From time immemorial the prime agency of individual and social reproduction has been inertia, the biological form of which is instinct and the cultural form, tradition. That is to say, things were done because they had been done before— an efficient, though not infallible, way to achieve organismic and societal stability. Modernity is, in one of its numerous definitions, the progressive attenuation of inertia by consciousness. Where tradition was, there shall reason be.
In the classical account, science, democracy, market relations, and ethical individualism were born and grew up together, the offspring of modernity. The first modern generations looked upon what these phenomena had wrought, pronounced them good, and called for t...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.