Andrew E. Barshay. The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: The Marxian and Modernist Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004. xiv + 331 pp. $55.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-23645-5.
Reviewed by Brian J. McVeigh (Department of East Asian Studies, University of Arizona)
Published on H-US-Japan (December, 2004)
Different Roads to Modernity and Developmental Alienation
The emergence of modernity in the West has been associated with the more or less unplanned and steady growth of industrial capitalism and a postfeudal and postabsolutist form of state, i.e. a liberal sociopolitical order (p. 24). The massive dislocations and historical ruptures caused by new economic arrangements were intellectually confronted by Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, Karl Marx, Ferdinand Tonnies, and other well-known thinkers. But what about the transition to modernity as experienced and articulated by great thinkers outside the West? Barshay ambitiously attempts to answer this question by taking, as an example, a number of Japanese intellectuals who were keenly aware of the "backwardness" of their nation. He investigates the theorizing of individuals who advocated Marxist or "modernist" traditions of thought. Figures such as Uno Kozo, Yamada Moritaro, Hirano Yoshitaro, Yoshino Sakuzo, Yanaihara Tadao, Yanagita Kunio, Baba Hiroji, and Maruyama Masao, to name just a few, make an appearance. These individuals, though hardly unknown to many Japanologists, are more than just historical curiosities; they are key thinkers who should be recognized for their contributions to social science outside as well as inside Japan.
Three terms upon which the book's arguments are grounded require some elucidation. The first is "social science." Barshay begins his book by explaining how social science is an expression of "two wills": to disclose and to transform the world. These two endeavors do not necessarily sit comfortably with each other, the former being about knowledge for knowledge's sake, the latter imbued with a more practical (i.e. "political") agenda. Social science for many was seen as intellectual empowerment that could help overcome poverty, inequality, overpopulation, rural and urban divisions, and the gap between powerful and weak countries. For its practitioners social science had an almost "magical power" (p. ix). Not surprisingly, officialdom, for reasons of its own, feared social scientific analyses that revealed the mythologies and obscurantism of the status quo power arrangements. This, however, has never stopped political elites from using social science themselves, and today armies of social scientists influence policymaking. For example, after the Russian Revolution, some Japanese officials looked to the social sciences for clues on how to impede threatening revolutionary developments (similar fears undoubtedly emerged during the immediate postimperial period).
The second term is "rationalization," or put differently, the discarding of traditions (feudalism, religious ideas, local mores, and indigenous customs) that impede "modern" (particularly capitalist) development. Torn between particularistic "Japanese" social conventions that justified control of the emperor's subjects and universal, rationalizing forms of politico-economic arrangements that promised increased national power and prestige, the authorities felt the need to combine "tradition" with "rationalization." The result was "neotraditional rationalization" (p. 34). The idea here is that Japan modernized through, not despite, tradition and relied on a "communitarian" mode of modernization (p. 30).
The third term is "development," which in the context of Barshay's concerns usually means the stages of capitalism. Development may be viewed as a "domestic" issue (for example, the unevenness of urban-versus-rural development within Japan), or it may be considered from a more international, comparative perspective. These two understandings of development in reality cannot be neatly separated. In any case, it is the latter designation of development, what Barshay refers to as "developmental alienation," that frames much of the book's arguments (though more elaboration of this intriguing notion would have made the framing more engaging). There are different ways to react to latecomer status, including intense nativism, some variety of populism, revolutionary Marxism, or "reactionary modernism" (p. 32). But an alienation of development captures the sense of inadequacy and an intense awareness of being left behind by the advanced capitalist powers of the Atlantic Rim (places not significantly vulnerable to other imperialist powers). Developmental alienation characterized Japan, Germany, and Russia, all major late-developing empires with a strong "salience of tradition." These empires also had in common the fact that they never lost control over the state and were not colonized; indeed, they colonized others (and collided with each other; note Japan's defeat of the Russian Empire in 1905). Just as importantly, these states "posed stark challenges to Western (or Atlantic) notions of social order, both at the national and international level" (arguably they still do) (pp. 28-29). Development was alienated "because each 'model country' was also a threat and a constant reminder of material difference, and lack, of existence as an object of condescension, contempt, or reciprocal fear" (p. 241).
