井の中の蛙

7/7/2005

Post-Anpo Apostasy

Filed under: — tak @ 11:32 pm

During my search for a short article on Anpo (the anti U.S.-Japan Security Treaty movement in 1960), Konrad mentioned that he would be interested in hearing about leftist intellectuals who recanted their radical politics after the defeat of the movement.

I was looking at a chapter in Yoshikuni Igarashi’s Bodies of Memory titled “From the Anti-Security Treaty Movement to the Tokyo Olympics: Transforming the Body, the Metropolis, and Memory,” as a possible article to use in class.

This article mentions Shimizu Ikutaro, whom Igarashi describes as “an intellectual who was deeply committed to the anti-treaty movement.” He was a loud voice in the movement for sure, and Igarashi explores the issues of memory and the body in Shimizu’s discussion of Zengakuren (the radical wing of the student movement) and the physical nature of their tactics during Anpo.

Shimizu is, I believe, known as an anpo intellectual who recanted. Here, on a website run by Professor Okubo Takaji of Waseda University, are some essays about Shimizu, in Japanese.

And here is what Harry Harootunian, in “Beyond Containment: The Postwar Genealogy of Fascism and TOSAKA Jun’s Prewar Critique of Liberalism” (printed online here), has to say about Shimizu and why he repudiated the left after Anpo:

SHIMIZU condemned [prewar leftist] intellectuals who later recalled their experience of conversion as testimonials of bad faith, since neither were their commitments as strong as they wished later witnesses to believe nor were the speculative modes of the Japanese people illuminated by conversion so intensely antimodern. Here, SHIMIZU was apparently speaking the from personal experience of his own conversion. His late writings, “Doubting the Postwar” and “Auguste COMTE” (published in the 1970s) rejected the category of the “postwar,” which he equated with all of those efforts to repeat the Enlightenment that common sense had already “denied.” What SHIMIZU meant by common sense might have conceivably revealed only an instance of his own bad faith and how he had successfully changed with the seasons. Yet, he explained that intellectuals in Japan were exceedingly short on common sense, that is, a knowledge common to a wide number of people [...]

Here Harootunian draws our attention to the way Shimizu sees Enlightenment thought as fomenting a kind of political activism that is antithetical to the people. But focusing on the undifferentiated — what Harootunian calls a “classless” — image of “the people” led to Shimizu’s denunciation of Marxism and the Japanese left:

Intellectuals are blinded from the common sense of the masses and are not able to approach them. But he, SHIMIZU declared, had escaped this blindness, this Enlightenment contagion that had plunged Japan into darkness, because he had been able to manage an identity with the masses. When the conception of common sense was linked to his idea of presentism (the curse of shared values, political and public cultures, all those interpretative strategies confidently based upon a putative average), he had merely found a way to justify the way things are by appealing to a fixed fund of experience/knowledge which seemingly had remained the same since the beginning of the race.

Here Harootunian depicts Shimizu as an intellectual lured by “presentism,” a kind of culturalist chauvinism that develops when a refusal of Western thinking (in this case Enlightenment) is projected to imagine “the people” as a “race” untouched by the evil ways of industrial capitalism. At least that is what Harootunian here is arguing.

I have never read Shimizu so I don’t know what to make of this passage, but I’m not 100% convinced of the argument that presentist thought is more likely to lead to an essentialist and transhistorical position. But in contrast to Tosaka Jun, I guess it sort of makes sense why Shimizu recanted.

Are there others who recanted after Anpo? Now I’m curious too.

7/6/2005

Dewey In Japan

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:40 pm

Naoko Saito takes John Dewey’s visits to Japan as a starting place for questions about “Education for Global Understanding” [registration required; I do like the way TCR seems to be branching more towards Higher Ed and international education lately, but it might just be a summer blip] and finds challenging material.

In his visit to Japan, from February 9 until April 28, 1919, Dewey was confronted with a severe challenge to his hope of attaining mutual understanding and universal democracy beyond national and cultural boundaries. Japan at that time was between two world wars and had undergone a democratization movement called Taisho Democracy – a movement that was soon to give way to looming nationalism and militarism. Dewey saw a flickering hope for liberalism in Japan, but he left the country in disappointment. He tried to approach Japan through his principle of mutual national understanding. During the short period of his stay, he struggled to penetrate below the surface of the culture. As a philosopher who was thrown into an abyss that existed between two cultures, Dewey acknowledged that “Japan is a unique country, one whose aims and methods are baffling to any foreigner.” He communicated with Japanese liberal intellectuals, gave a lecture at the University of Tokyo, and was exposed to the left-wing democratic movements among college youth. But he learned that “such higher criticism is confined to the confidence of the classroom” (JL, p. 174). Dewey realized that the “popular mind,” to which he wished to communicate his idea of democracy as a personal way of living, was dominated by “nationalistic sentiment.” He observed that “the growth of democratic ideas” and “the growth of liberalism” were hampered by the inculcation of “the emperor cult” (LJ, pp. 170–173). Especially in contrast to China, where “[e]very articulate conscious influence [was] liberal,” Dewey noticed the obstacles to “the development of an enlightened liberal public opinion in Japan” – “the conspiracy of silence,” patriotism, and the institutional religion that prevented “critical thought and free discussion.” Dewey was troubled by the authoritarian, nationalistic ethics indoctrinated in primary education (LJ, pp. 167–168). He could not find democracy in Japanese people’s way of living.

