I suggest that our thinking, our actions, our social attitudes, and our politics today are a legacy of the Romantic Era. I further suggest that the social revolt of that era, that is to say the revolt piloted by the philosophers, the poets, the playwrights, the painters, the sculptors, the composers of music, and the architects of the Romantic Era has changed the social direction and social fabric of the Western world.
Foremost among the attitudes that propelled the changes in the Romantic Era was the idea that no person ought to be compelled to succumb to desires of the more fortunate when that work goes against the conscience of the individual. Artists broke away from the overlords who demanded they either produce work that was preferred by that strata of society who held economic power, or not obtain any other work for pay if they did not do as required. The second principle was one of compassion by the more affluent among the artists by providing financial assistance to those who could ill afford making the step away from tradition so those less fortunate ones could join the movement. This ensured a unified cohort and and secured a complete break from those in power. This influenced the propulsion of democracy in the minds and actions of people in a most profound fashion and consequently, influenced the social order and political landscape that followed in countries of the Western world.
Henry Hardy, editor of “Roots of Romanticism” transcribing from Isaiah Berlin’s 1965 Mellon lectures at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, stated in his editorial that “the interest of romanticism is not simply historical. A great many phenomena of the present day – nationalism, existentialism, admiration for great men, admiration for impersonal institutions, democracy, totalitarianism – are profoundly affected by the rise of romanticism, which enters them all. For this reason it is a subject not altogether irrelevant even to our own day”.