Universities and the emergence of scientific inquiry has been reinforced by the sanctioning by capital of those who do not play according to its rules in bringing about changes in all aspects of European societies.
The integration of the principle of stationary perspective, along the 14th century, will command the visual arts as far as the end of the 19th century. Gradually, scientific studies will displace the traditional power of the church and opportunistic capital investors, confronted with mercantilist necessities, will integrate new technical ways of production helping them to displace imports and more traditional production methods.
Change will be gradual with periods of acceleration corresponding to the "great discoveries" and later the "industrial revolution" that brings about the greatest discovery of all, mass production of socks, yes it starts there.
Mass production unleashes the speeding of change: population increases, urbanization empties the countryside, salarization forces the acceptance of merchandization and the speed of changes accelerates.
One of the determinant factors of accelerating change is without any doubt the unprecedented expansion of demand that follows the reduction of prices following mass production. This movement will further accelerate by induction of new demands and the introduction of always newer products.
But this has only been made possible for the adoption of new techniques and technologies derived from the works of scientists. To impose its imperatives, along the 18th and 19th centuries, the logic of capital was pulling the logic coming out of the universities. Thereafter the child that was science would mature and as an adult, mostly unconscient for sure, he would be gained totally to the logic of capital. Indeed, where did the financing come from and what were the necessities or the urgencies that science had to find an answer to?
Gradually but with certainty, the rationality of the logic of capital was transferring itself into scientific and philosophic rationalism, a new worldview, modernism, was forming that would engulf the 20th century.
The men of power only imposed the worldview of the church as long as the church had the financial cloud over societies. The French revolution was the first clash, in Europe, between men of power and men of knowledge that put an end to the power of the church and that initiated the “enlightenment”. Other countries, as Britain, brought the church under the control of the State so that the worldview of that church could eventually be adapted to the need of the times. The enlightenment saw the men of power reject the clutches of the church's men of knowledge and go their own way as managers of the institutions of State.
For the first time the men of power did not make theirs a worldview to impose on all members of society, they were only preoccupied with the mechanics of their institutions.
In national societies whose economies were massifying, the functioning of state institutions was under constant pressure to adapt, to canalize its social realities to economic changes and to help their economies develop so as to resist and possibly beat their national competitors. Without any legislation to harmonize the social relations between the entrepreneurs and their workers, by the end of the 19th century, Europe was mired into social conflict. Debates raged for some 50 years on how to handle the volatile social situation. Basically, the problem was twofold:
- How to bring the blue collar working class into accepting to eke out a living without endangering the competitiveness of their employers while assuring the survival of the institutions of State? After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 the central political problem was perceived as the saving of state institutions from a social revolution.
- How to bring the working class into the ranks of mass consumers so as to grow the volume of exchanges? Economic competition between nations States was so intense that it landed Europe and its colonial possessions in a world conflict. Economic competition was harsh and merchandization appeared as one of the best solutions for expanding the internal exchanges so helping grow the demand for mass produced goods became one of the central preoccupations of the State.
The new men of knowledge educated in universities were generally liberal progressives and in their eyes, the solution to both problems was to be found into freedom. Freedom to buy the goods of one's choice which led them to ask for decent wages for the working class and freedom to chose the politics and the politicians of one's choice. Reaction to such policies came from the conservative hardcore church believers and the entrepreneurial class, so decisions were taken one incremental step after another.
Following some 50 years of ensuing reforms, by the end of the 2nd world war, all European nations had finally established some kind of democratic system of representation, recognizing each individual over a certain age one vote, for designating the men of power. This was paralleled by social policies giving some basic rights to the members of the working class: minimum wages, unemployment benefits, pensions and medical care.