It is within the context of developmental alienation that Japan's social scientists took their own nation's late-development-ness as a key problem, and it is here that the linkages between political economic projects and academic agendas become visible. The question then becomes how did "backwardness" configure the emergence of social sciences in Japan?
The book is so rich and full of different lines of argument that it may be helpful to employ chapter 2 ("The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: An Overview") as a framework on which to hang several of the book's main points. This chapter is an achievement in itself, weaving together almost a century's worth of complex intellectual currents, debates, and personages central to the evolution of Japan's social sciences. It explains how the history of social science unfolded in five successive "moments" or intellectual orientations that have revolved around crucial questions: What is Japan? Is it a nation of imperial subjects, of classes, of a single Volk? Is it a nation of "modern" individuals? These questions are still asked today, though the idiom has been modified somewhat.
The first intellectual orientation, termed neotraditionalism or the "hegemony of the particular," emerged in the 1890s. During this period social science attempted to understand Japan's state/society relations in terms of their differences from those of the West and of an Asia that Japan had left behind while pursuing industrial and military might. Developmental alienation drove this neotraditional moment whose premise of "noncomparability" with other places encouraged the adoption of the material trappings of more powerful societies without losing the "national essence" of Japan. Indigeneity, particularity, and Japaneseness justified a "neo-native" or invented tradition of emperorship, the family state, national organicism, familism, and village communitarianism. The elites sought to utilize, not eliminate, feudal tendencies. The fundamental idea was that social bonds were naturally occurring, not purposively put together. Not surprisingly, liberalism, and a concomitant open social science, did not flourish.
At this time, Japan's incipient social sciences were heavily influenced by Prussian-style "state science" (Staatslehre), a knowledge form that assumed the state, rather than society, was the principal research target. Anything non-state to be legitimately researched was tagged kyodotai (or Gemeinschaft: "community"). Shakai (or Gesellschaft: "society") was not a legitimate area of scholarly concern. Indeed, "society" was a problem, the "seedbed of conflict and strife and division among the emperor's subjects" (p. 177). Social science, then, grew out of the state and its own agenda, and there was "an unequal contest between elite and nonelite scholarship; there was no free market of ideas" (p. 36). For example, Tatebe Tongo (1871-1945), holder of the chair in sociology at Tokyo Imperial University, held a "statist view of society" (kokka shakaikan). Not surprisingly, the membership of the Association for Staatslehre (Kokka Gakkai, established in 1887) and the Association for State and Economy (Kokka Keizai Kai) were mostly from officialdom. The Japanese Social Policy Association (Nihon Shakai Seisaku Gakkai, established in 1896) did study the "social" as opposed to "state science," but did so in order to prevent class antagonism due to Japan's rapid industrialization from spreading. But even this organization was met with official suspicion. After all, as far as the political elites were concerned, social Darwinist competition should mean not a struggle among classes within a society, but rather one of "nation against nation, race against race" (p. 40). Moreover, what studies of the state did exist were mostly concerned with issues of administrative law, not legitimacy. Consequently, "social science was denied access to the essential processes of neotraditional rationalization on the grounds that they were too sacred to be touched with the blade of analytical reason. Irrationalization, then, was a function of rationalization" (p. 41).
The second moment transpired during the first three decades of the twentieth century and was a liberal or pluralizing orientation that took a more universalist stance and challenged national particularism. For instance, Onozuka Kiheiji (1870-1944) daringly believed that the state was a legitimate target of scholarly investigation, rather than a "realized metaphysical principle" (p. 48). The constitutional scholar Minobe Tatsukichi (1873-1948) became known for his anti-official "organ theory of the emperor." The famed political scientist Yoshino Sakuzo (1878-1933), known for his advocacy of "people-as-the-base-ism" (minponshugi), thought the individual needed to be liberated. The economist Soda Kiichiro (1881-1927), who introduced the methodological works of Weber and Simmel, sought to provide liberalism with a "culturalist" system of coordinate values. A neo-Kantian, he acknowledged the distinction between nature and culture. The sociologist Yoneda Shotaro (1873-1945), influenced by Simmel, viewed society as the process of mental interaction among individuals apart from the state or household. Kagawa Toyohiko (1888-1960) became well known for his studies of Japan's urban poverty.
