By George A. De Vos
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Additional resources for Socialization for Achievement: Essays on the Cultural Psychology of the Japanese (Center for Japanese Studies)
As tensions in China escalated during the early 1930s, historians became increasingly concerned with understanding how Japanese capitalism and modernization could be transformed, and what had made Japanese society rather different from other industrialized countries. For Marxist historians, it was equally clear that Japan had to be distinguished from both Western Europe and from Asia. 7 Applied to an analysis of the Japanese imperial system, for instance, this meant that the emperor could be seen as an example of “Asian despotism,” an idea that reinforced Japan’s place within Marx’s idea of a “static Orient” in the Asiatic Mode of Production Theses.
Even though prewar historical constructionism served as a counter-discourse against Japanese imperialism, and what was seen as a subordinate form of multi-ethnic statehood, prewar historians were not able to initiate a social project through which to mobilize the ethnic nation in Japan. This meant that their assumptions of national homogeneity, based upon race, would not become the basis for mass political movements from below, nor made the lynchpin to social action and political culture. Looked at from the burning desire of the early 1950s to fuse history with politics and social revolution, therefore, earlier attempts to liberate the Japanese nation and its cousins in East Asia, must have seemed a fatally flawed, though well-intentioned, exercise in historical commentary.
In effect, Hayakawa added a new aspect to the agency or ability of the people to produce historical change, by putting political consciousness within the domain of the people, rather than economic conditions, on the one hand, or the modern state, on the other. By extension, then, revolution in Japan depended upon activating and utilizing the power of ordinary people (via ethnic national consciousness) to produce social change toward new forms of social organizations. From this approach, Hayakawa also thought it necessary to consider how “national essentialism” (kokusuishugi) had facilitated the unique combination of monopoly capital and imperial expansion in modern Japanese history.
Socialization for Achievement: Essays on the Cultural Psychology of the Japanese (Center for Japanese Studies) by George A. De Vos