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Modernity as assial age. Transitions and interpretations.
Modernity is a troubled subject. In our view it lasts from the Humanism (end of 15th century) to the 70s of the 20th century. It is centered on two oppositions: on the one side, the affirmation of the centrality of the individual (primacy of personal conscience, liberty of thought and enterprise, passage “from status to contract” - to borrow the famous sentence of Henry Maine); on the opposite side, the coming back of the dimension of the “social” (the body politics, the state as a “governing force” both on an economic and a social level, the duties towards men cultural identities, etc.).
In one sense, this is the “revenge” of religion as a form of shaping human mind. Religion is in fact, either the relation of the individual destiny with its significance to be found in a God or the sharing of what man learns from such individual relation within a context of social inclusion (a church, a sect, a philosophical circle, etc.). The story of this relationships is varied and intriguing. It takes into account different eras in the frame of the five mentioned centuries, different national and cultural variations, different political and social interpretation of this long historical transition.
At the Italian-German Historical Institute in Trento the researchers deal with this subject since 2011. They have already realized two international conference on various aspects of the problems and published two collective books: P. Pombeni, G. Haupt (eds.), La transizione come problema storiografico, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013 (English translation forthcoming: Routledge, 2015) ; P. Pombeni, C. Dipper (eds.), Le ragioni del moderno, Bologna , Il Mulino, 2014.
The research will check if the period considered could be shaped into the concept of “axial age” as Karl Jasper proposed in 1949 and as Shmuel Eisenstadt elaborated it as “second axial age”. The problem will be explored from the view angle both of different temporal spaces ( 16th century; “Sattelzeit” between the end of 18th and the beginnings of 19th centuries; the various turning points inside the 20th century) and of different historiographical approaches (economic history; religious history; cultural history; political history).