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1 Beaverton Politics- International Studies

Governing the World: The History of an Idea

by

Governing the World: The History of an Idea Cover

 

 

Excerpt

In July 1942, just six months after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor and overwhelmed the Western powers in Southeast Asia, a number of distinguished Japanese scholars and intellectuals gathered for a conference in Kyoto. Some were literati of the so-called Romantic group; others were philosophers of the Buddhist/ Hegelian Kyoto school. Their topic of discussion was how to “overcome the modern.”

It was a time of nationalist zeal, and the intellectuals who attended the conference were all nationalists in one way or another; but oddly enough the war itself, in China, Hawaii, or Southeast Asia, was barely mentioned. At least one of the members, Hayashi Fusao, a former- Marxist-turned-ardent-nationalist, later wrote that the assault on the West had filled him with jubilation. Even though he was in freezing Manchuria when he heard the news, it felt as though dark clouds had lifted to reveal a clear summer sky. No doubt similar emotions came over many of his colleagues, but war propaganda was not the ostensible point of the conference. These men, the literary romantics as much as the philosophers, had been interested in overcoming the modern long before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Their conclusions, to the extent that they had enough coherence to be politically useful, lent themselves to propaganda for a new Asian order under Japanese leadership, but the intellectuals would have been horrified to be called propagandists. They were thinkers, not hacks.

“The modern” is in any case a slippery concept, but in Kyoto in 1942, as in Kabul or Karachi in 2001, it meant the West. But the West is almost as elusive as the modern. Japanese intellectuals had strong feelings about what they were up against, but had some difficulty defining exactly what that was. Westernization, one opined, was like a disease that had infected the Japanese spirit. The “modern thing,” said another, was a “European thing.” There was much talk about unhealthy specialization in knowledge, which had splintered the wholeness of Oriental spiritual culture. Science was to blame. And so were capitalism, and the absorption of modern technology, and individual freedoms, and democracy. All these had to be “overcome.” A leading film critic, Tsumura Hideo, excoriated Hollywood movies and praised the documentary films of Leni Riefenstahl about Nazi rallies, which were more in tune with his ideas on how to forge a healthy national community. In his view, the war against the West was a war against the “poisonous materialist civilization” built on Jewish financial capitalist power. All agreed that culture—that is, traditional Japanese culture—was spiritual and profound, whereas modern Western civilization was shallow, rootless, and destructive of creative power. The West, particularly the United States, was coldly mechanical. A wholistic, traditional, classical Orient, united under divine Japanese imperial rule, would restore the warm organic community to spiritual health. As one of the participants put it, the struggle was between Japanese blood and Western intellect.

The West, to Asians at that time, and to some extent still today, also meant colonialism. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, when China was humiliated in the Opium Wars, educated Japanese realized that national survival depended on careful study and emulation of Western ideas and technology. Never had a great nation embarked on such a radical transformation as Japan between the 1850s and 1910s. The main slogan of the Meiji Period (1868–1912) was “Bunmei Kaika,” or “Civilization and Enlightenment”; that is, Western civilization and enlightenment. Everything Western, from natural science to literary realism, was hungrily soaked up by Japanese intellectuals. European dress, Prussian constitutional law, British naval strategies, German philosophy, American cinema, French architecture, and much, much more were taken over and adapted. The modern, then, referred to that “European thing,” but also to the Japanese effort to make it their own.

The transformation paid off handsomely. Japan remained uncolonized and quickly became a great power that managed, in 1905, to defeat Russia in a thoroughly modern war. Japan’s industrial revolution did not come long after Germany’s, with equally dislocating effects. Large numbers of impoverished country people moved into the cities, where conditions could be cruel. The army was a brutal refuge for rural young men, and their sisters were sometimes sold to big city brothels. But economic problems aside, there was another reason many Japanese intellectuals sought to undo the wholesale westernization of the late nineteenth century. It was as though Japan suffered from intellectual indigestion. Western civilization had been swallowed too fast. And that is partly why that group of literati gathered in Kyoto to discuss ways of reversing history, overcoming the West, and returning to an idealized spiritual past.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594203497
Subtitle:
America's Inadvertent Rise to World Power
Author:
Mazower, Mark
Author:
Jian, Ma
Author:
Brenner, Joel
Author:
Achebe, Chinua
Author:
Ninkovich, Frank
Author:
Buruma, Ian
Author:
Ricks, Thomas E.
Author:
Yergin, Daniel
Author:
Margalit, Avishai
Author:
Drew, Flora
Author:
Ferguson, Niall
Publisher:
University Of Chicago Press
Subject:
World
Subject:
Civilization
Subject:
Germany
Subject:
Africa
Subject:
Military - General
Subject:
World History-General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Politics - General
Subject:
United States - General
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20140923
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
6 illus + 2 maps
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Politics » International Studies
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Foreign Policy
History and Social Science » World History » General

Governing the World: The History of an Idea Used Hardcover
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$19.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Penguin Press - English 9781594203497 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Frank Ninkovichs revisionist history of Americas relation to the world debunks American exceptionalism once and for all by showing how Americas role in the world has been driven less by its ideals than by its fears. What makes the United States special in the global arena is not its economic dominance, its aggressive foreign policy, or its influence over international institutions. Rather, the United States has become distinctive through its deep-seated and long-standing engagement with the forces of globalization—as well as the threats that they represent or embody. The United States has been exceptionally aware of globalizing forces because it has come to have the most to lose on their account. This magisterial overview of the real history of Americas role in the world will demystify, clarify, and — depending on your politics — enrage.
"Synopsis" by ,
A chilling and revelatory appraisal of the new faces of espionage and warfare on the digital battleground

Shortly after 9/11, Joel Brenner entered the inner sanctum of American espionage, first as the inspector general of the National Security Agency, then as the head of counterintelligence for the director of National Intelligence. He saw at close range the battleground on which adversaries are attacking us: cyberspace.

Like the rest of us, governments and corporations inhabit “glass houses,” all but transparent to a new generation of spies who operate remotely from such places as China, the Middle East, Russia, and even France. In this urgent wake-up call, Brenner draws on his extraordinary background to show what we can—and cannot—do to prevent cyber spies and hackers from compromising our security and stealing our latest technology.

"Synopsis" by ,
A majestic narrative reckoning with the forces that have shaped the nature and destiny of the worlds governing institutions

The story of global cooperation is a tale of dreamers goading us to find common cause in remedying humanitys worst problems. But international institutions are also tools for the powers that be to advance their own interests. Mark Mazowers Governing the World tells the epic, two-hundred-year story of that inevitable tension—the unstable and often surprising alchemy between ideas and power. From the rubble of the Napoleonic empire in the nineteenth century through the birth of the League of Nations and the United Nations in the twentieth century to the dominance of global finance at the turn of the millennium, Mazower masterfully explores the current era of international life as Western dominance wanes and a new global balance of powers emerges.

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