The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

Dunoyer, Charles (1786-1862)

Barthélemy-Charles-Pierre-Joseph Dunoyer—journalist, academic, and noted economist—was born in Carennac in Lot and died in Paris at age 76. Dunoyer, a professor of political economy, authored numerous works on politics, political economy, and history, and he was a founding member of the Society of Political Economy in 1842. He occupies a crucial role in the history of the French classical liberal movement of the first half of the 19th century, along with Jean-Baptiste Say, Benjamin Constant, Charles Comte, Augustin Thierry, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

Dunoyer studied law in Paris, where he met Charles Comte, with whom he was to edit the liberal periodical Le Censeur (1814–1815), and its successor, Le Censeur européen (1817–1819). He became politically active during the last years of Napoleon’s Empire and the early years of the Bourbon Restoration, when he strenuously opposed authoritarian rule, whether Napoleonic or monarchical. He was especially active in his opposition to censorship, militarism, the slave trade, and the extensive restrictions placed on trade and industry.

Dunoyer and Comte discovered the liberal political economy of Jean-Baptiste Say in 1815 after their journal had been closed down by the censors. This event was seminal in Dunoyer’s intellectual development because it proved the catalyst for his fusion of three different strands of thought into a new and powerful theory of individual liberty. Dunoyer and Comte combined the political liberalism of Constant, whose main pillars were constitutional limits on the power of the state and representative government, the economic liberalism of Say (i.e., laissez-faire and free trade), and the sociological approach to history of Thierry, Constant, and Say, which was grounded in class analysis and a theory of the historical evolution of society through stages, culminating in the laissez-faire market society of industry.

Those views were further developed in numerous articles in Le Censeur européen and in two books that Dunoyer published during the 1820s. These monographs were based on his lectures at the Athénée Saint-Germain in Paris: L’Industrie et la morale considérées dans leurs rapports avec la liberté (1825) and Nouveau traité d’économie sociale (1830). He continued to expand and refine his ideas on the evolution of a free society in his three-volume magnum opus, De la Liberté du travail (1845).

After the Revolution of 1830 brought a more liberal-minded constitutional monarchy to power, Dunoyer was appointed a member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences and worked as a government official—he served as Prefect of L’Allier and La Somme. Dunoyer became a member of the Council of State in 1838; however, he resigned his government posts in protest against the coup d’état of Louis Napoléon in 1851. He died while writing a critique of the authoritarian Second Empire. The work was completed and published by his son, Anatole, in 1864.

 

Further Readings

Dunoyer, Charles. De la liberté du travail, ou simple exposé des conditions dans lesquelles les force humaines s’exercent avec le plus de puissance. Paris: Guillaumin, 1845.

———. Nouveau traité d’économie sociale, ou simple exposition des causes sous l’influence desquelles les hommes parviennent à user de leurs forces avec le plus de LIBERTE, c’est-à-dire avec le plus FACILITE et de PUISSANCE. 2 vols. Paris: Sautelet et Mesnier, 1830.

Hart, David M. Class Analysis, Slavery and the Industrialist Theory of History in French Liberal Thought, 1814–1830: The Radical Liberalism of Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, King’s College, Cambridge, UK, 1994.

Liggio, Leonard P. “Charles Dunoyer and French Classical Liberalism.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 1 no. 3 (1977): 153–178.

Weinburg, Mark. “The Social Analysis of Three Early 19th Century French Liberals: Say, Comte, and Dunoyer.” Journal of Libertarian Studies 2 no. 1 (1978): 45–63.

Originally published .