I have been reading the book, "How the Scots Invented the Modern World and Everything In It" for a report to the Junto meeting this week. I volunteered for this based on a talk by David Kelly last month on the "Prospects for Modernity in the Moslem World".
While I'm certainly not an expert on either field I suggested that this book, which was in the large" To Read" stack at home might offer some clues regarding requirements for vaulting from a semi barbaric state to the modern world in a short period.
As late as the eighteenth century Scotland, especially in the highlands was in a semi-barbaric state. Much of the country was still hunter-gatherers or at the feudal agricultural state. People were bound to the land and to their lairds by a complex legal system and centuries of tradition. The much romanticized clan system was based not so much on kinship but rather on property and resembled a contemporary mafia family more than anything else. There was no middle class and the more modern commercial society had not yet penetrated very far.
Their religion was harsh-a very pure version of Calvinist doctrine as filtered through John Knox (a remarkable figure). Witches were still executed as late as the cusp of the eighteenth century and a university student was hanged for blasphemy in the same period in Edinburgh itself.
Despite these deficiencies Scotland became a spotlight if not the outright jewel of the enlightenment, in many cases outshining France itself. In fact the more nuanced and balanced Scottish outlook anticipated the French revolution and at least intellectually dealt with the issues of checks and balances and the tradeoff between liberty and security.
From the following link
The "Scottish Enlightenment" stretched roughly from 1740 to 1790. Unlike in France, many of its protagonists were academics. Francis Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid and John Millar were professors at the University of Glasgow. Adam Ferguson, Dugald Stewart and William Robertson were at the University of Edinburgh. The universities of Aberdeen and St. Andrews were dominated by their students. But there were also some important figures outside the academy who influenced the course of the dialogue, including Lord Kames, Sir James Steuart, Dr. James Anderson and, above everybody else, the towering figure of David Hume.
The three major areas of concern for Scottish philosophers were moral philosophy, history and economics. In all three, David Hume blazed the way, with the other Scottish philosophers following him in support or in criticism.
In moral philosophy, the main question was whether the acquisitive ethics of capitalism could be made compatible with traditional virtues of sociability, sympathy and justice. The issue had been provoked by Bernard de Mandeville in his famous thesis that "private vices" lead to substantial "public benefits", whereas virtuous behavior does very little good at all. The Scottish philosophers wanted to show that the choice between private virtue and public good was a false one. The scandalous resolution forwarded by David Hume (1739-40) was that moral values and judgments were social constructions anyway. Anything that is pleasurable, Hume argued, people will judge "virtuous" and anything that is painful, they will call "vice". Consequently, we need not worry about the corruption of morals by capitalism. Private moral judgments will evolve with it. End of Quote
What were the preconditions for this explosion? Which were necessary and which sufficient? Are there any countries or regions poised for this type of transformation? In my own opinion the following were the key preconditions for the Scottish Enlightenment
1) A religion that though harsh emphasized the primacy of mans' individual relationship with God
2) An obsession with literacy
3) The tradition of militarism and independence
4) The utter and complete economic devastation brought on by famine, rebellion and inability to compete in the English markets
5) Fortunate absorption by England (Catholic fears)
6) Lack of resentment of English (attempt to beat the English at their own game-Boswell)
7) Small population magnifies the influence of a few great men (Knox, Robertson, Hutchinson, Kames, Smith, and Hume)-property as basis of civilization.
8)Outward looking-trade with America and Europe
9) Belief in progress-both in scientific and commercial senses but also in moral sphere as well
Are these conditions being met in the Moslem world? I don't see them. Which countries are most likely to meet these conditions in the near future?
My best bet Cuba-
I wish this heritage was taught more in the schools and was more generally known. The unmistakable Judeo Christian heritage coupled with the Greco-Roman strand are the undeniable backbone of our civilization-to deny it in the service of the idea of diversity is an abomination.