du Principe Constitutif de la Société.
  • 1821: Opinion sur la Loi Relative à la Censure des Journaux.
  • 1825: De la Chrétienté et du Christianisme.
  • 1826: De la Famille Agricole et de la Famille Industrielle.
  • 1834: Discours sur la Vie de Jésus-Christ.

Complete Works

  • Œuvres de M. de Bonald, 1817-1843 (A. Le Clere, 14 vols. in-8°).
  • Œuvres de M. de Bonald, 1847-1859 (A. Le Clere, 7 vols. in-8° gr.).
  • Œuvres Complètes de M. de Bonald, 1858 (Jacques-Paul Migne, 3 vols. in-4°).
  • Œuvres Complètes, Archives Karéline, 2010 (facsimile of the Migne edition).

Writings in English translation

  • In Menczer, Béla, 1962. Catholic Political Thought, 1789-1848, University of Notre Dame Press.
    • "The Unity of Europe," pp. 79–89.
    • "On Domestic Society," pp. 89–95.
  • On Divorce, Transaction Publishers, 1992.
  • In Blum, Christopher Olaf, editor and translator, 2004. Critics of the Enlightenment. Wilmington DE: ISI Books.
    • 1815: "On Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux," pp. 43–70.
    • 1817: "Thoughts on Various Subjects," pp. 71–80.
    • 1818: "Observations on Madame de Stael's Considerations on the Principle Events of the French Revolution," pp. 81–106.
    • 1826: "On the Agricultural Family, the Industrial Family, and the Right of Primogeniture," pp. 107–32.
  • The True and Only Wealth of Nations: Essays on Family, Society and Economy, trans. by Christopher Blum. Ave Maria University Press, 2006. ISBN 1-932589-31-7

See also


  1. ^ Beum, Robert (1997). "Ultra-Royalism Revisited: An Annotated Bibliography With A Preface," Modern Age, Vol. 39, No. 3, p. 302.
  2. ^ Nisbet, Robert A. (1943). "The French Revolution and the Rise of Sociology in France," The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 49, No. 2, pp. 156–164.
  3. ^ Nisbet, Robert A. (1944). "De Bonald and the Concept of the Social Group,” Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 315–331.
  4. ^ Reedy, W. Jay (1979). "Conservatism and the Origins of the French Sociological Tradition: A Reconsideration of Louis de Bonald's Science of Society," Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Meeting for the Western Society for French History, Vol. 6, pp. 264–273.
  5. ^ Reedy, W. Jay (1994). "The Historical Imaginary of Social Science in Post-Revolutionary France: Bonald, Saint-Simon, Comte,” History of the Human Sciences, Vol. 7 no. 1, pp. 1–26.
  6. ^ Simpson, Marin (2005). "Bonald, Louis de (1754–1840)." In: Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Thought. London & New York: Routledge, p. 58.
  7. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911.
  8. ^ Simpson (2005), p. 58.
  9. ^ Dorschel, Andreas (2008). "Aufgeklärte Gegenaufklärung", Süddeutsche Zeitung, No. 25, p. 16.
  10. ^ Godechot, Jacques (1982). The Counter-Revolution: Doctrine and Action, 1789–1804. Princeton University Press.
  11. ^ Blum, Christopher Olaf (2006). "On Being Conservative: Lessons from Louis de Bonald," The Intercollegiate Review, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 23–31.
  12. ^ Masseau, Didier (2000). Les Ennemis des Philosophes. Editions Albin Michel.

