The Bourbon Ideology: Civic Eudaemonism in Habsburg and Bourbon Spain, 1600-1800

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The intellectual historian Gabriel Paquette has identified the propaganda language of the eighteenth-century Spanish Bourbon monarchy with a “pliable rhetoric of public happiness” of which the monarchy claimed to be “linchpin.” In a process beginning in the sixteenth century, by the late eighteenth century, the phrase “public happiness” had substantially replaced the “common good” in Spanish political thought. This project excavates the emergence of Spanish civic eudaemonism from Renaissance debates on reason of state, demonstrating the historical processes by which it repeatedly changed hands in subsequent centuries. Civic eudaemonism allowed Renaissance authors to allude to reason of state without instrumentalizing virtue, thereby putting the needs of the State over the doctrinal demands of the Church. The result was a new emphasis on the absolute sovereignty of the monarch, on whose shoulders rested the secular happiness of Spain. There was no consensual definition of public happiness. At the turn of the seventeenth century the sum of justice, security and civic virtue was meant. Later in the century the definition of mercantile success appeared, and by 1750 justice and virtue were disappearing. After 1780 mercantile definitions gave way to the personal industry of individual subjects, independent of regal influence and taken collectively. Public happiness, although associated with regalism throughout Europe, appeared earliest in Italy and Spain; in Spain it took longest to defeat the individual otherworldly happiness promised in Christianity. In Spain, as elsewhere, the alliance with regalism collapsed as soon as Christianity was purged from political writing.






Costa, Elsa (2021). The Bourbon Ideology: Civic Eudaemonism in Habsburg and Bourbon Spain, 1600-1800. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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