The transition from a condition of little autonomy to one that recognizes the individual is often gradual. This is evident in our own personal lives. When we were very young, our parents, in trying to guide us down the right path, pretty much dictated what we could and could not do and laid out all of our beliefs for us. As time passed and we worked our way from kindergarten to college, we were exposed to new ideas, providing us the motivation to seek more rights and allowing us to define and redefine ourselves as individuals.
This same ideology is true of societal transitions. By substituting Old Regime ideals for kindergarten and various revolutions for grades in school, this can be seen. In the early 1700s, the practices and ideals
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With these practices, it was difficult to see the world as anything but an arena of limited good. Life seemed to have gone on much the same forever, and people did not think of themselves as individual Frenchmen or Austrians, but rather as citizens of small, centralized communities. People had few individual rights because rights were subordinate to survival. The grimness of life was visible in the acceptance of absolutism and social orders, or estates. Kings made the argument that God picked their bloodlines and placed them on the throne. More importance was therefore placed on heredity rather than merit in determining one's social standing. Citizens were categorized into one of three estates: clergy, nobility, or Third Estate. Economic reality, Christian thinking, and the biological theory of royal blood justified these social orders. Individual liberty, although there was not much for anyone, depended on estate status. Money gave the clergy and especially the nobility, power and privileges. Nobles had the privilege to judgment by peers, immunity from the majority of taxes, near-exclusive control of their properties, and first stake in royal appointments. Because of the practice of primogeniture, firstborn sons received the inheritance, and later sons were often sent off to school to get jobs in the church. Thus, the clergy, because it was often comprised of the descendants of noble