Modern History Part IV
Nevertheless, the relatively strong economic power of the bourgeoisie did not mean the end of the political domination of the nobility and clergy that had existed since the Middle Ages. The economic power of the nobility of this time should not be underestimated – at least in Central and Eastern Europe. The thesis has been put forward that the political and social upheaval of the French Revolution of 1789 marked the actual beginning of the modern era. Due to the many new approaches between 1450 and 1517 alone, it seems more correct to see the turning point of 1789 as the culmination point and the breakthrough of a whole series of national, intellectual and social-emancipatory tendencies that have been in modern development since the middle of the 15th Century (different “modernization thresholds”). Developed for the transition phase (1750–1850) R. Koselleck used the concept of the European “saddle time”.
According to Fashionissupreme, the schema common in historical science, with minor deviations, is a breakdown of the modern era into a phase of the early modern era (around 1450–1650) and a “younger modern era” that encompasses the period from around 1650 onwards. The turning point in 1648 is of particular importance. The Peace of Westphalia brought the definitive end of a universal concept of order that was characterized by the papacy’s claim to sole religious validity and the universal rule of the Roman-German Empire. In the Peace of Westphalia, the two Protestant denominations, of which the Lutheran was recognized under imperial law since 1555, were legitimized in the imperial constitution. The initially religious and denominational reasons for fighting had been overtaken more and more since 1635 (Peace of Prague) by the immanent powers of the European state system. The contrast between France and the House of Austria made the empire the battlefield of the European powers (Thirty Years War). – With reference to earlier debates (inter alia H. Freyer, 1948) discusses the research of the beginning and end of the early modern period (in part not set until 1789; the sociology of religion [ E. Troeltsch ] also took the view that the modern age should only be set after the great religious wars of the 17th century) in connection with the question of the beginning of modernity.
The more recent modern age, which began around 1650 and began with a predominance of France in Europe, was in any case a time of development of scientific and commercial-mercantile innovations, which were predominantly supported by the bourgeoisie and finally initiated the social and political emancipation of the bourgeoisie. In J. Locke’s theory of the state in particular, these processes have been processed into a doctrine of the constitutionally limited monarchy. Locke’s doctrine of the separation of powers between the primary legislative power, which lies with the people or their representatives, and the executive power of government was proposed by Montesquieu 1748 supplemented by an independent judicial authority. In this form, the doctrine of the political separation of powers has determined the constitutions of almost all parliamentary states of the modern age, first that of the USA of 1787 and the French constitution of 1791.
The abolition of feudal privileges in France in 1789 in favor of civil equality and freedom was prepared by the philosophy of rationalism and the Enlightenment. In the Enlightenment literature popularizing rationalism, the idea of critical reason was also directed towards society and the state, reinforced by the idea of the right of resistance, which came into effect in England in 1688 and in America in 1776. The circle of encyclopedists was representative of this basic thought work. New sciences such as economics, then also sociology and psychology, were received with understanding and interest by ever larger circles. The bourgeois performance and profit making society based on the division of labor promoted a new functionality of the state, which consisted in the fact that the state should not only secure the existence of its members, but also promote happiness and welfare of the individual. The individual’s rights of freedom should be protected as much as possible. This liberalism was not only politically but also socially and economically oriented. Initially, however, it only led to greater power in the leading strata of the bourgeoisie, but not in the rest of bourgeois society and the lower strata of the people.
If the French Revolution of 1789 is described as the beginning of a more recent era within the “younger modern era”, which can be reckoned from around 1650, this new phase was also determined by the industrialization that began almost simultaneously (“double revolution”, E. Hobsbawm), which was initiated by Great Britain went out and ushered in a “British” era, so to speak, after the “French”. The mechanization of production (in 1769 J. Watt was granted the patent for his steam engine) set in motion a process that completely changed commercial production through the transition to industrial economy in the course of the “long 19th century”, as well as its external appearance and internal appearance The structure of the modern age fundamentally changed.