The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: The Marxian and Modernist Traditions

The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: The Marxian and Modernist Traditions

The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: The Marxian and Modernist Traditions

The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: The Marxian and Modernist Traditions

Synopsis

This incisive intellectual history of Japanese social science from the 1890s to the present day considers the various forms of modernity that the processes of "development" or "rationalization" have engendered and the role social scientists have played in their emergence. Andrew E. Barshay argues that Japan, together with Germany and pre-revolutionary Russia, represented forms of developmental alienation from the Atlantic Rim symptomatic of late-emerging empires. Neither members nor colonies of the Atlantic Rim, these were independent national societies whose cultural self-image was nevertheless marked by a sense of difference.

Barshay presents a historical overview of major Japanese trends and treats two of the most powerful streams of Japanese social science, one associated with Marxism, the other with Modernism (kindaishugi), whose most representative figure is the late Maruyama Masao. Demonstrating that a sense of developmental alienation shaped the thinking of social scientists in both streams, the author argues that they provided Japanese social science with moments of shared self-understanding.

Excerpt

This book was a long time in coming. It is not entirely the one I expected to write, though I dare to hope that it is a better one. Almost twenty years ago, somewhere in the course of writing my doctoral dissertation on the “public man” in imperial Japan, I noticed that for Japan’s intellectuals in the 1920s and especially after 1945, the phrase “social science” seems to have been invested with an almost magical power. If properly conceived and put into practice, social science might actually solve some of the enormous problems then facing Japan and its people. in the 1920s, these had mainly to do with poverty, inequality, and overpopulation; under the radically changed conditions brought by defeat and occupation, the tasks laid upon social science included the wholesale democratization of the political and social order itself. What was the relationship between the tasks of the 1920s and those of the early postwar era? What significance was to be attributed to the intervening war and defeat? However these questions were to be answered, there seemed little doubt that they could be, and that Japanese society would improve as a result.

What I had noticed, in short, was the self-image of social science as a uniquely powerful set of ideas and practices. Yet once examined, this image of a single Mahayana-like “great vehicle” seemed to dissolve into particulars. Social science was also “the social sciences,” not one but many, fractious and territorial. Where had they come from? How did they acquire their personalities as professional disciplines? As such, what . . .

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