In spite of their liberalizing tendencies, the aforementioned figures merely pushed the envelope on what the state would allow. They were not the avant-garde of a more liberal, individual-oriented polity. For the political elites, because sociology somehow advocated society, it was deemed dangerous (as if society itself was the root of socialism): "it was society that posed problems for the state rather than the other way around" (p. 47). Even Yoshino's minponshugi can be understood as "democracy without popular sovereignty." In the end, "there was virtually no self-sustaining liberalism in theory or in practice." Liberalism remained an "irritant," and "lacked an independent institutional base and motivational source" (p. 52). Though liberalism (both political and economic) did play a role in Japanese capitalism, Barshay astutely asserts that it did so "as an adjunct to a particularist ideology in which capitalism served as an invisible means to the end of overcoming the country's backwardness" (p. 77).
The third moment can be described as a Marxist perspective. Though state repression ended the careers of many Marxists, their ideological contributions deserve special attention, since Marxism became "synonymous with social science as such, having overcome the partialities of its bourgeois form" (p. 37). To go one step further, Marxism for many became linked to liberalism, though a liberalism marginalized. Such marginalization was due to "formalist sublimation": the goal of politics is to realize harmony between personal idealism and the formal stance of an institution. And yet ironically, other Marxists who were persecuted "returned" to the communitarian national polity and aided the war-time reform bureaucrats in building Japan's version of state capitalism. Marxism shaped the thinking of individuals such as Arisawa Hiromi (1896-1988; who described himself as a "non-Communist Marxist") and others who played no small role in rebuilding the Japanese economy after the war. After all, Marxists and the political elite, despite their fundamental divergences, did agree on some things. The argument that capitalist ideology was a "license for the assertion of self-interest" (p. 73) resonated with many circles, and the wartime reform bureaucrats were suspicious of the market, the target of Marxist censure. And as Barshay points out, the attractiveness of heavy state involvement needs to be placed in historical context: after the war, many viewed the American New Deal as a success while the centralized planning of the Soviet Union, which was shaping up as a superpower, had not yet been completely discredited.
Chapter 3 explores the "presence of the past" in Japanese theorizing on capitalism. The issue here concerns how theorists grappled with the historicity that developmental alienation seemed to dictate. Barshay provides a detailed examination of Yamada Moritaro's Analysis of Japanese Capitalism (Nihon shihonshugi bunseki, 1934) which, taking Japan's particularism as its backwardness, represented a key text in the thinking of the Koza-ha (Lectures Faction) thought. Hirano Yoshitaro's The System of Capitalist Society (Nihon shihonshugi shakai no kiko, 1934) was another work concerned with temporality which made the case for the past-in-the-present. A deep concern with the paths that the march of time had cut configures much social scientific theorizing and rhetoric in Japan. Note the ubiquitous appearance of "new" and "neo" in titles and phrases, which seems to be an attempt to balance tradition and modernity, the old and the novel. For instance, the ethnologist Yanagita Kunio (1875-1963) described his project as shin kokugaku ("neo-nativism"). Indeed, the famous Marxist "debate on Japanese capitalism" (from the late 1920s to the late 1930s) between the Japan-as-feudal and the Japan-as-bourgeois schools of thought speaks to competing versions of how history, with its procession of different stages of political-economic development, had traversed through Japan. The Comintern-associated Koza-ha (Lectures Faction) held that due to feudal forces, Japanese capitalism was a kind of special case, a particularist hybrid formation. Japan thus needed to complete its democratic revolution since a late-developing industrialism had warped its civil society. The particularist perspective of Koza Marxism reproduced the "national community" and "family state" that so influenced the development of Japan's social science. The Rono-ha (Worker-Farmer Faction) regarded Japan as one of a number of imperialist finance capitalisms. More universalist in orientation, the Rono-ha viewed the Meiji Restoration as Japan's version of a bourgeois revolution. Any remnants of feudalism were incidental.
