A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government

A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government

A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government

A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government

Synopsis

A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government takes the form of a debate between a spokesman for Western ideals of democracy and progress, and an advocate for adherence to traditional samurai values. Their discussion is moderated by the imperturbable Master Nankai, who loves nothing more than to drink and argue politics. The fiction of the drinking bout allowed Chomin to debate freely topical political issues, in a discussion that offers an astute analysis of contemporary European politics and a prophetic vision of Japan's direction. This lucid and precise translation of a delightful work has been designated one of the UNESCO series of classics of world literature.

Excerpt

When the Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government (Sansuijin Keirin Mondō) appeared in 1887, Meiji Japan was nearing a turning point. An authoritarian government was completing work on a constitution that had been promised for the end of the decade. This charter, the first of its kind to be drawn up outside the Western world, would bring to completion two decades of study and experimentation with governmental forms. Advocates of representative government, who styled themselves the Movement for Freedom and People's Rights, had called for a share in power since 1874. Their awareness had been quickened by a flood of treatises and translations that related representative institutions to national strength. Nakae Chōmin had played a major role in that movement through the vigor and the elegance of his renditions of eighteenth-century French political discourse, in which he blended Confucian terminology and values with the thought of Rousseau. Other writers and translators harked to English utilitarianism and the philosophy of Herbert Spencer to call for sweeping changes in Japanese culture and values to conform with the laws of social progress. Although it was clear that the constitution would be granted by the authorities and not wrested from them, Nakae and other intellectuals had spent almost a de-

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