Dreaded deadline doom is upon me, which is no less dreaded for being self-imposed. So in haste I'm just going to transcribe a few words from Robert Nisbet tonight, something I'll have recourse to now and again. This is from The Present Age, his last book:
In Western Europe, throughout the Middle Ages, the majority of Europeans lived cradle-to-grave lives in the church. There was no aspect of life that was not either actively or potentially under the ordinances of the church. Birth, marriage, death were all given legitimacy by the church, not the state. Property, inheritance, work conditions, profits, interest, wages, schooling, university admissions, degress, licenses for professional practice, workdays, holidays, feasts, and commeorations, all were subject not to secular but to ecclesiastical governance. The Middle Ages represented the height of ecclesiastical absolutism. That particular absolutism has vanished in the West–though not of course in other parts of the world, beginning with an Iran–but no vacuum has been left. Much of modern European history is the story of the gradual transfer, as it were, of ecclesiastical absolutism to monarchical and then democratic-nationalist absolutism. Medieval man was so accustomed to the multitudinous ordinances of the church governing his life that he didn't even see them. That is more and more true today of modern man, democratic man.