Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 October 2019
From the premise that humans are social beings, the Scots develop negative and positive arguments. Negatively, they reject all contractarian/rationalistic accounts of social living and downplay any crucial role for ‘Great Men’. Positively, they emphasise the effects of socialisation and underline the factors underpinning social coherence (here called institutional stickiness). Customary ways of behaving, and the institutions thus constituted, not only stabilise but also constrain, and since habits are creatures of time, then it is gradual alterations in the sentiments of people that changes them. In contrast to any glib confidence in ‘progress’, the Scots are more cautious. They do believe in improvement, but it is not guaranteed and is a gradual process.