Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Development, Voltaire, History, Politics, Enlightenment, Progress, Sociology, Human

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/02/23

According to the most popular philosophers and thinkers of the day, the Enlightenment was the main engine of a social progress. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the themes of social development and social progress were the central ideas, because of natural interest to them. During the period of Enlightenment crucial changes in the economic, political, social and spiritual spheres occurred. According to the philosophers, progress was closely related to the development of scientific knowledge and civil society, appearance of spiritual and moral values, principles of justice, humanity, moderation and diligence, progress of morality and law, and the rise of education. The paper considers historical, political and economic basis for socialization and progress in the period of Enlightenment. It determines the main features of each category and its influence.

History was a weapon against the feudal worldview. In the philosophy of Enlightenment, the concept of the historical development of mankind played a special role. In accordance with the rationalistic settings of classical philosophy, the mind was able to build a system of objective knowledge about nature, society and human being. It was the basis of spiritual freedom, which revealed the underlying laws of public life. History was regarded as the rise, growth and prosperity in the genesis of organic and spiritual forces. Moreover, natural and social-historical disasters were interpreted as regrettable, but necessary episodes of historical development. Achievement of humanity and happiness were accepted as the ultimate goal of human history.
At the age of Enlightenment, socio-historical concept focused on rationalism of the naturalistic idea, according to which the laws of thought were based on knowledge of the laws of nature. According to Voltaire, the philosophical and historical concepts of French Enlightenment lay in the idea of “natural order”, which played the main role in the development of human beings, their consciousness, and historical experience (Brunstetter, 62). The history was designed to install a variety of historical, fundamental and ethnographical facts that were considered as a basis of the sequence of historical events and foreseeing the consequences. French thinkers sought to determine the motives of history, revealed the hidden elements and modified the form of the state structure. According to the ideas of Voltaire, expressed in his work “In Defense of Modernity”, a radical change in the forms of public life had place due to the revolution (Brunstetter, 171). It allowed to eliminate class privileges and restored the “natural rights” based on freedom and equality. However, the main driving force of the French Enlighteners were the idea that formed in the process of synthesizing of historical and spiritual experience of mankind, which forced them to make radical social shifts. The specification of such views was the task of the representatives of the French Enlightenment, like Rousseau, Turgot, and Condorcet. Looking at history as the progress of the human mind and trying to identify the internal logic, these philosophers created the doctrine of “the scale of progress”. According to Voltaire, its stages were made by the historical eras that marked the milestones of the mind in the process of education (Brunstetter, 130). The logic of history associated with a specific disclosure, consistent fundamental ideas for humanity. The supporters of the new progressive ideas of Enlightenment associated history with the characters, desires, passions, and prejudices. It generated the theory of progress, which had a global significance.


Enlightenment characterized the period in the development of France, which took place in the 19th century. It was a time of numerous bourgeois-democratic revolutions, serious economic, political and social modernization. The tumultuous political upheavals in France in the 19th century allowed highlight the contradictions and weaknesses of political theory. It led to the formation of the new ideological formations that, being rooted in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, however, significantly modified it. Internal contradictions in the period were the driving force that contributed to the development of political thought in France.
The age of Enlightenment gave to the world the theory of separation of powers, the social contract theory of natural rights, adopted the ideology of liberalism. These ideas were born in England, France and Holland, where new stock market reached high development and demanded the dismantling of the old feudal relations, creating new adequate political structures. Among English thinkers, first innovator was John Locke. His political views were fully described in the work “The Second Treatise of Civil Government”. The essence of the political concept of Locke was in support of the unity and interdependence of human rights (Locke, 87). Locke believed that the state was a result of a social contract. However, by concluding it, people had not lost natural rights. They retained inalienable rights, including the main ones: the right to life, liberty, the property right. Locke was deeply convinced that the property of every person is the product of his labor. According to him, to ensure political freedom and prevent attacks on it by the public authorities, power should be shared between different structures (Locke, 75). The legislative power of the state should be separated from the executive and federal, responsible for foreign affairs. The legislature should belong to the representative Assembly, the executive to the monarch and the cabinet of ministers. According to Locke, a division of power between different structures would guarantee balance in the state.


Economic relations, depending on the specific conditions of development of a society affected the development of their political relations. Feudal system gave way to a new kind of bourgeois economic relations. Smith's work proved to be the beginning of a new era in the development of economic thought. By creating a single set of interrelated theories, Smith created the line, which represented a basis for the next generations. The age of Enlightenment reflected in Smith’s works with all the features, its great achievements and limitations. A scholar considered the division of labor essential for the economic progress. On the example of a workshop he showed a manufactory and enormous growth in productivity. He explained it by the specialization of individual workers to perform the same operation (Smith, 2003, n.d). The workshop is an illustration. According to Smith, from the division of labor would benefit not only the owners of the product, but also workers (Smith, 2003, n.d.). One of the main ideas of Smith laid in the conclusion that the wealth of society was created in the production process and depended on the level of labor productivity. Scientist formulated the theory of productive and unproductive labor.


The age of Enlightenment was the political ideology, direction in philosophy and culture, which occurred after the collapse of feudalism and the approval of capitalist society. Three the most important components generated the main changes in the social life and progress of the era of Enlightenment. There are many famous names that developed new concepts and humanistic ideas. Smith introduced innovative ideas in Economy, which influenced on the political sphere. Voltaire studied the place of the historical component in the development of the ideas of Enlightenment. Locke introduced new concepts into the development of a political thought. All three parts made a significant contribution into the development of processes of socialization and progress.

Works Cited

Brunstetter, Daniel R. Tensions of Modernity: Las Casas and His Legacy in the French Enlightenment. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Locke, John. Of Civil Government: Second Treatise. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1955. Print.
Smith, Adam, and Andrew S. Skinner. The Wealth of Nations. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

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WePapers. (2021, February, 23) Good Essay About History for You. Retrieved August 09, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-essay-about-history-2/
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Good Essay About History for You. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-essay-about-history-2/. Published Feb 23, 2021. Accessed August 09, 2022.

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