Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism

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The roots of the nihonjinron be traced back at least to the kokugaku "national studies" movement of the 18th century, with themes that are not dissimilar to those in the post-war nihonjinron.

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Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism and millions of other books are available for Amazon Kindle.​ Curtis Anderson Gayle holds a in Japanese history and political thought from Kyoto University and specializes in modern Japanese intellectual history, nationalism. This book explores the historical writings of postwar Japanese Marxists - who were, and who continue to be, surprisingly numerous in the Japanese academic world.

The problem of Japanese identity in much of the early period is in terms of the local traditions and the powerful influence of Chinese culture, for example the revolt of the anti-Buddhist Mononobe and Nakatomi clans against the pro-Buddhist Soga clan, which had sponsored the introduction of not only Buddhist metaphysics but also Chinese statecraft into Japan in the 6th century.

The general drift of such works is to pull the abstract, universal language and thought of Japan's foreign models down to earth, to reframe it in Japanese conditions, among the illiterate population at large, and assert the special historical characteristics of Japan as opposed to the civilizations which had, until that time, endowed the country with the lineaments of a universalist culture.

In the 16th century European contacts with Japan gave rise to a considerable literature by travelers and foreign missionaries on the Japanese, their culture, behavior, and patterns of thinking. In turn this had some impact on Japanese self-images, when this material began to be read by many Japanese after the Meiji Restoration; and this tradition of cross-cultural discourse forms an important background component in the rise of the modern nihonjinron.

Kokugaku, beginning as a scholarly investigation into the philology of Japan's early classical literature, sought to recover and evaluate these texts, some of which were obscure and difficult to read, in order to appraise them positively and harvest them to determine and ascertain what were the original indigenous values of Japan before the introduction of Chinese civilization.

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These scholars worked independently, and reached different conclusions, but by the 19th century were grouped together by a neo-Kokugakuist named Konakamura to establish the earliness of Japanese self-awareness. The irony was that the intellectual techniques, textual methods and cultural strategies used by nativist scholars against Confucianism borrowed heavily from currents in both Chinese thought Taoist, Confucian and Buddhist and their Japanese offshoots.

In similar wise, scholars detect in modern Japanese nationalism, of which the nihonjinron are the resonant if melodiously subdued, post-war echo, many features that derived from borrowings abroad, from the large resources of cultural nationalism mined in European countries during their own respective periods of nation-formation.

The Journal of Japanese Studies

Under the alias of assertions of difference, nationalisms, in Japan as elsewhere, borrow promiscuously from each other's conceptual hoards, and what may seem alien turns out often to be, once studied closely, merely an exotic variation on an all too familiar theme. In the second half of the 19th century, under strong military and diplomatic pressure, and suffering from an internal crisis that led to the collapse of the Bakufu , Japan opened its ports, and subsequently the nation, to commerce with the outside world and reform that sought to respond vigorously to the challenges of modern industrial polities, as they were remarked on by Japanese observers in the United States and Europe.

The preponderant place of China as model and cultural adversary in the cognitive models developed hitherto was occupied by the West. But, whereas Japan's traditional engagement with Chinese civilization was conducted in terms of a unilateral debate, now Japanese scholars and thinkers could read directly what Westerners, themselves fascinated by the 'exoticism' of Japanese culture, said and wrote of them.

Japanese contact with, and responses to these emerging Western stereotypes, which reflected the superiority complex, condescension and imperial hauteur of the times, fed into Japanese debates on national identity. As Leslie Pincus puts it, speaking of a later phase:. Just as ukiyo-e were first reimported back into Japan from Paris museums and private European collections after World War 1, less tangible aspects of the cultural past were newly rediscovered by Japanese visitors in Europe. But whether material or ethereal, the artifacts of Japanese culture had become indelibly inflected by Europe's fascination with, or depreciation of, one of its cultural others.

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There ensued an intense period of massive social and economic change, as, under the direction of a developmental elite, Japan moved from the closed world of centuries of Tokugawa rule the so-called sakoku period to Meiji Westernization, and, again in close conformity with the prevailing occidental paradigm, to imperialist adventurism with the growth of the colonialism. Total economic, military and spiritual mobilization could not stave off defeat however, and slowly, under occupation, and then rapidly with its reasserted independence, Japan enjoyed a decades-long resurgence as global industrial and economic powerhouse until the crisis of the s.

The cultural patterns over this century long trajectory is one of a continuous oscillation between models of pronounced Westernization and traditionalist autarky. A major controversy surrounds the question regarding the affiliation of the post-war nihonjinron theories with the prewar conceptualization of Japanese cultural uniqueness. To what degree, that is, are these meditations under democracy on Japanese uniqueness innocent reflections of a popular search for identity, and in what measure, if any, do they pick up from the instrumental ideology of Japaneseness developed by government and nationalists in the prewar period to harness the energies of the nation towards industrialization and global imperium?

The questions are rendered more complex by the fact that in the early post-war period, the restoration of a 'healthy nationalism' was by no means something exclusive to right-wing cultural thinkers. These debates ranged from liberal center-left critics to radical Marxist historians. Some scholars cite the destruction of many Japanese national symbols and the psychological blow of defeat at the end of World War II as one source of nihonjinron's enduring popularity, although it is not a uniquely 20th century phenomenon. In fact the genre is simply the Japanese reflex of cultural nationalism, which is a property of all modern nations.

The trend of the tone of nihonjinron argument is often reflective of the Japanese society at the time.

Marxist history and postwar Japanese nationalism / Curtis Anderson Gayle.

Peter Dale, covering the period analysed by the Nomura survey, distinguished three major phrases in the development of post-war nihonjinron discourse:. Tamotsu Aoki subsequently finessed the pattern by distinguishing four major phases in the post war identity discourse. In Dale's proposal, this drift from negative uniqueness to positive evaluation of uniqueness is a cyclical trend, since he believes the same pattern can be detected in the literature on identity for the period from to , from early Meiji times down to the end of World War Two. Nihonjinron, in Dale's view, recycle prewar Japanese nationalist rhetoric, and betray similar ends. For Aoki, contrariwise, they are natural movements in a national temper which seeks, as has been the case with other nations, its own distinctive path of cultural autonomy and social organization as Japan adapts itself to the global world order forged by the West.

During the early post-war period, most of nihonjinron discourses discussed the uniqueness of the Japanese in a rather negative, critical light.

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Some features of WorldCat will not be available. Heinrich Michael Die Wissenschaft vom Wert. At the same time, however, it is also necessary to assume that similarities between prewar and postwar versions of historical constructionism by Marxist historians each had their respective historical and political contexts. Optional message. He, Y Remembering and forgetting the war: Elite mythmaking, mass reaction and Sino-Japanese relations, — Within Marxist history, — 65 this emerging debate over whether Japanese democracy should hold on to earlier paradigms of world history or focus more upon the need for socialist revolution through ethnic national unity, the issues of popular agency and culture would become crucial. This party is an historical outgrowth of a powerful and highly controversial Buddhist sectfounded in , the Soka Gakkai.

The elements of feudalism reminiscent of the Imperial Japan were all castigated as major obstacles to Japan's reestablishment as a new democratic nation. Search WorldCat Find items in libraries near you. Advanced Search Find a Library. Public Private. Note: Access and manage your saved searches from your WorldCat profile page.

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