The first classics in human history—the early works of literature, philosophy, and theology to which we have returned throughout the ages—appeared in the middle centuries of the first millennium bce. The canonical texts of the Hebrew scriptures, the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle, the Analects of Confucius and the Daodejing, the Bhagavad Gita and the teachings of the Buddha—all of these works came down to us from the compressed period of history that Karl Jaspers memorably named the Axial Age.
In The Axial Age and Its Consequences, Robert Bellah and Hans Joas make the bold claim that intellectual sophistication itself was born worldwide during this critical time. Across Eurasia, a new self-reflective attitude toward human existence emerged, and with it an awakening to the concept of transcendence. From Axial Age thinkers we inherited a sense of the world as a place not just to experience but to investigate, envision, and alter through human thought and action.
Bellah and Joas have assembled diverse scholars to guide us through this astonishing efflorescence of religious and philosophical creativity. As they explore the varieties of theorizing that arose during the period, they consider how these in turn led to utopian visions that brought with them the possibility of both societal reform and repression. The roots of our continuing discourse on religion, secularization, inequality, education, and the environment all lie in Axial Age developments. Understanding this transitional era, the authors contend, is not just an academic project but a humanistic endeavor.
In a volume that represents the culmination of his life's work in considering the relationship between culture and landscape, eminent scholar Yi-Fu Tuan argues that "cosmos" and "hearth" are two scales that anchor what it means to be fully and happily human. Illustrating this contention with examples from both his native China and his home of the past forty years, the United States, Tuan proposes a revised conception of culture, one thoroughly grounded in one's own society but also embracing curiosity about the world. Optimistic and deeply human, this important volume lays out a path to being "at home in the cosmos."
"Tuan's brief book is remarkably sweeping in its conception, and eschews easy answers in favor of a more sensitive probing of human culture. In the end he neatly comes down just to one side of the middle (hence the book's subtitle) in his brief that Americans need to reestablish ties to the hearth, but only as a viable means of affirming diversity. Otherwise, we must also realize the 'impermanence of our state wherever we are'-that we are never truly bound by a locale, other than our common membership in the cosmos. We are forever bound to look outward." City Pages
"Full of stimulating ideas about our global future." The Reader's Review
"A wise and poetic discussion of the human condition within the geography of the modern world." Religious Studies Review
"Tuan's book is cogent and thoughtful, and worthy of lively discussion." Pacific Reader
"An erudite, provocative inquiry. Championing both the hearth and cities as necessary crucibles of human development, Tuan suggests that we strive for a 'cosmopolitan hearth' by recognizing the importance of family and local ties while open-mindedly appreciating one's culture without chauvinism or xenophobia." Publishers Weekly
"Tuan's credos are laudable and engagingly presented." Kirkus Reviews
Yi-Fu Tuan is professor emeritus of geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of Space and Place, Dear Colleague, and Escapism
In this bold, provocative collection, Wang Hui confronts some of the major issues concerning modern China and the status quo of contemporary Chinese thought.
The book’s overarching theme is the possibility of an alternative modernity that does not rely on imported conceptions of Chinese history and its legacy. Wang Hui argues that current models, based largely on Western notions of empire and the nation-state, fail to account for the richness and diversity of pre-modern Chinese historical practice. At the same time, he refrains from offering an exclusively Chinese perspective and placing China in an intellectual ghetto. Navigating terrain on regional language and politics, he draws on China’s unique past to expose the inadequacies of European-born standards for assessing modern China’s evolution. He takes issue particularly with the way in which nation-state logic has dominated politically charged concerns like Chinese language standardization and “The Tibetan Question.” His stance is critical—and often controversial—but he locates hope in the kinds of complex, multifaceted arrangements that defined China and much of Asia for centuries.
The Politics of Imagining Asia challenges us not only to re-examine our theories of “Asia” but to reconsider what “Europe” means as well. As Theodore Huters writes in his introduction, “Wang Hui’s concerns extend beyond China and Asia to an ambition to rethink world history as a whole.”
