Disenchantment and Ideology
Full course description
In the nineteenth century the western world experienced a profound transformation. Traditional, predominantly agrarian society made way for an industrial one; the hierarchical social order was challenged by growing individualism and egalitarianism; and authoritarian government was gradually replaced by parliamentary democracy and suffrage. The French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution marked the beginning of this process of modernisation. Modernisation profoundly changed the view of man and society. Society was no longer viewed as immutably anchored in tradition or God’s will. The idea of social design, the desire to create a better or perfect world, is a crucial characteristic of the modern way of thinking. People began to believe that the future could be planned and shaped in a rational manner. The ideal of social design entailed political conflicts and struggles about the reconstruction of society and these were based on political ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and nationalism, which implied various views of man. In the context of secularisation, a new view of man and society also emerged in science, in biomedical science and sociology in particular. The traditional view of the world and man’s position in it was dominated by Christian religion as well as magic and symbolic thinking. The Enlightenment and science paved the way for a secular world-view, in which man was not so much considered as a special being because God had endowed him of her with a soul and his or her moral destiny lay beyond this world. More and more man was viewed and studied as a natural and social being. In this course the rise of modern society will be studied from the perspective of the fundamental ambiguities of this transformation. On the one hand modernisation was a process of liberation: liberation from the shackles of traditional society, from age-old social hierarchies, from authoritative and oppressive political structures, and from dogmatic ways of thinking. On the other hand modernisation resulted in new problems such as disruption and disorientation and it also implied the need to adapt to new rules, pressures, and disciplinary systems.
Understanding the political, social-economic and cultural modernisation of European society from the late eighteenth until the early twentieth century.
Various relevant textbooks are used.