This book has attempted to outline some of the major themes and ideas of modern Western social and political thought. The discussion has had to be highly selective and offers no more than a rapid survey of the scope and form of Western ideas. I have argued that modern Western thought is best approached not as the latest emanation from some ancient spirit of Western civilisation, but as a system of ideas which at critical points denies and overturns the ideas and values of the traditional, pre-capitalist culture of the West. Its driving force has been persistent attempts accurately to describe, theoretically to explain, and practically to assist or resist the great transformation that has taken place in world civilisation in the last two hundred years. Western states and Western societies were the first where capitalism became dominant for the first time and the conditions for the rise of modern industry were created; where the processes of industrialisation and modernisation commenced, and where the modern conception of the separation of society and state as two distinct spheres first became developed. This is what makes Western history and Western thought in the modern era of special interest for world history and world thought.
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