Axial Civilizations And World History (Jerusalem Studies in by Emeritus Professor of Sociology Johann P Arnason, Shmuel N

By Emeritus Professor of Sociology Johann P Arnason, Shmuel N Eisenstadt, Bjorn Wittrock

The overarching subject of the publication is the historic which means of the Axial Age, often outlined as a interval of numerous centuries round the center of the final millennium BCE, and its cultural concepts. The civilizational styles that grew out of this really inventive section are a very worthwhile topic for comparative research. The booklet comprises essays on cultural adjustments in historical Greece, old Israel, Iran, India and China, in addition to history advancements within the center civilizations of the traditional close to East. An introductory part offers with the background of the controversy at the AxialAge, the theoretical questions that experience emerged from it, and the current kingdom of the dialogue. The ebook could be helpful for comparative historians of cultures and religions, in addition to for historic sociologists attracted to the comparative research of civilizations. it may additionally aid linking the fields of classical, biblical and Asian stories to broader interdisciplinary debates in the humanities sciences.

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Visions of order are thus posited as central to the historical expe35 36 37 For the best discussion of this, see Knöbl (2001), pp. 239-55. See Eisenstadt (1963 and 1978). Eisenstadt (1986), 1. the axial age and its interpreters 39 riences in question. This basic assumption will have to be reconsidered, but for the time being, let us concentrate on the distinction between the transcendental and the mundane, which is obviously essential to Eisenstadt’s whole argument. It is not synonymous with the difference between this-worldly and other-worldly: as Eisenstadt insists, conceptions of the basic distinction—and solutions to the problems posed by it—can be more or less this-worldly or otherworldly.

Augustine to Hegel (by implication, this would include the post-Hegelian phase of secular religion), Western visions of universal history have centred on a Christian or postChristian axis of progress. For Jaspers, ”the spiritual process” of the Axial Age is an empirically discovered starting-point for a “common 8 Jaspers (1953), 18. ” The period “when man, as we know him today, came into being”9 is the obvious—indeed the only possible—key to global history. Jaspers presents this relocation of the axis as a definitive correction.

30 johann p. arnason a uniform background. In Jaspers’s case, these assumptions are—as we have seen—extreme and unhistorical; but the later debate suggests that the problem is not easy to deal with. It becomes more acute if we take a fourth point into account: the attempts that have been made to interpret ancient civilizations—or at least the prime cases among them—as based on different images or paradigms of the human condition. This topos has, in more or less explicit terms, figured in interpretations of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

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