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Bibliographic Data: Maruyama Masao. Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan. Trans. Mikiso Hane. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1974. [1952]

Main Argument: That the entirety of Tokugawa (samurai) intellectual thought can be traced via the introduction of the thesis of Zhu Xi Confucianism and its antithesis, the Sorai school, which in itself was succeeded by its antithesis, the kokugaku of Norinaga. These, combined with other elements, provided a new synthesis that gave birth to the intellectual movements backing up the rebellious young samurai of the bakumatsu period. (Yes, this is quite consciously put in Hegelian terms on my part, since Maruyama is uncritically Hegelian.)

Historiographical Engagement: Ostensibly with the writings of the scholars that he mentions, but mostly against Zhu Xi philosophy as understood in Japan, with the Sorai school, with kokugaku in the form of Norinaga, with Andô Shôeki, and with Fukuzawa Yukichi.

Introduction: Argument, Sources, Examples Maruyama's introduction, written in 1974 for the English edition, begins by outlining the intellectual conditions of production for the individual essays (the three parts of this book) which appeared in Kokka Gakkai Zasshi from 1940 to 1944. These conditions included vigilant paranoia about one's words being misunderstood (or too clearly understood) by the special thought police (tokkô) and a brief outline of imperial scholarship on earlier eras of Japanese thought, beginning with the concern for theories of national morality (kokumin dôtokuron) [for greater history of these movements, see Andrew Barshay's The Social Sciences in Modern Japan]. Maruyama mentions his debt to Karl Mannheim's sociology of knowledge and says that in the first two essays, broadly speaking, he was trying to argue against the so-called Kyoto school of the "overcome by modernity" thinkers, specifically that 1) "contemporary Japan was still not so modernized that the 'overcoming of modernity' could conceivably be the greatest problem on the agenda" and that 2) "it was not true, as the glorifiers of tradition would have it, that there was an Oriental Spirit, quite alien to all concepts of 'modernity,' which was maintained intact and impervious to the vicissitudes of history" (xxxii). To his credit, at the end Maruyama correctly identifies two of the book's major problems, namely that the "evolutionary schema" of Neo-Confucianism he lays out does not "stand up to the historical evidence" and his assumption that Tokugawa Confucianism did not change at all in Japan (xxxv).

Part 1 - The Sorai School: Its Role in the Disintegration of Tokugawa Confucianism and Its Impact on National Learning
Chapter I.1: Argument, Sources, Examples In "The Formation of Tokugawa Confucianism," Maruyama uncritically accepts Hegel's assertion that the Chinese empire, and Confucianism, were "static." He goes on to review the formation of what he terms Tokugawa feudalism and claims that in the Edo period "an objective ethical code not founded merely upon human sentiments was needed as an ideological aid for the control of the vassals. It is easy to see that the master-servant of Confucianism readily met this need" (10). Unlike in China [NB: take everything Maruyama says about China with a tablespoon of salt], in Japan "Tokugawa Confucianism gained significance as a preeminently educational discipline, and its studies were no longer confined to a narrow circle of scholars but to some extent were opened to the public by independent Confucians," which was made possible by the emergence of Song [Sung] philosophy (13).

Chapter I.2: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter covers "The Zhu Xi [Chu Hsi] Mode of Thought and its Dissolution." According to Maruyama, several of the Zhu Xi philosophical system's characteristics explain "its monopolistic position in the intellectual world of the early Tokugawa period": "a moralistic rationalism, a naturalism incorporating moral rigorism, a continuative mode of thought, and a propensity to quiescence and contemplation," with "an optimistic strain" running through all of the above (31). However, Zhu Xi philosophy rapidly lost popularity in favor of ancient learning (kogaku) from the middle of the Edo period, when the Sorai school gained dominance. Yamaga Sokô and Itô Jinsai formulated earlier critiques of Zhu Xi, the former by criticizing "moralistic Zhu Xi rationalism" and seeking "to transform the negative character of its concept of 'human desire' into a positive one by establishing the independence of nature" (50), the latter by "emphasizing the normative aspects of the system … by reinforcing its practico-ethical character" (50-51). According to Maruyama, these critiques inevitably led to the emergence of the historical consciousness that Zhu Xi thought lacked, and the chapter concludes by outlining the thought of Kaibara Ekiken, who published Daigiroku ("Grave doubts") about Zhu Xi philosophy the year of his death in 1714. Ekiken first came to doubt the existence of Principle (理) and then to doubt the veracity of Zhu Xi's theories themselves, since Zhu Xi was not one of the ancient sages and thus was fallible. As Maruyama says, "when continuity of the hierarchy of ordinary men, wise men, and sages broke down, the sages were absolutely exalted, while the wise men in the middle were downgraded" (67).

