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Forces of Secularity in the Modern World

Volume 1

Series:

Stephen Strehle

Stephen Strehle is a leading scholar of church/state issues. In this volume, he focuses his rigorous historical analysis and philosophical acumen upon a topic of great interest today and source of cultural wars around the globe—the process of secularization. The book starts with a discussion of early capitalism and how it saw the real world functioning well-enough on its own principles of individual struggle and self-interest, without needing religious or moral principles to meddle in its affairs and eventually dispelling the need for any intelligent design or providential orchestration of life through the work of Darwin. The book then discusses the growth of the secular point of view: how historians dismissed the impact of religion in developing modern culture, how scientists conceived of the universe running on self-sufficient or mechanistic principles, and how people no longer looked to the providential hand of God to explain their suffering. The book ends with a discussion of how the Deist concept of human autonomy became a political policy in America through Jefferson’s concept of a wall of separation between church and state and how the US Supreme Court proceeded to dismiss the importance of religion in shaping or justifying the values of the nation and its laws. The book is accessible to most upper-level and graduate students in a wide-variety of disciplines, keeping technical and foreign words to a minimum and leaving scholarly details or debates to its extensive notes.

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Chapter Two: The Development of Acquisitive Capitalism and Social Darwinism in Britain

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CHAPTER TWO

The Development of Acquisitive Capitalism and Social Darwinism in Britain

 

Bernard Mandeville

One of the most pivotal figures in spreading the quintessential teachings of acquisitive capitalism abroad and turning its salient features into a matter of public debate was Bernard Mandeville (1670–1733). His ancestors were probably Huguenots, who emigrated from France to Holland looking for a more tolerant atmosphere to practice their Reformed faith and succeed in their professional life. His father rose to prominence in the culture as a leading physician, and Bernard followed his steps by studying medicine at Leyden, practicing the profession for a short time in the country, and then moving his practice to London during the early 1690s, where he stayed the rest of his life.1 In this new environment, Mandeville began another career as an author and spread his controversial message about the public benefit of self-interest and private vice, restating the Jansenist thesis in a more brazen and caustic manner than its previous proponents. The thesis was first mentioned in a poetic piece entitled “The Grumbling Hive” (1705), then developed a few years later in The Female Tatler (1709–1710) as a response to Richard Steele’s The Tatler, and finally expanded, refined, and broadcasted with uncompromising clarity and candor in his great work The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Public Benefits (1714).2 The Fable gained the succès de scandale a decade later when its...

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