Axial Civilizations and World History


The overarching theme of the book is the historical meaning of the Axial Age, commonly defined as a period of several centuries around the middle of the last millennium BCE, and its cultural innovations. The civilizational patterns that grew out of this exceptionally creative phase are a particularly rewarding theme for comparative analysis.
The book contains essays on cultural transformations in Ancient Greece, Ancient Israel, Iran, India and China, as well as background developments in the core civilizations of the Ancient Near East. An introductory section deals with the history of the debate on the AxialAge, the theoretical questions that have emerged from it, and the present state of the discussion.
The book will be useful for comparative historians of cultures and religions, as well as for historical sociologists interested in the comparative analysis of civilizations. It should also help linking the fields of classical, biblical and Asian studies to broader interdisciplinary debates within the humanities sciences.

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Biographical Note

Johann P. Arnason, dr.habil. in Sociology, University of Bielefeld 1975 is now Emeritus Professor in Sociology at La Trobe University, Melbourne. His major publications include Social Theory and Japanese Experience (London, 1997) and Civilizations in Dispute (Leiden-Boston, 2003). S.N. Eisenstadt, Ph.D. (1947), Jerusalem, is Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is member of many academies, recipient of honorary doctoral degrees of the Universities of Tel Aviv, Helsinki, Harvard, Duke, Budapest and Hebrew Union College. Recipient of many prizes and awards, he is author of more than 50 books. Björn Wittrock, Ph.D. (1974), formerly Lars Hierta Professor of Government at Stockholm University, is now University Professor at Uppsala University and Principal of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Uppsala. He has published extensively in the fields of intellectual history, historical social science and social theory. His publications include fourteen books, among them: Public Spheres and Collective Identities (New Brunswick, N.J., 2001).

Table of contents

General Introduction Part I. Theoretical Approaches Part II. The Ancient Near East and its Axial Peripheries Part III. Late Antiquity and Beyond Part IV. Indian and Chinese Perspectives Part V. Concluding Reflections Bibliography Index


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