Nature, Culture and the Debate with Modernity: Critical Social Theory in Japan

  • John Clammer


This chapter discusses the possibility of there being different forms of critical theory, by addressing gaps and silences in Western critical theory and by suggesting that in an age of globalization other forms of social theory should be widely accessible to a more universal audience. It takes as its example Japanese social thought, and on this basis shows that there can be different forms of sociology and of social thought based on very different premises from that of Western social science. The chapter suggests that the Utopian impulse is still very much alive in Japanese social thought, and that this derives in large part from the sources of indigenous Japanese social theory, sources that include Buddhism with its very different epistemology and ontology to Judeo-Christian forms of religion, from a non-anthropocentric view of the universe that gives a far larger role to nature than does Western social theory, which prioritizes an aesthetic approach to reality, is non-dualistic and does not recognize the sharp subject/object distinction characteristic of much Western philosophy. The chapter explores the creation of a Japanese form of social and critical theory based on these foundations, and on the basis of these suggests that the nature of Japanese emancipatory projects is different from that found elsewhere. It suggests in conclusion that this points to a radically different form of social theory, and one which interrogates some basic assumptions of Western social thought.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Clammer
    • 1
  1. 1.Jindal School of Liberal Arts and HumanitiesOP Jindal Global UniversitySonipatIndia

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