Chapter I.3: Argument, Sources, Examples This massive chapter covers "The Unique Characteristics of the Sorai School." According to Maruyama, "the starting point of the Sorai school of thought and its methodology is what Sorai called 'the study of old phrases and syntax' (kobunji-gaku)" (76). Sorai believed that the Way of the Sages was absolute, "and therefore, far form being opposed to other modes of thought, it includes them all within it" (84). Sorai "ascribed relative values to the various theories and concepts that had hitherto been accepted uncritically as absolutes" (78). Thus, ironically, Sorai "politicized" Confucianism, because for Sorai, "the Way is fundamentally social; it is not a goal to be realized by the individual" (88) because Sorai's pessimism is such that his view of human existence is that it is "fragmentary and particularistic" in contrast to the all-inclusive and universal Way. Sorai's historical consciousness delimited the Way based on the institutions of the era of Yao and Xun, meaning that "once this otherworldly period has passed, all institutions, rites, and music are clearly relative, limited in time and space. [But] because the Way is absolute in its otherworldliness, it displays its binding power concretely and empirically only in historically unique circumstances" (97). According to Maruyama, this split in Sorai's thinking divides into a "public" and "private" sphere, and "the independence of the public domain in every sphere of human activity, which implies the liberation of the private domain, is surely the crucial hallmark of 'the modern'" (103). Sorai's thought culminated in the liberation of individual morality (i.e. the private or inner life) "as a result of the sublimation of standards (the Way) in the political" (106). Maruyama concludes the chapter by denigrating the chônin (urban residents of the Edo period) as gormless parasites who could not develop capitalism independently. For Maruyama, the "contradictions" of the Genroku era are vital to understanding the emergence of the Sorai school, which politicized Confucianism by locating the Way in bureaucracy.

Chapter I.4: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter covers "The Sorai School's Relationship to National Learning, Especially to the Norinaga School." According to Maruyama, Sorai's influence was felt more among his opponents than among his followers, who mostly took the "private" option he had outlined by delineating Confucianism into two separate spheres. Sorai's school represented the last flowering of Confucianism in Japan, and the school of thought that replaced it was kokugaku, which Maruyama defines as "the set of intellectual systems developed by these men, in particular the system developed by Kamo Mabuchi and perfected by Motoori Norinaga" (143). According to Maruyama, the structural and personal relationships between these schools are the key to understanding the intellectual development of the Tokugawa period, and the first move that Norinaga made was to take Sorai's contention that the Way is an invention of the sages and use it to deny rather than to authorize its validity. Because Norinaga opposed the move to fuse traditional Shinto with Confucianism, he declared that the Ancient Way was "a creation of the ancestral gods" (156). Sorai and Norinaga are also related in their "desire to remove all subjective arbitrariness from philological analysis went hand in hand with the attitude that places absolute faith in personified entities" (160), i.e. "their common denial of the supremacy of impersonal ideas" (163), and in their historical consciousness. The third relationship lies in the fact that Sorai's "severance of the continuity between norms and nature in Zhu Xi philosophy led to a double development: on the one hand, to the purification of normative standards, and on the other, to the liberation of natural characteristics. However, until Norinaga, all the emphasis was put on the former" (165), but Norinaga founded the Way in (ancient) natural human sentiments, which Maruyama terms "a truly sensitive optimism" (166). Both Sorai and Norinaga also sought to liberate literature from politics, with the eventual result that Norinaga elevated an aesthetic (mono no aware) to the very essence of Shinto: "the fact that literature was politicized while remaining literature meant that politics was aestheticized" (171). Thus it is no surprise, as Maruyama notes, that Norinaga's thought "deprived the Tokugawa bakufu of the possibility of obtaining an a priori and absolute foundation" (175)--this thought led to authorizing the bifurcation of society into rulers and ruled, because feeling had no legitimate place in the public sphere. Kokugaku "inherited the Sorai school's private, nonpolitical side while completely rejecting its public side" (171).

