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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2016/17 Prof. Dr. Hans Joas

Prof. Dr. Hans Joas

University of Freiburg
Permanent Fellow
April 2013 - March 2014



Born 1948; 1981 Habilitation in Sociology at Freie Universität Berlin; 1979-1983 Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education, Berlin; 1984-1987 Heisenberg Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education; 1987-1990 Full Professor in Sociology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg; 1990-2002 Full Professor in Sociology and North American Studies, Free University of Berlin; 1998-present Ordinary Member, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences; 2000-present Visiting Professor/ University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought; 2002-2011 Max Weber Professor and Director of the Max Weber Center, University of Erfurt; 2006-2010 Vice President, International Sociological Association; 2008-present Speaker of the Collaborative Research Centre “Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective”; 2010 Niklas Luhmann Award (“Bielefelder Wissenschaftspreis”); 2012 Honorary Doctorate in Catholic Theology, University of Tübingen; 2013 Honorary Doctorate in Sociology, University of Uppsala (Sweden)

Fellow at the Berlin Wissenschaftskolleg (2005/06), at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (1992, 1999/2000, 2004/05, 2010), Visiting Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Duke University; New School for Social Research; University of Vienna, University of Uppsala etc.


Selected Publications

  • The Sacredness of the Person. A New Genealogy of Human Rights. Washington, D.C. (Georgetown University Press) 2013.
  • The Axial Age and Its Consequences (ed. with R. N. Bellah). Cambridge, Mass. (Harvard University Press) 2012.
  • War in Social Thought. Hobbes to the Present. (with W. Knoebl). Princeton, N.J. (Princeton University Press) 2013.


FRIAS Research Project

"Sacralization and Secularization"

After completing in 2011 a book on the history of human rights as the sacralisation of the “person”, I have since then concentrated my efforts on developing an alternative to the conventional understanding of secularization and disenchantment as the necessary corollaries of processes of modernisation. The first steps in this project were: a, a book “Faith as an Option”, published in German in 2012 and forthcoming in English in 2014, that treats the emergence of the “secular option” not as a cause of inevitable religious decline, but as a new challenge for believers who have to define their faith now as one option among many. b, an edited volume on the Axial Age as the historic breakthrough to conceptions of transcendence and moral universalism (published in 2012). An extended version of my own chapter in this volume will be published as a small book in German in 2014.

I am now mostly working on a book manuscript – tentatively titled “Sacralisation or Disenchantment” – in which I will present the basic features of a theory of the dynamics of sacralisation processes and their interchange with processes of the formation of power. This book also situates this theory in the context of the history of the historical-comparative study of religion.