Postwar modernism is the fourth moment. It has its roots in pre-war Marxism and some aspects of liberalism, though at the official level it reflected the policies of Japan's occupiers who set the ideological tone. It was at this time that attempts were made to create a "new human type" inspired by democracy and the promise of a reconstructed Japan. However, postwar modernists, "like their Taisho forebears, conceived of politics less in terms of institutional processes than of spiritual and intellectual transformation" (p. 199). Modernism was exemplified by the historian of Japanese political thought, Maruyama Masao (1914-96), to which Chapter 7 ("Imaging Democracy in Postwar Japan: Maruyama Masao as Political Thinker") is devoted. Barshay describes Maruyama as a "utopian pessimist: utopian in spirit, but pessimistic about the capacity for self-transformation in the 'deep things' of Japanese social structure" (p. 239). Modernism was also represented by the economic historian Ohtsuka Hisao (1907-96), while people such as Yanaihara Tadao (1893-1961), chair of Tokyo University's economics department and a critic of Japan's assimilationist colonial policies, represented the "new" postwar Japan. Significantly, Barshay points out how Yanaihara unthinkingly compared the U.S. occupation of Japan with Japan's colonization of Korea, thereby demonstrating with "utter clarity" the "coexistence of imperial and critical consciousness in Japanese social science" (p. 61).
Besides offering the promise of a rejuvenated Japan, modernism became associated with socioeconomic modernization, and since it was understood that the United States represented the pinnacle of modernization, it was to be emulated by Japan. Convergence meant successful modernization, a theme that resonated with the work of the sociologist Kawashima Takeyoshi (1909-92). Indeed, flush with economic success, modernism was transformed into "growthism" and Japan itself would become a model for other nations to follow. Modernism was in many ways a reaction to neotraditionalism and its concomitant ideas of the ethnic nation (minzoku), community (kyodotai), national polity (kokutai), and other ideological amuletic terms that silenced discussion of classes and class conflict. Modernism was based on a universalism that advocated using one's critical faculties in order to transcend a particular national identity. Nevertheless, the triumph of volkisch (minzokuteki) thinking, the conflation of the Japanese Volk with the state, and the postimperial "recrudescence of Japanese exceptionalism" cannot be ignored (p. 238).
Chapters 4 and 5, "Thinking through Capital: Uno Kozo and Marxian Political Economy" and "School's Out? The Uno School Meets Japanese Capitalism," explore the contributions and influence of Uno Kozo (1897-1977), the most influential Japanese Marxist. Uno's academic verve can be seen in his Keizai genron (On Economic Principles, 1950-52) (more than a mere translation, it is actually a daring re-appropriation of Capital) and Keizai seisakuron (On Economic Policies, 1936). The Uno-school of political economy formed one of three dominant streams of postwar Japanese social science (along with Maruyama Masao's political science and Ohtsuka Hisao's economic history), and from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s, its intellectual impact was visible. Uno's legacy was handed down to Ohuchi Tsutomu (1918-), Tamanoi Yoshiro (1918-85), and Baba Hiroji (1933-), author of Shin shihonshugi-ron (A New Treatise on Capitalism, 1997) (Baba coined "companynism" or kaishashugi, an apparent pun on "socialism" or shakaishugi).
Chapter 6, "Social Sciences and Ethics: Civil Society Marxism," looks at scholars, economists, and economic historians who can be referred to as "civil society Marxists." Maruyama Masao also exemplifies this group, but other well-known examples deserve mention. Uchida Yoshihiko (1913-89) argued that Japan possessed the notion of the sanctity of ownership, but not the sanctity of labor. Fairness, not equality, characterizes Japan's socioeconomic landscape (or perhaps put differently, Japan possesses an economic egalitarianism, but not a liberal-inspired political equality). Another civil society Marxist is Hirata Kiyoaki (1922-95), who gave us the idea of the "enterprise state" (kigyo kokka), a formation distinctive to Japan. According to Hirata, bureaucratic guidance over companies assists in controlling a fragmented workforce in postwar Japan. The influence of the Koza Faction can be seen in how these three postwar thinkers all believed that Japan's project of modernity was incomplete.
