Capitalism or enlightenment?

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Western conceptions of modernity — and, by extension, ‘postmodernity’ — typically conflate various historical processes, such as the development of capitalism and the rise of Enlightenment rationalism. Those conflations are also reflected in the identification of ‘bourgeois’ and ‘capitalist’. However, the cultural and intellectual forms of the French Enlightenment are distinct from the ideologies of capitalism. The Enlightenment belongs to a social, political and economic formation quite different from capitalist society. These differences affected conceptions of progress, science and the role of intellectuals.

Keywords: bourgeois; capitalism; enlightenment; intellectuals; modernity; progress; science

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Political Science, York University, Toronto, Canada.

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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