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Other titles in the Wellek Library Lectures series:
History's Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural Practice, and the Question of Everyday Life (Wellek Library Lectures)
Synopses & Reviews
America's preeminent intellectual historian of modern Japan inaugurates a challenging debate on the arbitrary cultural divisions of our world, and in the process sheds light on the troubling academic enterprise called "area studies." This is one of the first works to explore on equal footing the European and Japanese conceptions of modernity — as imagined in the writings of Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, as well as ethnologist Yanagita Kunio and Marxist philosopher Tosaka Jun.
Book News Annotation:
A historiographical discussion of European and Japanese conceptions of modernity. Harootunian (history, New York U.) draws on the writings of George Simmel and Walter Benjamin, as well as Japanese thinkers such as ethnologist Yanagita Kunio and Marxist philosopher Tosaka Jun, and argues that even Japanese concepts of modernity have perpetuated a false distinction between an "inside" of Euro-America and an "outside" of the rest of the world. He proposes an examination of "everyday life," which he feels would eliminate these distinctions and boundaries.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Acclaimed historian Harry Harootunian calls attention to the boundaries, real and theoretical, that compartmentalize the world around us. In one of the first works to explore on equal footing European and Japanese conceptions of modernity — as imagined in the writings of Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin, as well as ethnologist Yanagita Kunio and Marxist philosopher Tosaka Jun — Harootunian seeks to expose the problematic nature of scholarly categories. In doing so, History's Disquiet presents intellectual genealogies of such orthodox notions as field and modernity and other concepts intellectuals in the East and West have used to understand the changing world around them. Contrasting reflections on everyday life in Japan and Europe, Harootunian shows how responses to capitalist society were expressed in similar ways: social critics in both regions alleged a broad sense of alienation, particularly among the middle class. However, he also points out that Japanese critics viewed modernity as a condition in which Japan — without the lengthy period of capitalist modernization that characterized Europe and America — was either catching up with those regions or copying them.
As elegantly written as it is controversial, this book is both an invitation for rethinking intellectual boundaries and an invigorating affirmation that such boundaries can indeed be broken down.
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