The late 1960s witnessed the final moment: the separating out of "growthism" and "culturalism." The latter refers to neo-exceptionalism and a stress on Japan's indigeneity, which supposedly possesses profound differences when compared to the traits of other societies. This argument, still heard today, is that a continuity with Japan's premodern, feudalistic past is what has made Japan's meteoric rise to economic might possible. Growthism, or production for its own sake, was influenced by neoclassical and Keynesian economics ("modern economics"). But its roots can actually be traced to the policies of wartime rationalization. Barshay suggests that due to the 1990s economic doldrums, growthism is withering away. Given the saliency of Japan's economic nationalism, this is debatable. But in any case, the pursuit of GNPism at all cost spoiled the environment and brought down the quality of life (especially in urban areas). Growthism also impaired the emergence of a robust civil society, though the ideological roots for the lack of an active civil society predate the collapse of the empire. Japan's capitalism is supposedly shorn of a liberalism-inspired "fighting bourgeoisie." The upshot is "no bourgeoisie, no civil society." This is why some, such as Yamada Toshio, contended that capitalism developed in Japan because of the weakness of its civil society, a contrary view on why capitalism emerged in the West, where it developed because of civil society. Indeed, civil society has had "little direct presence in the broader current of social thought in modern Japan" (p. 174). On a related note, "citizen," as a conceptual category, does not stand out during the Meiji period. A major theme, evident in the writings of Maruyama, has it that Japan, lacking "subjectivity" (shutaisei) or a "modern personality," had no need for autonomous citizens and therefore had no civil society. Barshay goes so far as to write that it "may be only a slight exaggeration to say that citizen was at best the conceptual stepchild of Japan's modernization" (p. 177).
I conclude with two points. First, further elaboration of "developmental alienation," a potentially powerful concept, would be appreciated. Indeed, if more broadly interpreted (outside its application to Japan, Germany, and Russia), it may be fruitfully applied to currently emerging powerful polities (e.g. China and India). Developmental alienation, in fact, is part and parcel of a more general discourse on "progress" that links up with the social sciences. As Barshay points out, at the core of the original social sciences dwells "a notion of, and a belief in, growth, development, and progress that literally knew no bounds" (p. 24). Barshay's work allows us to envision how the "discovery of society" (which is basically synonymous with the emergence of modernity) was accomplished in a non-Western society. This discovery, of course, bequeathed to us the conceptual tools that we now take for granted: "class", "market," "economy," "division of labor," "community," "nation," "gender," "individual," and "society" itself (p. 7). It behooves us to appreciate both the universalism and localism of this idiom.
The second point concerns the use of "social science." For Barshay this term appears to be synonymous with modernism and Marxism as interpreted in Japan. This is a narrow definition. Of course, Barshay obviously had his own agenda and interests in writing this book. His concern is with intellectual history. However, it at least needs to be acknowledged that social science is a much wider concept and understood differently by those for whom modernism and Marxism do not have the same relevance. Though rapid postwar urbanization and massive embourgeoisiement, especially during the 1960s, did away with what was considered the raison d'etre of some lines of inquiry in the social sciences, many other topics not addressed in Barshay's book attracted the interests of scholars who readily regard themselves as "social scientists."
Despite this reservation, this is a much needed work because it elucidates the social scientific thought of a major non-Western society whose economic and political achievements still keep policymakers in other places awake at night.
. See Curtis Anderson Gayle, Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism (London: Routledge/Curzon, 2002).
. Cf. Robert Nisbet, History of the Idea of Progress (New York: Basic Books, 1980).
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Brian J. McVeigh. Review of Barshay, Andrew E., The Social Sciences in Modern Japan: The Marxian and Modernist Tradition.
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