Chapter I.5: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter, the conclusion to the first essay, contends that Maruyama has hereby outlined the process by which "a modern consciousness emerged" (177). For Maruyama, this consciousness constitutes rationalism, which necessitates abandoning the orientation towards the metaphysical. But the irrational principles of Sorai and Norinaga were "endowed with modernity" through "the unique features of Zhu Xi philosophy": "the various domains such as politics, history, literature, and so on, which had been completely bound to ethics by the continuative [i.e. static] mode of thought of the Zhu Xi system, began to break their fetters and demand cultural 'citizenship.' … This autonomy of cultural values is the emblematic form of the modern consciousness as a 'divided consciousness' (Hegel)" (183-84).

Part II - Nature and Invention in Tokugawa Poltical Thought: Contrasting Institutional Views
Chapter II.1: Argument, Sources, Examples In this introduction to the easy, Maruyama argues that because the "points of view or schools [of thought in the Tokugawa period] all accepted the feudal social order absolutely as a conditio sine qua non, politically and socially their content is undeniably flat and monotonous" (189). Maruyama sets out to argue that the "development of Confucian thought from the Zhu Xi school to the Sorai school was mirrored in differences in attitudes towards the feudal social order and its justification" (191).

Chapter II.2: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter covers "Zhu Xi Philosophy and the Idea of Natural Order." Maruyama argues that "the Zhu Xi mode of thought naturalized the ethical standards of Confucianism in two ways. First, it rooted normative standards in the order of the universe (the Principle of Heaven [理]); and second, it held these standards to exist innately in human nature as man's 'original nature' (honzen no sei)" (198, emphasis original). For Zhu Xi thought, then, these norms are either a social ideology or a revolutionary principle against a non-normative social ideology. According to Maruyama, for Tokugawa thinkers at least until Jinsai, "the basic norms of the feudal society may not have been a natural order in the substantial sense, but for these men norms still endured, constituting a natural order in themselves" (205).

Chapter II.3: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter covers "The Sorai School Revolution" and essentially covers why, from another angle, Sorai invented historical consciousness (according to Maruyama). According to Maruyama, for Sorai the Zhu Xi justification for social relations (i.e. on natural laws) was too optimistic and ineffective because it was "too far removed from reality" (207). Sorai emphasized the Will of Heaven (天命) over the Way of Heaven (天道) and "asserted that the Way was independent of and superordinate to the innate qualities of human nature" (210) because it was a concrete set of institutions and rites invented by the Early Kings. The question is, which is to be master? Which came first, people or Ideas? Sorai's answer to these questions led to two problems: "first, a new basis was needed for the ultimate standards of feudal society. Second, he had to formulate forceful political measures that would overcome the prevailing social disorder" (217). [Whatever, Maruyama.] ["To overthrow the ruler is easy; to find someone who would benefit the kingdom is difficult."] Because human invention now had independent validity, Sorai was able to argue for a "back to the land" re-feudalization policy which, of course, no one was ever going to implement or take seriously, because living on credit in cities with commercial goods is way better than living on berries in the woods like the idealized samurai of old. NB: Sorai hated merchants too.

Chapter II.4: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter, "The Historical Significance of the Transition from Nature to Invention," contains the highest concentration of Maruyama's productive misreadings of European political philosophy. I'm not going to rehash all the ways in which Maruyama is specifically wrong. The point is that in Maruyama's interpretation, "in the transformation of the ideology of natural order, the role played by God in the West was played by the sages in the Sorai school in Japan" (236), and that according to Maruyama, Sorai's letting the genie of "the logic of invention" in social order and political thought out of the bottle was the ultimate intellectual license to overthrow the social order.

