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The first classics in human historyâthe early works of literature, philosophy, and theology to which we have returned throughout the agesâappeared 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 Buddhaâall 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.
Beyond Belief collects fifteen celebrated, broadly ranging essays in which Robert Bellah interprets the interplay of religion and society in concrete contexts from Japan to the Middle East to the United States. First published in 1970, Beyond Belief is a classic in the field of sociology of religion.
A collection of scholarly essays on Japanese attitudes towards modernization from Tokugawa to the present, with an emphasis on intellectuals, philosophers, and writers.
Emile Durkheim is best known in this country as a great sociologist and methodologist. Yet it was Durkheim's reflections on morality and society that spoke most deeply of his vital concerns. In his informative introduction to this work, Robert N. Bellah describes Durkheim as moralist, philosopher, theologian, and prophet, as well as sociologist, and the selections in this volume are representative of these aspects of Durkheim's many-faceted scholarship. The first two selections of the volume set the context for the development of Durkheim's sociology of morality. Section I, "The French Tradition of Social Thought," gives Durkheim's picture of how his sociology is to be situated relative to the general French tradition. Section II, "Sociology and Social Action," shows Durkheim grappling with moral and political issues in his society and indicates the immediate social context of his thinking. The remaining selections indicate some of the major substantive areas of Durkheim's sociology of morality. Section III, taken from The Division of Labor in Society, demonstrates his basically evolutionary approach to the development of moral norms in society. Section IV, "The Learning of Morality," gives examples of Durkheim's work on socialization. Section V, "Social Creativity," deals with the important question of how new moral norms arise in society.
Perhaps best known for his coauthored bestselling books Habits of the Heart and The Good Society, Robert N. Bellah is a truly visionary leader in the social study of religion. For more than four decades, he has examined the role of religion in modern and premodern societies, attempting to discern how religious meaning is formed and how it shapes ethical and political practices. The Robert Bellah Reader brings together twenty-eight of Bellah's seminal essays. While the essays span a period of more than forty years, nearly half of them were written in the past decade, many in the past few years. The Reader is organized around four central concerns. It seeks to place modernity in theoretical and historical perspective, drawing from major figures in social science, historical and contemporary, from Aristotle and Rousseau through Durkheim and Weber to Habermas and Mary Douglas. It takes the United States to be in some respects the type-case of modernity and in others the most atypical of modern societies, analyzing its common faith in individual freedom and democratic self-government, and its persistent paradoxes of inequality, exclusion, and empire. The Reader is also concerned to test the axiomatic modern assumption that rational cognition and moral evaluation, fact and value, are absolutely divided, arguing instead that they overlap and interact much more than conventional wisdom in the university today usually admits. Finally, it criticizes modernity's affirmation that faith and knowledge stand even more utterly at odds, arguing instead that their overlap and interaction, obvious in every premodern society, animate the modern world as well. Through such critical and constructive inquiry this Reader probes many of our deepest social and cultural quandaries, quandaries that put modernity itself, with all its immense achievements, at mortal risk. Through the practical self-understanding such inquiry spurs, Bellah shows how we may share responsibility for the world we have made and seek to heal it.
Robert N. Bellah's classic study, Tokugawa Religion does for Japan what Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism did for the West. One of the foremost authorities on Japanese history and culture, Bellah explains how religion in the Tokugawa period (160-1868) established the foundation for Japan's modern industrial economy and dispels two misconceptions about Japanese modernization: that it began with Admiral Perry's arrival in 1868, and that it rapidly developed because of the superb Japanese ability for imitation. In this revealing work, Bellah shows how the native doctrines of Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinto encouraged forms of logic and understanding necessary for economic development. Japan's current status as an economic superpower and industrial model for many in the West makes this groundbreaking volume even more important today than when it was first published in 1957. With a new introduction by the author.
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