In theory the CMPS was set up to enshrine the human and social studies that were at the heart of Enlightenment culture. Staum illustrates, however, that the Institute helped transform key ideas of the Enlightenment in order to maintain civil rights while upholding social stability, and that the social and political assumptions on which it was based affected notions of social science. He traces the careers of individual members and the factions within the Institute, arguing that the discord within the CMPS reflects the unravelling of Enlightenment culture. Minerva's Message presents a valuable overview of the intellectual life of the period and brings together new evidence about the social sciences in their nascent period.
Intellectuals, revolution and the social sciences; enlightenment social science models; the institute intellectuals - change and continuity; advice to government and prize contests; the public image of the Institute and the decline of encyclopaedism; indelible temperament and Condillac's uncertain legacy; a science of morality; philosophical history and political discord; human geography - correlating climate, culture and civilization; rights, utility and political institutions; towards the plitical economy of commercial society; suppression and resurrection of an academy.