Halévy thesis

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The argument advanced by the historian Élie Halévy (see A History of the English People in the 19th Century, 1962), that the stability of English society during the late 18th and 19th centuries (when the rest of Europe experienced revolutionary upheaval) was in significant part due to the influence of Methodism, which taught the working classes the bourgeois virtues of thrift, sobriety, and individual achievement. By preaching individual rather than collective salvation, and personal rather than political change, Methodism also defused incipient tendencies to popular revolt. According to Halévy, it offered a ladder of opportunity to respectable members of the lower orders, and helped prevent the social and ideological polarization of English society in the wake of the process of industrialization. In short, this is a variation on the theme of embourgeoisement, and one which has proved no less controversial among historians than has its later and more familiar sociological counterparts.

Subjects: Sociology.

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