This article reconstructs French readings and debates of German approaches to Völkerpsychologie. Irrespective of its academic credentials, Völkerpsychologie was a symptomatic approach during a transformative period in German, and indeed European, intellectual history: based on the idea of progress—both scientific and moral—and on the belief in the primordial importance of the Volk, it represented the mindset of “ascendant liberalism” in an almost pure form. The relevance and importance of Völkerpsychologie can be gauged from a list of scholars and intellectuals who discussed its merits as well as its problems. Moreover, the reception of Völkerpsychologie was not restricted to German academics: it was in France where central elements of Völkerpsychologie had the most profound effect on scholars who tried to establish a social science. Some of the best-known French academics and intellectuals of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries—Théodule Ribot, Célestin Bouglé, Ernest Renan, Alfred Fouillée, Emile Durkheim, and Marcel Mauss—commented extensively on the works of Moritz Lazarus, Heymann Steinthal and Wilhelm Wundt, and developed their concepts of a “social science” that would reach beyond traditional philosophy, philology and history in a close dialogue with their German colleagues. Hence Völkerpsychologie was not a German oddity, but an integral part of the debates that led to the establishing of the modern social sciences, as its French reception shows.