Chapter II.5: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter covers "The Logic of Invention as Developed by Shôeki and Norinaga." (NB: Maruyama hates Genroku, probably because people were having fun in the Genroku era, and no one should be having fun in the Tokugawa dystopia.) Maruyama takes these two figures as representative of the intellectual tendency after the Kyôhô era to avail themselves of the concept of "nature" to authorize their resistance to the feudal order, which was the product of invention. Shôeki was an intellectual isolate who argued that (not unlike Rousseau in some respects) the sages, who had organized society, were responsible for the ultimate corruptions thereof and that the answer to current social ills was to return to (the state of) nature. (In his insistence that the world consists only of self-induced motion, his thought also bears a marked resemblance to Lucretius.) It's highly ironic that Maruyama scolds Shôeki for not having "the active element necessary to bring out the transformation from the world of law [back] to the world of nature" (263) and kokugaku for not developing into "a revolutionary ideology" (269) when Maruyama himself couldn't be arsed to give a single public lecture in support of the answer to Japan's "wager" that he sought in 1960. As for Norinaga, Maruyama writes that kokugaku "began as the champion of nature against man-made standards, but in order to prevent nature itself from becoming a normative standard, it made nature dependent on the invention of the gods. Thus it had ultimately to accept the logical conclusion of the theory of autonomous invention" (i.e. Sorai's innovation) (271).

Chapter II.6: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter covers "Further Developments and Stagnation in the Bakumatsu Period," much of which Maruyama is simply wrong about. His real concern is why there wasn't an English or French Revolution in the later Tokugawa period (think about that question carefully, and you'll have your answer), and he concludes that "the common feature that limited the revolutionary character of the theories of social reform of the later Tokugawa period was the fact that all the proposed systems were to be imposed from above. The common people were assigned no active role in the implementation of the changes" (300, emphasis original). (NB: This is not actually why there was not an English or French Revolution in the later Tokugawa period.) Maruyama briefly covers the emergence of jôi thinking from the Mito school, which "saw the feudal hierarchy as the characteristic way of Japan and its preservation as the precondition for Japan's protection against foreign foes" (304) and was almost immediately buttressed by sonnô, which "rather than calling for any transformation of the feudal order, arose at first as an ideological transformation of it" (ibid). We end with the Freedom and Popular Rights movement of the 1880s, which ranged the adherents of Enlightenment natural rights theory (society and social norms are valid because they were invented by man) against the adherents of natural law theory in the Burkean tradition, i.e. the Meiji government. No points for guessing who won. Exeunt, swallowed up by Leviathan.

Part III - The Premodern Formation of Nationalism
Chapter III.1: Argument, Sources, Examples Maruyama says some stuff about nationalism that is mostly wrong and self-contradictory (every nationalism is unique; but at the same time "the fact that nationalism is willing to risk contradictions and collisions with the nation's traditional mode of existence in the interest of its own development indicates that a political national consciousness is not a natural, self-generating entity" (326)). Just go read Benedict Anderson.

Chapter III.2: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter explores "National Consciousness under Tokugawa Feudalism" and is very obviously warped by the conditions under which Maruyama wrote it, namely the paranoid cultural particularism of the early 1940s. The one thing he points out worth mentioning is the growth of sectionalism, which entwined "vertical status divisions" with "horizontal geographic divisions" (331)--recall Kären Wigen's argument that geography became the permissible mode of difference in Meiji Japan.

Chapter III.3: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter covers "Varieties of Premodern Nationalism" despite the fact that in the preceding chapter he declared absolutely that the Tokugawa period had eroded the national spirit and "stubbornly impeded the consolidation of the people into a nationstate [sic] system founded upon a sense of national unity" (341) (note the extreme teleology of this view, among other problems). Speaking of the last years of the bakufu, Maruyama notes that the jôi theory of the feudal lords (daimyo, presumably) fused with the pro-imperial, pro-bakufu movement of fukoku kyôhei, while remaining divergent from the sonnô-jôi movement of the young dissatisfied samurai of Satsuchô, who were explicitly for the overthrow of the bakufu and the transformation of Japan's institutions. The overall tendency of the period was for the demand for national unity to take two complimentary forms in terms of domestic policy: centralization of power in the hands of the state, and extension of its distribution throughout the country. But in the context of the Tokugawa social status system, this proto-nationalism could only go so far (i.e. the samurai and the aristocrats), and it was the task of Meiji to oversee "what Fukuzawa Yukichi called 'the implantation of the concept of "nation" in the minds of the people of the entire country" (367). Having made Japan, they now had to make Japanese.

