1803. England and early modernity

from Wolin Political Vision

Why it is important to know history, especially now political history.

Fear had been a natural reaction to the conditions of the sixteenth century. Religious ferment had combined with the travail of national centralization to make disorder a constant possibility and stability a tenuous achievement. Society was continually being threatened by a reversion to “political nature.” It was not surprising that men as diverse as Luther and Bodin had voiced the same warning that only a powerful coercive authority spelled the difference between anarchy and order. In the ontology of political thought, order has been the equivalent of being, anarchy the political synonym for non-being. Hobbes’s England had experienced political revolution and religious conflict of such intensity as to draw a whole society to the edge of nothingness. So dramatic had been the suddenness with which En-gland had been plunged into war and revolution, so great had been the devastation, and so bitter had been the enmities that for the next three centuries and more English politics was conducted on the unwritten premise that history ought not be allowed to repeat itself.

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