Australians are currently being subjected to hitherto unprecedented control over, and incursions into, our lives by the state.
We have been subjected to a seemingly inexhaustible and constantly changing supply of confusing, dehumanising and arbitrary edicts which are daily issued by a cabal of unelected health bureaucrats and their politician handlers.
Our police forces have successfully cowed the citizenry into unquestioning obedience. Even more remarkable has been the willingness of many to become accessories to this political overreach by ‘ratting out’ our friends, families and neighbours.
By Dr Bella d’Abrera – Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs.
The speed at which the state has assumed this power has been astonishing, and many Australians are naturally asking how we got here. In his book Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe, American sociologist, Philip S. Gorski, proposes a fascinating historical explanation. The seeds for what is unfolding, he posits, were planted 500 years ago during the Reformation.
Gorski’s thesis is that the Reformation ‘unleashed a profound and far-reaching process of disciplining that greatly enhanced the power of early modern states’. This disciplining revolution, created an ‘infrastructure of religious governance and social control that served as a model for the rest of Europe—and the world’.
To illustrate his point, Gorski focuses on Geneva in the sixteenth century. During the 1540s and 1550s, the city’s residents found themselves living under the puritanical rule of reformer John Calvin and his loyal acolytes, who, through a quasi-tribunal known as the Consistory, sought to implement a utopian Protestant society. Calvin’s radical re-engineering of society was made possible through discipline; a series of rules and regulations bolstered by the death penalty, exile, community surveillance and a system of ruinous fines.
Every aspect of life, down to the amount of food to be consumed, was policed by the ascendent puritanical class. The smallest of indiscretions, such as arriving late to sermon, held a fine of three sous, roughly a day’s wages. Genevans were monitored in their own homes and were visited by Calvin’s henchmen on a mission to ascertain the state of the family’s morals.