Étienne-Gabriel Morelly

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Étienne-Gabriel Morelly
Era18th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
SchoolUtopian socialism
Main interests
Political philosophy

Étienne-Gabriel Morelly (French: [etjɛn gabʁjɛl mɔʁɛli]; 1717–1778) was a French utopian thinker, philosopher and novelist. An otherwise "obscure tax official",[1] and teacher,[2] Morelly wrote two books on education, a critique of Montesquieu and The Code of Nature, which was published anonymously in France in 1755.[2] This book, initially attributed to philosophes including Rousseau and Diderot,[2] criticised contemporary society, postulated a social order without avarice, and proposed a constitution intended to lead to an egalitarian society without property, marriage, church or police.[3]


Frontispiece of "Code de la Nature, ou le véritable Esprit de ses Loix." (1755)

According to The Code of Nature, "...where no property exists, none of its pernicious consequences could exist...." As Morelly believed that almost all social and moral ills were a consequence of private property, his proposed constitution eliminates most private property. As a result of this latter characteristic of his utopia, Morelly is often seen as a significant forerunner of later socialist and communist thinkers. François-Noël Babeuf, Charles Fourier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Louis Blanc, Friedrich Engels, and Karl Marx all discussed Morelly's ideas in their own writing.[citation needed]

Among the "sacred and fundamental laws" Morelly proposed was "Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work."[citation needed] He was opposed to the possession of property beyond what an individual needed and, especially, to private property used to employ others. According to Morelly, "All.. durable products will be gathered together in public stores in order to be distributed to all the citizens, daily or at some other specified interval..."[citation needed]

He also proposed banning of trade between individuals: "In accordance with the sacred laws, nothing will be sold or exchanged between citizens. Someone who needs, for example greens, vegetables or fruits, will go to the public square, which is where these items will have been brought by the man who cultivate them, and take what he needs for one day only."[citation needed]


  • Essai sur l'esprit humain, 1743
  • Essai sur le coeur humain, 1745
  • Le Prince, les délices des coeurs, ou traité des qualités d'un grand roi et système d'un sage gouvernement [The Prince, the delights of the heart, or, A treatise on the qualities of a great king and system of wise government], 1751
  • Naufrage des isles flottantes, ou Basiliade du célèbre Pilpai, 1753
  • Code de la nature, ou le véritable esprit de ses lois, 1755

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Sonenscher, Sans-Culottes: An Eighteenth-Century Emblem in the French Revolution, Princeton University Press, 2008, p.229
  2. ^ a b c De Boni, C. (2012). Nature and Utopia in Morelly's Code De La Nature. In M.A. Ramiro Avilés & J.C. Davis (Eds.). Utopian Moments: Reading Utopian Texts (Textual Moments in the History of Political Thought, pp. 74–79). London: Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved April 12, 2022, from http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781849666848.ch-012
  3. ^ The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Political Thought, ed. Mark Goldie and Robert Wokler, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p.762

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