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May 22 , 2009

Ferguson: An Essay on the History of Civil Society


Adam Ferguson's Essay on the History of Civil Society (first published in 1767) is a classic of the Scottish - and European - Enlightenment. Drawing on such diverse sources as classical authors and contemporary travel literature, Ferguson offers a complex model of historical advance which challenges both Hume's and Smith's embrace of modernity and the primitivism of Rousseau. Ferguson combines a subtle analysis of the emergence of modern commercial society with a critique of its abandonment of civic and communal virtues. Central to Ferguson's theory of citizenship are the themes of conflict, play, political participation and military valour. The Essay is a bold and novel attempt to reclaim the tradition of active, virtuous citizenship and apply it to the modern state.

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