Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology (Twentieth-century Japan, Volume 12)

May 4, 2021
Reconfiguring Modernity: Concepts of Nature in Japanese Political Ideology (Twentieth-century Japan, Volume 12)

Julia Adeney Thomas turns the concept of nature into a powerfulanalytical lens through which to view Japanese modernity, bringingthe study of both Japanese history and political modernity to a newlevel of clarity. She shows that nature necessarily functions as apolitical concept and that changing ideas of nature's politicalauthority were central during Japan's transformation from asemifeudal world to an industrializing colonial empire.In political documents from the nineteenth to the earlytwentieth century, nature was redefined, moving from the universal,spatial concept of the Tokugawa period, through temporal, socialDarwinian ideas of inevitable progress and competitive struggle, toa celebration of Japan as a nation uniquely in harmony with nature.The so-called traditional "Japanese love of nature" masks modernstate power.Thomas's theoretically sophisticated study rejects thesupposition that modernity is the ideological antithesis of nature,overcoming the determinism of the physical environment throughtechnology and liberating denatured subjects from the chains ofbiology and tradition. In making "nature" available as a criticalterm for political analysis, this book yields new insights intoprewar Japan's failure to achieve liberal democracy, as well as analternative means of understanding modernity and the position ofnon-Western nations within it.