The Enlightenment followed the Protestant Reformation. It was a period of human self-centeredness and unlimited intellectual creativity. The invention of the printing press a couple of centuries before permitted the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. The mass distribution of Bibles and additional books let intellectuals communicate in other than Latin. Ordinary people bought Bibles. Nationalist kings and churches arose as aristocracies selected either side of the reformation/counter-reformation question.
After a couple of centuries of intellectual increase the dry riverbeds of human intellectual channels rose to a flood level. In 1609 a Frenchman named Louis Papin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Papin) invented the forerunner to the steam engine and by 1709 someone tried to sail a steam powered boat on the Fulton River. It is ironic that Robert Fulton later fielded such a boat in the U.S.A. The enlightenment era occurred even before the democratic revolutions in the U.S.A. or France.
Louis the 14th-the Sun King, had a minister of culture named Colbert who oversaw the development of the bourgeois in the absolute state under the absolute monarch. Karl Barth writes in A History of Protestant Thought that every absolute ruler is his own secret subversive. The French monarchs supported the rise of the bourgeois to increase their own revenues.
Capitalism though is simply a form of finance rather than the spirit of invention or enterprise. The Chinese communist Party’s adaptation to elements of capitalism is helping Chinese people prosper while the failure of the American political leadership to adapt to the faults with the concentration of wealth in a vanishingly small number of ultra rich is causing the rise of national debt, decay of infrastructural renewal and maladroit responses to ecospheric challenges. Invention is a consequence of the stimulation of intellectual freedom and individual enterprise rather than the product of corporate shareholders to whom capital flows from corporately exploited and enslaved intellectuals yearning to emigrate to other worlds without snaring networks of concentrated wealth and power.
It is a paradox that the reverse sign of the coin of autocratic absolute states ruled by a king or plutocracy is the democratic, communist or socialist absolute state with absolute man whom is the center of all things at it’s core. Karl Barth pointed that and other facts out in the text mentioned above that illuminate the state of man from the 18th century and to the mid-20th. I have added a few contemporary points to some of his ideas in this article.
Barth noted the changes in architecture as man tamed nature -making it seem to become a complement to himself as a variety of garden. Architecture evolved as a complement to mankind’s self image. Today with Americans moving toward interiors and mirrors nature is itself a kind of exteriority of no consequence. Building become big boxes in which lives mankind and woman at the centre of all things, cameras and so forth. Mankind made himself a little God during the enlightenment through the power of science, yet of course the control of nature is a dangerous illusion when the best mankind can do is to use it symbiotically and carefully if he and she are wise. Capitalism didn’t invent nature, the Earth or the steady state field of the Universe yet at the center of all things important in business might like to believe he did and can buy and sell it at Wall Street.
Public education supported by public tax dollars has been applied to the oppression of religious education and additional private schools through the saturation spending advantages that everyone is required to support. Public schools present a secular, non-spiritual curriculum that drives the nation’s youth like cattle before the atheistic trailmasters on the road to the market of non-creative, godless doom. Such was the way in the days of Rowdy Yates and so it was in the Bill Clinton era. One hopes that the separation of church and state might be restored with equal amounts of public tax dollars funding private school vouchers as well as public schools where political correctness of godless elites is the unmentioned transcending course. Economic methods need to be realistically reformed now and then to keep the system on a balanced and functional keel. It should just be allowed to go on a self-driving, non-corrected tangent as under some bizarre idealistic theory about utopianism.