Randall Collins traces the movement of philosophical thought in ancient Greece, China, Japan, India, the medieval Islamic and Jewish world, medieval Christendom, and modern Europe. What emerges from this history is a social theory of intellectual change, one that avoids both the reduction of ideas to the influences of society at large and the purely contingent local construction of meanings. Instead, Collins focuses on the social locations where sophisticated ideas are formed: the patterns of intellectual networks and their inner divisions and conflicts.
How should we think about the “shape” of human history since the birth of cities, and where are we headed? Sociologist and historian John Torpey proposes that the “Axial Age” of the first millennium BCE, when some of the world’s major religious and intellectual developments first emerged, was only one of three such decisive periods that can be used to directly affect present social problems, from economic inequality to ecological destruction.
Torpey’s argument advances the idea that there are in fact three “Axial Ages,” instead of one original Axial Age and several subsequent, smaller developments. Each of the three ages contributed decisively to how humanity lives, and the difficulties it faces. The earliest, or original, Axial Age was a moral one; the second was material, and revolved around the creation and use of physical objects; and the third is chiefly mental, and focused on the technological. While there are profound risks and challenges, Torpey shows how a worldview that combines the strengths of all three ages has the potential to usher in a period of exceptional human freedom and possibility.
The Touch of Civilization is a comparative history of the United States and Russia during their efforts to colonize and assimilate two indigenous groups of people within their national borders: the Sioux of the Great Plains and the Kazakhs of the Eurasian Steppe. In the revealing juxtaposition of these two cases author Steven Sabol elucidates previously unexplored connections between the state building and colonizing projects these powers pursued in the nineteenth century.
This critical examination of internal colonization—a form of contiguous continental expansion, imperialism, and colonialism that incorporated indigenous lands and peoples—draws a corollary between the westward-moving American pioneer and the eastward-moving Russian peasant. Sabol examines how and why perceptions of the Sioux and Kazakhs as ostensibly uncivilized peoples and the Northern Plains and the Kazakh Steppe as “uninhabited” regions that ought to be settled reinforced American and Russian government sedentarization policies and land allotment programs. In addition, he illustrates how both countries encountered problems and conflicts with local populations while pursuing their national missions of colonization, comparing the various forms of Sioux and Kazakh martial, political, social, and cultural resistance evident throughout the nineteenth century.
Presenting a nuanced, in-depth history and contextualizing US and Russian colonialism in a global framework, The Touch of Civilization will be of significant value to students and scholars of Russian history, American and Native American history, and the history of colonization.
Trespasses presents key writings of the Tokyo-born literary scholar Masao Miyoshi, one of the most important postwar intellectuals to link culture with politics and a remarkable critical voice within the academy. For more than four decades, Miyoshi worked outside the mainstream, trespassing into new fields, making previously unseen connections, and upending naive assumptions. With an impeccable sense of when a topic or discussion had lost its critical momentum, he moved on to the next question, and then the next after that, taking on matters of literary form, cross-cultural relations, globalization, art and architecture, the corporatization of the university, and the threat of ecological disaster. Trespasses reveals the tremendous range of Miyoshi’s thought and interests, shows how his thinking transformed over time, and highlights his recurring concerns.
This volume brings together eleven selections of Miyoshi’s previously published writing, a major new essay, a critical introduction to his life and work, and an interview in which Miyoshi reflects on the trajectory of his thought and the institutional history of modern Japan studies. In the new essay, “Literary Elaborations,” he provides a masterful overview of the nature of the contemporary university, closing with a call for a global environmental protection studies that would radically reconfigure academic disciplines and merge the hard sciences with the humanities and the social sciences. In the other, chronologically arranged selections, Miyoshi addresses cross-culture relations between Japan and the United States, English literary studies in Japan, and Japan studies in the U.S., as well as the organization of urban space and the integrity of art and architecture in aggressively marketed-oriented environments. Trespasses is an invaluable introduction to the work of a fearless cultural critic.