By the 19th century the outlines of the modern world were visible. Technological change increased as science extended its power over nature. Old concepts of morality and society gave way to values and customs that differed radically from the medieval, feudal, Christian past that had provided the basis for a thousand years of European history. The means of industrial production became concentrated in the hands of a new class of entrepreneurs. Rural agricultural workers and the artisans of the towns and cities gave way to masses of undifferentiated laborers feeding industrial machines. Raw capitalism became the order of the day, and unceremoniously threw out traditional
relationships of employer to worker, and man to man.
All this bewildering change came upon the West suddenly, with the pace of change and its attendant social and economic conflicts accelerating rapidly. Perhaps most critical of all, modern man suffered a crisis of meaning. In the midst of all this frenetic activity and destruction of traditional ways, what was the significance of life? In the poisonous fumes and unhealthy repetitive labor of the mines and factories, what was left to make life worth living, when the hope of rising from the
misery of the urban proletariat seemed increasingly unattainable?
With the displacement of the royal houses of Europe and the landed aristocracy by an upstart entrepreneurial class, came new social tensions. In the past, revolts and reform movements were directed against the clearly defined authority of despotic kings, nobles, or the church. But now some men held economic power far in excess of most of the potentates of former eras, hiring masses of men desperate for work as virtual wage slaves in their vast industrial enterprises, and yet remained strangely invisible. For all the social, economic, technological, demographic, and personal upheavals, no one seemed to understand clearly what was going on.
To analyze so...