Björn Wittrock, born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1945. Ph.D. from Stockholm University. Professor of Political Science at Uppsala University and Director of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences (SCASSS), Uppsala.
Guest of the Rector (1 January 2004 – 30 April 2004)
RETHINKING HISTORICAL SOCIAL SCIENCE
My long-term research programme entails an effort to elaborate on the formation of modernity. Over the past decade a group of scholars have explored the idea of looking at this process from the vantage point of different cultural and civilizational legacies, not as “modernisation” but in terms of multiple modernities. Basic cultural dimensions of change in this process are analogous to those that have been highlighted in the Weber-Jaspers-Eisenstadt hypothesis of an early cultural crystallization, a so-called Axial Age. Together with Johann Arnason and S.N. Eisenstadt I have edited a volume examining this hypothesis. Together with them I am also currently preparing a book that deals with a third period of cultural crystallization, namely the period of the 11th to 13th centuries. The European trajectory is reflected upon relative to analogous Eurasian transformations.
At NIAS I was able to pursue my long-term research programme under ideal conditions. The volume, edited by S.N. Eisenstadt, Johann Arnason and my self will come out in a few weeks time under the title “Axial Civilizations and World History” at Brill Academic Publishers in Leiden. The publication on Eurasian transformations has been submitted to the publisher and will come out by the end of this year also with Brill Academic Publishers. My time at NIAS made it possible for me to read extensively and to prepare the outline of my part of this publication that I was able to finish in the late summer. I was also able to prepare an outline of the introductory chapter of the volume “Social Theory and Human Agency” as well as an article on “The Legacy of Wilhelm von Humboldt Relevant and the Future of the European University” for a Festschrift dedicated to the former Rector Magnificus of Uppsala University and the former President of Academia Europaea, Professor Stig Strömholm. In sum, I was able to make progress in accordance with my initial plans.
As Guest of the Rector, I tried to focus on my own research and on interactions with the Fellows-in-Residence and thus chose to attend as few external conferences and workshops as possible. I was only away from NIAS on four brief occasions. At NIAS I attended and spoke at the workshop on The Long Durée of National Romanticism “We the People”: In the Low Countries on 24 January; I gave a lecture at NIAS on “Modernity: One, None or Many?” on 11 March; and I attended the First Constitutional Meeting of the European network of institutes for advanced study (NetIAS) on 15 April.