For most of us, it is difficult to think of political ideas as somehow separate from the events and processes of time and place, from the crises, problems, and larger trends confronting people at a particular juncture in the human experience. Changes in the political life of European society invariably inform political theory, as writers struggle first to understand the fundamental nature of these changes, and then work to defend, amend, or criticize what they take to be the long-term developments. And arguably the most significant development in European political life during the seventeenth century was the emergence of the sovereign state — at first confessional and then increasingly secular — as both impersonal object of allegiance and omnicompetent public authority within a clearly defined territory. The process had been inaugurated in the 1500s, but the full profile of the novel configuration only became apparent during the course of the seventeenth century. Whatever else characterizes life in the West three centuries after the period treated in this book, ours is without question a national state-dominated society where humans are divided into military-political-cultural units and where the sovereignty of the centralized political order over all other human associations is firmly established.1 Moreover, the state has become self-justifying, wielding its authority without reference to any purported transhuman sanction.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
W. M. Spellman
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number