Adam Ferguson (1723-1816) was one of the central figures in the Scottish Enlightenment. His Essay on the History of Civil Society (first published in 1767) is a bold and novel attempt to reclaim the tradition of active citizenship and apply it to the modern state. 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. His fascination with the theory of unintended consequences as a model of historical causality does not deter him from insisting on the irreplaceable value of individual, public-minded members of political society.
Fania Oz-Salzberger is Professor of History at the University of Haifa and director of the Posen Forum for Political Thought at the Faculty of Law. She has authored books and articles on the history of political thought.
1. Of the general characteristics of human nature; 2. Of the history of rude nations; 3. Of the history of policy and arts; 4. Of the consequences that result from advancement of civil and commercial arts; 5. Of the decline of nations; 6. Of corruption and political slavery.