You are here

The rise of the state and tolerance

Here's a review by Joseph Stromberg of A. J. Conyers' The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit. The book's been out for a while now, and I haven't read it yet but should. It seems to feed into the developing critique of the standard liberal view that the secular and supposedly neutral modern state developed out of the "wars of religion," which are said to have demonstrated that subordinating political power to something transcending it means endless instability and violence. The counter-analysis, of course, is that the instability and violence were due to the claims of the rising modern state, and therefore of centralized political power as such, to recognition as an ultimate principle. On that view disputes over the nature of the Church turned as bloody as they did because secular princes used them to make their own authority absolute. Those who could do a deal with Rome that gave them effective control of the Church in their own territories stayed Catholic, those who could not turned Protestant, and they fought over who had the right to run what.