CHAPTER 4The Great Transformation and the Legacy of Modernity

The brilliant success of Newtonian mechanics and the great prestige of Descartes’s mechanistic worldview led to the gradual emergence of a rational, scientific frame of mind that eventually spread from science, through law, and into the new discipline of economics. This view embodied a critique of the communal life of most individuals—both the urban dwellers, with their guilds and corporations, and the peasants, who lived in village communities. Once bound by duties toward one another, their communities, and their shared environment, people now were defined by their individual property rights. Today, the legacy of the move toward modernity includes an unexamined faith in the concept ...

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