Critical assessment: When we discussed this book in seminar my professor remarked that it was the passing of an age in that we were largely anti-Maruyama. I accept that label; I think there are serious problems with Maruyama-dolatry, and I think that this book has serious problems, starting with the fact that this book is literally soaked in Hegelian thought patterns. I find the fact that Maruyama's entire argument rests upon a demonstrably partial understanding of the Chu Hsi school of philosophy and its context in the Tokugawa period mildly disturbing: if your argument isn't grounded in historical evidence, why don't we all just go home and get novel contracts? I'm mindful, of course, that the same criticism of partiality could be levied, mutatis mutandis, against some of my favorite works (such as Prasenjit Duara's Sovereignty and Authenticity), but I do think it's an important point to bear in mind when considering Maruyama. I also think we should bear in mind that people in Japan don't read this book anymore because it's mostly wrong about many important things, such as whether society was in "decline" in the Tokugawa period (hint: no). I think it's also worth mentioning that all the thinkers he investigates here, with the possible exception of Shôeki, were very much part of the feudal system in that they were all samurai. Tetsuo Najita's Osaka merchants would have very different things to say about the feudal order, as would the aristocrats of old Kyoto who were Japan's first historians.

My overarching complaint against him, however, is not that in his telling everything in modern Japan is always a tragedy conditioned by a lack (although it is; what is this, Nietzsche as badly rewritten through Freud?), but more fundamentally that Maruyama doesn't seem to want to confront the fact that, even in its anti-modern hypernationalism, Japan was irrefutably, un-overcomeably modern, through and through. This inability to acknowledge that fundamental paradox seems to have driven him to seek the roots of Japan's foreordained tragic defeat and the end of its empire in a particular intellectual strand of the "feudal" Tokugawa period. When you know what you're looking for in advance, it's easy to find it, particularly when you're willing to ignore inconvenient truths that could have provided strong counter-arguments. It may be that this aspect of the book was conditioned by the era in which the essays were originally written, but given Maruyama's introduction, which he wrote thirty years later, on balance it seems not.

I'm being, in my own way, as partial as I'm charging Maruyama is. It would be more charitable to say that the entire book is founded on a series of productive misreadings, particularly of the European intellectual tradition (my political theorist roommate's rant about Maruyama's misreadings of Hobbes could easily fill several paragraphs). More disturbing is the way that Maruyama wholesale appropriated the prejudices of his favorite writers such as Weber and applied them uncritically to the Japanese situation: the entire diatribe on the historical significance of the ascendancy of the chônin is transparently founded on second-hand anti-Semitism by way of Weber and his fellows, who tried desperately to find the roots of capitalism in good upright German Christians, not those nasty foreign usurious Jews. Maruyama's later airy anti-Semitic comment that the Sorai school was "like the Jews" almost doesn't deserve to be singled out in light of the larger underlying problems with his adaptation of the Weberian paradigm, but I'll be thorough for the sake of driving the point home.

Again, my point here is not even so much that this is objectionable (although it is) as that it should, I think, give us all an existential pause: if Maruyama, who was widely acknowledged as a genius in his own lifetime (note the translator's introduction to this volume, which basically implies that he can walk on water), couldn't get beyond the biases he inherited from his influences, what hope is there for the rest of us to be able to overcome (har) our intellectual forebears? My only thought for a way forward is that criticism of this type is the essential first step.

Further reading: Harootunian, Things Seen and Unseen: Discourse and Ideology in Tokugawa Nativism

Meta notes: 1. When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. 2. But the age of chivalry has ended. That of sophists, economists, and calculators has succeeded… 3. History is not always already a tragedy.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-08-18 23:29 (UTC)
lnhammer: a cartoonish figure dancing, seen from behind - caption "La!" (frivolity)
From: [personal profile] lnhammer
what is this, Nietzsche as badly rewritten through Freud?


When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.


(Of course, it doesn't help that my middle name is Neil.) (Also, why haven't I imported my 槌 icon to DW?)

Edited (also (and then wrong kanji - though why did IME suggest that one first anyway?)) Date: 2013-08-18 23:32 (UTC)


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Andrea J. Horbinski

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