The Axial Age and the Curious Modernity of Islam


  • Bryan S Turner Australian Catholic University



Axial Age, Islam, Christianity, post-institutional religion, secularisation, way of life


The article examines the importance of the idea of the Axial Age (800–200 bc) and the rise of the great world religions and philosophies that have influenced world history. The origins of the idea can be traced back to Max Weber’s sociology of world religions and to his disciple Karl Jaspers, who promoted the idea as a critical response to the racial ideas of Nazi Germany. In contemporary approaches, the theme of the Axial Age has been embraced in sociology by Robert Bellah and Hans Joas who emphasise the Axial idea of transcendence. A major problem with the debate is that two world religions—Christianity and Islam—came after the formative axial period. This problem was especially acute in Hegel’s philosophy of history. The modernity and global influence of Islam have been recognised by Ernest Gellner and Marshall G. S. Hodgson.

Author Biography

  • Bryan S Turner, Australian Catholic University

    Bryan S. Turner is Professor of Sociology at the Australian Catholic University; Research Fellow at the Edward Cadbury Centre, University of Birmingham, England; Emeritus Professor of the City University of New York; Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences Australia; and Founding Editor of the Journal of Classical Sociology.


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How to Cite

Turner, B. S. (2024). The Axial Age and the Curious Modernity of Islam. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 37(1), 3-24.