“To Become As One Dead”

Julia Adeney Thomas

in The Moral Authority of Nature

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780226136806
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226136820 | DOI:
“To Become As One Dead”

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Writing in the aftermath of World War II, Japanese political theorist Maruyama Masao attacked the tyranny of nature in the name of political emancipation. In contrast to Frankfurt School intellectuals who traced German fascism to the ruthless mastery of nature, he blamed Japanese fascism on enslavement to nature, understood as the dead hand of tradition and the indolence of sensual pleasures. Central to Maruyama's criticism of Japan's totalitarian system was the idea that Japan had not yet escaped nature's hegemony. Indeed, prewar and wartime ideology made the Japanese nation the embodiment of nature, equating the existing national community with nature itself. In such a system, Maruyama argued, autonomous individuals could never hope to flourish because of the extraordinary difficulty of imagining their world other than how they found it. If nature was defined as Japanese culture and Japanese culture as nature, there was no authority for challenging the status quo unless one turned, subversively as Maruyama did, to resources outside Japanese tradition, resources suspect as unpatriotic as well as lacking the justificatory force of either nature or culture. In short, according to Maruyama, nature still dominated Japanese ideology, deforming the modernity and the freedom for which he somewhat ambiguously yearned.

Keywords: Maruyama Masao; nature; Japanese fascism; national community; Japanese culture; modernity; Japanese ideology

Chapter.  9740 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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