Further reading

  • Barbey D'Aurevilly, Jules (1880). "De Bonald". In: Les Prophètes du Passé. Paris: Victor Palmé, pp. 83–118.
  • Beik, Paul H. (1970). The French Revolution Seen from the Right: Social Theories in Motion, 1789–1799. New York: Howard Fertig.
  • Berlin, Isaiah (1973). "The Counter-Enlightenment." In: Philip P. Wiener (ed.), Dictionary of the History of Ideas , vol. 2. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sonspp, 100–112.
  • Bertran de Balanda, Flavien (2009). Bonald, la Réaction en Action. Lambesc: Éd. Prolégomènes.
  • Bertran de Balanda, Flavien (2010). Louis de Bonald Publiciste Ultra. Aix-en-Provence: Champ d'Azur.
  • Blamires, Cyprian P. (1985). Three Critiques of the French Revolution: Maistre, Bonald and Saint-Simon. Oxford: Oxford University Doctoral Thesis.
  • Bonald, Henri de (1841). Notice sur M. le Vicomte de Bonald. Paris: Adrien Le Clère.
  • Bourget, Paul (1905). Bonald. Paris: Librairie Bloud.
  • Main Currents in Nineteenth Century Literature. Vol. III: The Reaction in France. New York: The Macmillan Company, pp. 113–134.
  • Devlin, F. Roger (2010). "Louis de Bonald: Neglected Antimodern," The Occidental Quarterly, Vol. X, No. 2.
  • Fitzgibbon, George F. (1940). "De Bonald and De Maistre," The American Catholic Sociological Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 116–124.
  • Klinck, David (1978). "The Impact of Eighteenth-century Naturalism upon the Religious Thought of Louis de Bonald," Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Meeting for the Western Society for French History, Vol. 5, pp. 173–180.
  • Klinck, David (1992). "Louis de Bonald: The Foreshadowing of the Integral Nationalism of Charles Maurras and the Action Française in the Thought of the French Counterrevolution," History of European Ideas, Vol. 15, No. 1–3, pp. 327–332.
  • Klinck, David (1996). The French Counterrevolutionary Theorist, Louis de Bonald (1754-1840). New York: Peter Lang Pub.
  • Koyré, Alexandre (1946). "Louis De Bonald," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 56–63.
  • Cohen, D.K. (1969). "The Vicomte de Bonald's Critique of Industrialism," The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 475–484.
  • Ferret, Olivier (2007). La Fureur de Nuire: Échanges Pamphlétaires entre Philosophes et Antiphilosophes, 1750-1770. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.
  • Laski, Harold Joseph (1919). "Bonald." In: Authority in the Modern State. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 123–188.
  • Mazlish, Bruce (1955). Burke, Bonald and de Maistre. A Study in Conservatism. New York: Columbia University Doctoral Thesis.
  • McCalla, Arthur (2004). "Louis de Bonald's Traditionalist Science of Society and Early Nineteenth-Century Biological Thought," Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 337–357.
  • McMahon, Darrin M. (2002). Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity. Oxford University Press.
  • Montesquiou, Léon de (1916). Le Réalisme de Bonald. Paris: Nouvelle Librairie Nationale.
  • Moulinié, Henri (1916). De Bonald. Paris: Librairie Felix Alcan.
  • Muret, Charlotte Touzalin (1933). French Royalist Doctrines since the Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Pranchere, Jean-Yves (2001). "The Social Bond in Maistre and Bonald." In: Richard A. Lebrun, ed., Joseph de Maistre’s Life, Thought and Influence: Selected Studies. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, pp. 190–219.
  • Reedy, W. Jay (1981). "Burke and Bonald: Paradigms of Late Eighteenth-Century Conservatism," Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 69–93.
  • Reedy, W. Jay (1983). "Language, Counter-Revolution and the 'Two Cultures': Bonald's Traditionalist Scientism," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 44, No. 4, pp. 579–597.
  • Reedy, W. Jay (1986). "Art for Society's Sake: Louis de Bonald's Sociology of Aesthetics and the Theocratic Ideology," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 130, No. 1, pp. 101–129.
  • Smith, Horatio E. (1924). "Relativism in Bonald's Literary Doctrine," Modern Philology, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 193–210.
  • Soltau, Roger Henry (1959). French Political Thought in the 19th Century. New York: Russell & Russell.
  • Thorup, Mikkel (2005). "'A World Without Substance': Carl Schmitt and the Counter-Enlightenment," Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 19–39.
  • Toda, Michel (1997). Louis de Bonald, Théoricien de la Contre-Révolution. Étampes: Éd. Clovis.
  • Wieland, Georg (2013). "Bonald, Louis Gabriel Ambroise," Religion Past and Present. Brill Online.

External links

  • Works by Louis de Bonald, at Gallica
  • Works by or about Louis Gabriel Ambroise de Bonald at Internet Archive
  • Works by Louis de Bonald, at Hathi Trust
  • Louis-Ambroise Vicomte de Bonald (1754-1840)
  • Louis de Bonald's Univocity of Being: The Mythos of the Fait Sociale and the Rise of French Sociology
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès
Seat 30
Académie française
Succeeded by
Jacques-François Ancelot
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