Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 547–586 | Cite as

The Instinctual Nation-State: Non-Darwinian Theories, State Science and Ultra-Nationalism in Oka Asajirō’s Evolution and Human Life

  • Gregory SullivanEmail author


In his anthology of socio-political essays, Evolution and Human Life, Oka Asajirō (1868–1944), early twentieth century Japan’s foremost advocate of evolutionism, developed a biological vision of the nation-state as super-organism that reflected the concerns and aims of German-inspired Meiji statism and anticipated aspects of radical ultra-nationalism. Drawing on non-Darwinian doctrines, Oka attempted to realize such a fused or organic state by enhancing social instincts that would bind the minzoku (ethnic nation) and state into a single living entity. Though mobilization during the Russo-Japanese War seemed to evince this super-organism, the increasingly contentious and complex society that emerged in the war’s aftermath caused Oka to turn first to Lamarckism and eventually to orthogenesis in the hopes of preserving the instincts needed for a viable nation-state. It is especially in the state interventionist measures that Oka finally came to endorse in order to forestall orthogenetically-driven degeneration that the technocratic proclivities of his statist orientation become most apparent. The article concludes by suggesting that Oka’s emphasis on degeneration, autarkic expansion, and, most especially, totalitarian submersion of individuals into the statist collectivity indicates a complex relationship between his evolutionism and fascist ideology, what recent scholarship has dubbed radical Shinto ultra-nationalism.


evolution Japan Darwinism fascism statism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.United States Merchant Marine AcademyKings PointUSA

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