Conclusion: the Spiritual Politics of Social Class

  • S. J. Barnett


If one were to assess accounts of eighteenth-century Europe written since the 1950s, one would find there has been a tendency amongst some writers to exhibit a division of labour: those who have focused on the Enlightenment, and those who have taken the eighteenthcentury itself as their subject matter. The latter type of account has tended towards a more empirical and descriptive approach, and the former to the problem of intellectual change sometimes relatively isolated from its broader societal context. The aim of this present work has been to locate the historical thinking of the defenders and detractors of the two great confessions and their subdivisions into the wider European politico-religious framework. In doing so I hope to have taken a tiny step towards drawing together the two traditional approaches, the intellectual and the empirical. One of the issues addressed in this book has been the misapprehension resulting from an over-concentration on the narrow band of Enlightenment thinkers at the expense of ‘non-enlightened’ thinkers. The idea that the little family (as Peter Gay has expressed it) of philosophes grew, matured and wrote without receiving any significant influence at all from the Christian society into which they were born — from the comparatively vast numbers of Christian historians, philosophers, theologians, politicians and social critics — is one most historians will dismiss.


Social Class Combine Politics Historical Causality Protestant Work Ethic Ancien Regime 
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  1. 4.
    On the Enlightenment and the French Revolution see, for example, William Church’s (ed.) The Influence of the Enlightenment on the French Revolution (Lexington, 1974; 1st edn 1964).Google Scholar

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© S. J. Barnett 1999

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  • S. J. Barnett

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