This paper focuses on the entry Fondation, compiled by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot and published in 1757 in the Encyclopédie. Turgot analyzes the phenome-non of fondations from the socio-economic point of view. In order to assess whether these ancient institutions were suitable for a society moving towards modernity, he uses public utility as the sole criterion of assessment. According to Turgot, the fondations were an obstacle to free enterprise and free market, as on the one hand they accumulated and immobilized capital by subtracting it from productive and profitable investments and, on the other hand, they provided assis-tance and charity without adequate labour promotion by encouraging idleness.
Also for these reasons Turgot is in favour of the suppression of these ancient institutions and he prefers the figure of the individual, active and responsible, or free associations of individuals. However, Turgot’s attack on fondations seems only one aspect of his broader criticism of all the institutions that were supporting the ancient social order.
Keywords: French economic thought, fondations, foundations, French enlightenment, Turgot, intermediate institutions, free market, care and charity
Jel Code: B1, B15, E02, H75, I3, N33