Published Humanitas, Volume VIII, No. 2, 1995

An understandable but perhaps ideologically inspired notion holds back some scholars from making a genuine analysis of the origin of modern society. The basic assumption in such cases is that an almost sudden, earthquake-like, initiative, a quasi-conspiracy, had led, at one point of the Middle Ages, to a kind of palace-revolution inside the “old order,” guarded by the church and the classical tradition. It is further assumed that soon afterwards a cascade of subversive thought overcame the cracking old order, provoking half-clandestine theories of man and state, from the Fraticelli to Et. La Boetie and the Reformers, until the “new order” was imposed and “modernity” began. The usual heroes (or villains) of the revolutionary change are Machiavelli, Hobbes and Descartes, three men who proposed, so the argument runs, a new anthropology and a new political science.

This thesis is attractive. My intention is not to question it, but merely to complete it, at its beginning and at its end, so as to widen the approach to the evolution of society and the state.

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