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

The overarching subject of the e-book is the old that means of the Axial Age, usually outlined as a interval of numerous centuries round the heart of the final millennium BCE, and its cultural thoughts. The civilizational styles that grew out of this particularly artistic section are a very profitable subject matter for comparative research. The booklet comprises essays on cultural changes in historical Greece, historic Israel, Iran, India and China, in addition to historical past advancements within the middle civilizations of the traditional close to East. An introductory part bargains with the background of the controversy at the AxialAge, the theoretical questions that experience emerged from it, and the current nation of the dialogue. The e-book can be precious for comparative historians of cultures and religions, in addition to for ancient sociologists attracted to the comparative research of civilizations. it may additionally aid linking the fields of classical, biblical and Asian reports to broader interdisciplinary debates in the humanities sciences.

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Extra resources for Axial Civilizations And World History (Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture)

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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.

And it need not take the direction of reinventing the other world, at a greater distance from but also with more imperative demands on this one: it can, on the contrary, devalue the world of the spirits and the dead by privileging the conduct and relations of human beings as trustees of order. This was clearly the thrust of the Confucian reinterpretation of older Chinese conceptions of order. In this second sense, the transcendental dimension is a matter of the overall worldview; to come back to the example mentioned above, an interpretation of the Greek breakthrough from that angle would stress the emergence of a notion of impersonal world order—beyond the gods—as the most crucial step.

But before discussing Alfred Weber’s contribution (and Jaspers’s rendering of it), we should note 1 See the discussion of this concept in Wittrock 2001. See Jaspers 1953, 8-9. Aleida Assmann (1989) traces the idea of the Axial Age back to the eighteenth century, more precisely to Anquetil-Duperron’s description of the period in question as “une grande révolution du genre humain” (she mentions D. Metzler as a source of information, but there is no reference to a publication). Its history would thus be comparable to the notion of civilizations in the plural: both go back to marginal eighteenth-century intuitions that are later developed into fully-fledged concepts.

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