In what specific ways did the ideals of the Enlightenment challenge long-held assumptions about government and social order?
During the Enlightenment, writers and theorists such as Adam Smith, John Locke, Voltaire, and Descartes began to question the idea of leadership, monarchy, democracy, law, and representation in depth, which led to fundamental changes in the social order and government of many nations within Europe and the wider world. Previous to the Enlightenment Era, many monarchs ruled due to their belief in a divine right, which they claim was a gift from God declaring them to be the only individuals fit to rule a nation.
The writings of these thinkers questioned this ideal and the idea of monarchy in and of itself. In places such as France, England, and the United States, people began to question their leadership and demanded changes in the way nations were ruled. The questions led to some of the most important changes in government and social order in modern history, primarily the American War of Independence and the French Revolution.
This showed the people of the Western world that monarchies were not infallible, and that the needs of the many outweighed the desires of the few. From the beginning of the 17th to the mid 18th century, Europe and the United States entirely changed their popular beliefs of what a government should or ought to be, which was largely instigated by the Enlightenment thinkers.