Origins of Economic Thought in Modern Japan

Origins of Economic Thought in Modern Japan

Origins of Economic Thought in Modern Japan

Origins of Economic Thought in Modern Japan

Synopsis

The stream of economic thought which emerged during the Enlightenment period of Japanese history is not well known. The aim of this book is to elucidate the economic thought in this period.

Excerpt

The aim of this chapter is to outline the development of Japanese economic thought in the era called Meiji, the era that put an end to long-lived feudalism by the Restoration of 1868. The characteristics of the age of the Japanese Enlightenment may become clearer when seen against this background.

Some people would no doubt be surprised to learn of a man like Sada Kaiseki who in the early days of Meiji era zealously asserted that 'every expedience is an evil', that 'inconvenience must be esteemed' in order to bring peace and wealth to the nation, and that railways, umbrellas, lamps, steamships and other similar innovations could only be harmful. Such an assertion, that everything convenient is an evil, was rooted in nationalistic sentiments against the then fashionable trend of Westernization. However, those who are now seriously conscious of such outcomes of so-called civilization as the noise and polluted air of big cities, the growing toll of road accidents, the horrors of atomic weapons and even of power stations and everything else of like kind might be inclined to sympathize with Sada, feeling that his attitudes cannot be totally reduced to reactionarism.

In fact, Sada merely represented the feelings of ordinary people, by no means small in number, who, accustomed to the traditional way of life under the Tokugawa feudalist regime, were either implicitly or explicitly opposed to the new government or at least unable to adapt themselves to the new way of life that made its appearance so suddenly. To Sada everything convenient was brought in from abroad and anything that was brought in from abroad seemed harmful, because he feared that innovations must lead to the impoverishment of those who lived by traditional trades and so would land the whole nation in misery. He never ceased to write and lecture on this topic, and even went as far as to petition the

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