The seventh turn is about where the human ability to create innovations comes from. Humans have been innovating since the Paleolithic. Yet until the High Middle Ages, creativity was considered the exclusive privilege of the deity. That changed with the seventh transformation.

From Isolated Precursors

Isolated precursors, such as the Akkadian priestess Enheduanna or the Greek poet Pindar, have long suspected that humans are also endowed with creativity. But the vast majority believed that the ideas and the real elements of the cosmos existed from the beginning of time as eternal creations. Consequently, innovations were always thought to be divine gifts. Divine gifts were a kind of mailshot from heavenly spheres.

To Richard of St. Victor

Eventually, however, general ideas ceased to be regarded as God’s eternal creations, as in the Platonic and theological traditions, and became human products. The ideas turned into mere names: Nominalism was born. Nominalism made it necessary to explain how humans can form general concepts. Richard of St. Victor (ca. 1110-1173) was the first to present a theory of human creativity.

and the Signature of Modernity

Gradually, his theory became popular. Since the Renaissance, a universal cult of creativity and innovation took hold of all areas of life in Western Europe, from the arts and sciences, to engineering and economics, to politics and fashion. The cult of creativity became the signature of modernity.

With Machiavelli and the contract theorists, it opened political ideas to the wind of change. When the idea of innovation was translated into political practice, two new patterns of action emerged: reform and revolution. That is why modern societies, unlike traditional ones, are constantly in a state of flux.


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