Master Class: "The Power of the Sacred" with Hans Joas

Nov 5, 2022
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Hans JoasUniversity of Chicago

Open to current students and faculty. Others interested in participating should contact All registrants will receive pdfs of the selected readings. The first 15 registrants will receive free copies of The Power of the Sacred. 

In the last twenty or thirty years, the co-called secularization thesis has lost much of its plausibility. This thesis means more than empirical statements about quantitative developments in the area of religious faith, practices or institutions. Rather, it refers to a particular explanation for such developments - namely, that there is a strong causal connection between societal modernization and the weakening of religion - in such a way that economic growth, rising prosperity and scientific and technological progress increasingly displace religion with inner necessity and ultimately make it superfluous. But if modernization and secularization do not form an indissoluble combination, then the assumptions about the prehistory of modern European secularization are also shaken, especially the most influential of them, namely the narrative, going back to the famous sociologist Max Weber, of a process of disenchantment that had already begun with the Old Testament prophets and made the Christian or the Jewish-Christian tradition appear as a step toward secularization.

In this master class the precise meaning of the concept of disenchantment and the contours of an alternative to this suggestive and highly influential narrative of modernization and modernity will be discussed.

This program is made possible through the support of ‘In Lumine: Supporting the Catholic Intellectual Tradition on Campuses Nationwide’ (Grant #62372) from the John Templeton Foundation. 


Hans Joas, The Power of the Sacred, Introduction, pp. 1-9, 110-153, 234-273.
Recommended reading: pp. 88-110.


Hans Joas is the Ernst Troeltsch Professor for the Sociology of Religion at Humboldt-Universität, Berlin, and a member of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. from Freie Universität Berlin in 1979 (G. H. Mead: A Contemporary Re-examination of His Thought, MIT Press, 1985, 1997). Among his many prizes and awards are the Niklas Luhmann Prize in 2010; in 2012, an honorary doctorate in Theology from Universität Tübingen; in 2013, an honorary doctorate in Sociology from Uppsala University and the Hans Kilian Award; in 2015, the Max Planck Research Award; in 2017 the Prix Paul Ricoeur, in 2018 the Theological Prize Salzburg and in 2022 the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award of the German Sociological Association. .
Among his other books in English are Pragmatism and Social Theory 1993; The Creativity of Action 1996; The Genesis of Values 2000; War and Modernity 2003; Do We Need Religion? On Experiences of Self-Transcendence 2008; The Sacredness of the Person: A New Genealogy of Human Rights 2013; Faith as an Option: Possible Futures for Christianity 2014. Together with Wolfgang Knoebl he published Social Theory 2009 and War in Social Thought: Hobbes to the Present 2013. Together with Robert Bellah he edited The Axial Age and Its Consequences 2011.