state, systems, Axial Age, transcendence, Mongols, Russia, China, United States


Humanity is undergoing a second Axial Age. The first, as described by Karl Jaspers, brought transcendence into the vision and self-understanding of humans and the world. The rise of secularism and “Death of God” is dissolving and fragmenting that transcendence — a vital subsystem of the civilization system. Economy, knowledge and government comprise three additional subsystems and have coalesced to form the modern sovereign state, diminishing the traditional place of religion, art and philosophy in civilizations. An example of a state lacking common institutions of transcendence was the Mongol empire. Ruling Russia for a quarter millennium, its state form was a template for the Bolshevik regime. The relative success of the Communist state became a template for the Chinese Communists. While the U.S. was excluded from eastern Eurasian politics until the late nineteenth century, secularization and the growth of three material subsystems are signs of movement towards a dominant state system.