Marvin B. Becker
In this sequel to "Civility and Society in Western Europe, 1300-1600", Marvin Becker continues his study of the interior life of Western culture. Here, Becker treats the rise of civil society in England and Scotland that manifested itself in a shift in the spaces and practices of human sociability from familiarity toward impersonality, from public toward private, from social solidarity toward self-interest. He shows how these cultural changes from an archaic to a commercial social model called for new approaches to human nature, ethics, and politics, a re-visioning that Becker summarizes as a scaling down of expectations. Writers of the age now viewed society as an abstract entity with a life of its own, independent of personal ties of duty and obligation. Becker traces this transformation in Descartes, Pascal, Hobbes, Grotius, Pufendorf, Locke, and others, culminating in the leading figures of the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment.