Shmuel N. Eisenstadt

Shmuel Eisenstadt
Foto: Holbergprisen/Scanpix

Citation of the Academic Committee:

"Shmuel N. Eisenstadt has developed comparative knowledge of exceptional quality and originality concerning social change and modernization, and concerning relations between culture, belief systems and political institutions. His work combines sociological theory with historical and empirical research in the study of modernities and civilizations.

The Political Systems of Empires (1963), an early theoretically and empirically pioneering work, emphasizes the major bureaucratic structures of empires from ancient to modern times. In Tradition, Change and Modernity (1973), Traditional Patrimonialism and Modern Neopatrimonialism (1973) and Revolution and the Transformation of Societies (1978) Eisenstadt challenges the classical structural-functionalist paradigm of modernization by maintaining that the organization of modern societies is neither uniform or in every respect clearly to be distinguished from traditional social structures.

In his works on social change and modernization, Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilizations (ed.) (1986), Patterns of Modernity (ed., 2 volumes, 1987), and European Civilization in a Comparative Perspective (1987), Eisenstadt powerfully includes cultural and religious dimensions and demonstrates that the European developmental model is only one among many, and cannot serve as a monolithic and universal model of explanation. His early work, Israeli Society (1967), and his later book, Japanese Civilization - A Comparative View (1996), are both outstanding contributions to the understanding of how two very different societies developed.

Recently, Eisenstadt has further explored differentiated processes of modernization in Multiple Modernities (2000), Comparative Civilizations and Multiple Modernities (2003); and Axial Civilizations and World History (ed. et al., 2005). Presenting an alternative to the well-known thesis of an impending 'clash of civilizations' between modernity and non-modern barbarism, he shows that the emergence of 'multiple modernities' is an inevitable result of social change and modernization across different traditional societies.

In Fundamentalism, Sectarianism and Revolution: The Jacobin Dimension of Modernity (1999) and most recently in The Great Revolutions and the Civilizations of Modernity (2006) the focus of Eisenstadt's inquiry is on the formulation and realization of the political visions held by elites and sectarian groups as carriers of social change.

An extraordinarily productive scholar Eisenstadt has had great influence in many disciplines, including sociology, political science, history, religious studies and anthropology."

Holbergprisens symposium 2006

Processes that change the world

Several international scholars participated at the 2006 Holberg Prize seminar. A central theme at the symposium was Shmuel N. Eisenstadts notion of multiple modernities. Read more.

Shmuel N. Eisenstadt

About Shmuel N. Eisenstadt

For Eisenstadt, societal change is always the result of human action, and human action is open to divergent and contradictory tendencies. In this perspective it is the task of the social scientist to highlight these tensions and antinomies and not to gloss over them in favour of uniformity.Read more.

Holberg Prize 2006

English