Recent historiography has paid a lot of attention to the rise of the cult of great men in eighteenth-century France. The focus of the debate has been on whether the cult of great men subverted or actually strengthened the monarchy. Yet, science and scientific thinking deeply affected eighteenth-century political philosophy, anthropology, and state administration. Far from being merely a celebration of ancient republican virtues, the cult of great men was influenced by the newly discovered, formulated, and popularized scientific laws of nature and by an increasingly systematic interest in the science of political economy. Acknowledging and absorbing these changes, La Beaumelle's Pensées (1752) proposed a politics based on a naturalist anthropology with eugenic overtones and on a utilitarianism and commercial liberalism that functioned within the boundaries of the reason of state doctrine.
Mircea Platon; Newtonian Science, Commercial Republicanism, and the Cult of Great Men in La Beaumelle's Pensées (1752). History of Political Economy 1 September 2011; 43 (3): 553–589. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-1346833
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