Furthermore, Dewey was confused by an inconsistency involved in Japanese modernization – a combination of the “feudal” and “barbarian” ethos of the warrior with the worship of western industrialization (LJ, pp. 160–161). As he put it, “There is some quality in the Japanese inscrutable to a foreigner which makes them at once the most rigid and the most pliable people on earth, the most self-satisfied and the most eager to learn” (LJ, p. 168). In the country’s “opportunism,” Dewey found it “difficult in the present condition of Japan to construct even in imagination a coherent and unswerving working policy for a truly liberal political party” (POJ, p. 259).

This experience of Dewey leaves us with a philosophical question: what happens if one’s democratic faith is not totally accepted in a different culture? [footnotes removed]

Actually, that last sentence should be, based on her description of Dewey’s responses, “what happens if one’s democratic faith is entirely rejected in a different culture?” A bit later, Saito notes that “In the series of lectures that Dewey gave at the University of Tokyo, the number of participants decreased from around a thousand to less than forty towards the end.” And, of course, there’s little evidence of Dewey’s influence in Japan’s educational or political systems to date. Clearly his visit failed to transform Japan, unrealistic as that standard of judgement might be. Clearly Japan as a society is not fully accepting of differences and others (are any societies?) and has a civil discourse which is more limited than many of us would consider ideal, or even healthy.

I’m mostly struck by the tension between the idea of Taisho Democracy, which was indeed in full swing when Dewey dropped in, and what Dewey observed as rigidity, obscurantism, chauvinism and authoritarianism. Given what we know of the course of history, Dewey’s observations ring true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t miss something important. The 1920s were a heyday of internationalism in Japan, not just in the sense of the Shidehara Diplomacy but also in terms of translated literature and scholarship, travel overseas, international visitors to Japan, and the penetration of commodity culture carrying both domestic and international products and modes. Dewey should have seen some of that potential; instead he (and his followers in the present) deny that the eclectic and dynamic 1920s were more than epiphenomal. There’s a consistency to this narrative that I find troubling, possible evidence of a cultural determinism which is untenable, historically.

3/21/2005

Renaissance Japan

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:33 am

Epochal analogies are some of the trickiest traps in our historical discourse. Whether it’s the Medieval v. Feudal snake pit or the quicksand of finely grained modernities, generalizing historical processes from one society to another is one of the most common, and most often failed, attempts to systematize that qualitative epistemology we call history. But we don’t give up: first because we need a shorthand to talk about processes, and the analogies, however flawed at deep definitional levels, give us a foundation to communicate with each other; second, because in our heart of hearts we historians believe that there must be rhyme and reason to the course of humanity, and only by the insistent dialectic of thesis and data will we reveal those rhythms and patterns. All of which is just my way of saying that I’d like to pass on a historical analogy from my teaching and I don’t want anyone taking it too seriously, but I don’t want it dismissed out of hand, either.

(more…)

12/27/2004

Japan’s contribution to nihilistic Islamism

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:50 am

The AHA’s flagship journal American Historical Review doesn’t run Japanese articles all that often and, to be honest, interesting ones even more rarely. But the current edition’s foray is quite worth reading, though I’d like to know if other people’s reactions to it were as reserved as mine. The article is Japan’s Global Claim to Asia and the World of Islam: Transnational Nationalism and World Power, 1900–1945 [AHA membership required] by Selçuk Esenbel, whose previous publications are mostly in the field of Tokugawa peasant studies.

She chronicles decades of intellectual, military and cultural contacts between Japanese and Islamic activists in a variety of fields, but most sharing an anti-Western (or anti-colonial or anti-imperial) modernism. Many of the Japanese names involved are familiar to scholars of Japan’s early-20c right wing, but the degree to which they concieved of political Islam as an ally and bulwark against Near/Middle Eastern colonialism is quite striking. It shouldn’t be, I suppose: these thinkers were so ambitious and global in their ideas that they must have had some concept of how a major world religion fit into the scheme of things, and Japan’s affinity for (i.e. sense of leadership of) modernizing societies in this period was still strong.

There were two main directions to the interaction: scholarship of Islam in Japan (including a surprising number of conversions) and spreading Japanese anti-Westernism in Islamic regions. Pan-Islamism, as Esenbel describes it, isn’t that different from Pan-Asianism as the Japanese preached it, and figures like Ōkawa Shūmei made the connection explicit in print and in personal contacts.

The weakness of the article comes when she tries to make a case for the importance of these theories and contacts. Aside from the interesting new depth it gives to Pan-Asianism, and filling in some of the gaps in the “they really thought they could win these wars?” lists, Esenbel tries to draw some connections to late-20c/21c political Islam, particularly violent Islamist groups. This seems like a huge stretch to me, without making much more explicit personal or intellectual connections between modernist anti-westernism and nihilistic traditionalism in Islamic radical circles. Contemporary Islamism isn’t akin to Ōkawa’s pan-Asianism, but something more like Kita Ikki’s agrarian nationalism: positing a perfect (unattainable) protean socio/cultural/economic “moment” against which the present does not measure up and the “re”establishment of which will require revolutionary and violent action. As others have argued, Islamism isn’t anti-Orientalist as much as it is Occidentalist, and I don’t see that emerging clearly in this history.

Am I looking for the wrong things here? Missing something fundamental?

12/14/2004

List of Intellectuals

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:29 am

I just finished making a little list of the various Japanese intellectuals mentioned in Victor Koschmann’s essay on “Intellectuals and Politics” in Andrew Gordon ed. Postwar Japan as History. The essay is essentially a short narrative of postwar intellectual history and mentions many of the important figures.I added various tidbits about them as found in the essay. I have not added anything else (or the Kanji characters for their names), even in those cases where the intellectuals are well known for things not mentioned in that essay. However, since the list may be of some use to someone, I have posted it in pdf format for download.

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