The New Axial Age and the Pivotal Years (2015-2020)
Augustson, Kent

A learned historian offers a challenging road map to humanity’s future.

Augustson refers to a “New Axial Age” in the subtitle of his heavily detailed, impressive debut.  His explanation of the term looks back to German philosopher Karl Jaspers’ idea of a first Axial Age, which occurred around 500 B.C. and featured the simultaneous flowering of Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and the Socratic origins of Platonism. Augustson also makes the case for the rhythmic communal but uncoordinated upsurge of transformative events over the course of time. In five densely packed chapters, the author makes a case for a new age borne out of four powerful cultural movements: Confucian China, Hindu India, the Muslim Middle East, and the Christian West.

The book looks to history in its broadest sense, which requires it to cover the fundamentals of historiography in its earliest chapters.  Its main point is that the relatively sudden appearance of republics over the last two centuries has laid the groundwork for a transformation of human civilization.

The sections in which Augustson makes predictions about the future of the New Axial Age are intriguing. However, prognostication is the Achilles’ heel of the historian’s art, and the readers will doubtless contest some statements. Augustson also takes issue with the concept of “the end of history,” instead seeing “a path to new adventures to which we currently lack the strength to walk”; the implicit pessimism of that stance arises, in part, out of the author’s assertion that the West may lose a coming epic confrontation with the Islamic world. Like the rest of his book, it’s controversial but endlessly thought-provoking.

A wide-ranging, comprehensive study of the meta-history of human civilization.

*This review was for the original version of this book that has been revised by Our Axial Age in order to make the same insightful concepts more reader friendly.