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The Origin and Development of Uchida’s Social Science

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Abstract

The thought of Yoshihiko Uchida is often called that of “civil society.” The word “civil society” or “bürgerliche Gesellschaft” is expressed in Japanese as shimin shakai. The term shimin shakai, while originating from Western connotations, came to have its own Japanese connotations, especially in postwar Japan, and as such played a role in postwar Japanese democratic thought. Uchida’s concept of “civil society” is no exception. In this chapter, we will follow the process of the formation and development of Uchida’s thought on civil society and social science. After a short introduction (Sect. 2.1), I will show that the young Uchida’s original understanding of civil society, which he formed through his research in various fields such as the debate over Japanese capitalism, economic history, social policy, and technology theory, is not yet settled and is in the midst of a great “shaking.” From these examinations, I will extract his original understanding of civil society (Sects. 2.22.3). Thereafter, Uchida dives into the study of Adam Smith looking for a way to settle this shaking. I trace the process by which his main work, The Birth of Economic Science (1953), finds a specific answer (Sect. 2.4). Finally, I will review how, in the latter half of his life, Uchida developed a concept of civil society unique to Japan and indeed even unique to Uchida. This concept went beyond the understanding in his first book, Birth (Sects. 2.52.6). A short conclusion follows (Sect. 2.7).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This is usually referred to as the “debate over Japanese capitalism,” through which Japanese Marxism is said to have reached a high theoretical level. The background and significance are as follows.

    The 1920s saw the publication of the first Japanese-language translation of Marx’s Capital. However, the capitalist world depicted in Capital differed greatly from Japan’s socio-economic realities at the time. The biggest issue was how to evaluate the remnants of feudal or semi-feudal systems, which at that point still proliferated throughout Japan. Were they transitory features that would necessarily disappear along with the capitalist development of Japan, or structural features that would necessarily survive as long as Japan remained capitalist? Were they a result of Japanese backwardness in terms of stages of capitalist development, or necessary elements specific to Japanese capitalism? In other words, it was also a debate over how to evaluate the nature and possibility of civil and modern socio-economic elements within a Japanese context. These questions provoked numerous disputes that comprised the “debate over Japanese capitalism” among Japanese Marxists in the 1930s.

    At the same time, this debate was also closely related to political strategies for socialist revolution. The Rōnō School considered feudalism a product of Japan’s backwardness, and insisted that Japan’s socio-economic development would catch-up to that of other advanced capitalist nations as its capitalist development progressed, and asserted that the coming revolution must be socialist. This school included, among many others, Tamizō Kushida (1885 - 1934) and Itsurō Sakisaka (1897 - 1985). On the other hand, the Kōza School, led by Moritarō Yamada (1898 - 1980) and Eitaō Noro (1900 - 1934), stressed the impossibility of dissolving feudalism under capitalism. They asserted that its survival was inevitable, that it would result in a specific type of Japanese capitalism, and that Japan required two revolutions: first a bourgeois one, and then a socialist one. This debate thus included many creative ideas on how to analyze the capitalist economies of the day outside of a Western context.

  2. 2.

    The N.N.N. paper is said to have been written by Uchida after discussions with Kyōji Tazoe.

  3. 3.

    As for the relation between “law of value” and “modern productive forces,” we must turn to Uchida’s article ‘On Domestic Markets’ (Uchida 1947a; CW 10). “The ‘dynamics’ of the development of modern productive forces have been grasped by Smith and Marx in their law of value. As an academic representative of the progressive bourgeoisie, Smith sought the complete flowering of a high degree of productive forces of labor, as represented by the manufacture, and the increase of general welfare, in the realization of the law of value. As a founder of scientific socialism, Marx succeeded to and developed the labor theory of value and saw the accomplishment of socialist society in gigantic productive forces themselves, which would be realized in the penetration process of the law of value. We won’t be able to move forward even one step without arriving at a correct understanding of Smith and Marx. … In this case … what is important is that, in both Smith and Marx, the powerful development of productive forces in capitalist society, regardless of whether its form of movement is conceived of as harmonious or contradictory, was linked with the realization of the law of value. … In Smith, the formation of modern society as a developmental form of productive forces is not achieved by a free display of ‘self-interest’ in general. … On the contrary, modern society is established just to the extent that people of the middle and lower classes in society are emancipated from social and natural fetters and can freely show their ‘self-interest.’ That is, in them, the ‘presupposition’ of observing ‘justice’ or the ‘commonplace moral’ operates as an ethical, legal, and custom-like coercion to the maintenance of equivalence relation and thus links the realization of self-interest to the realization of the virtue of ‘prudence’ like thrift, diligence, reflectiveness, carefulness, and so on. Then there appears … a formation and development of social and natural relations and nodes that is necessary for the development of modern productive forces, such as exchange, division of labor, accumulation of money, its use as capital, and especially the division of labor in manufacture, etc. And then … we can see the establishment and deepening of a systematic commercial society – ‘domestic markets’ – that constitutes the foundation of a full flourishing of high-level productive forces, which in turn are based on it, and that is constituted and developed just ‘like grammar’ by the individuals independent of the past groups and by the law of value itself.” (Uchida 1947a: 96–98; CW10: 91–93, emphasis Uchida's) Let us note that, here already, Uchida proposes a trinity: law of value = justice (ethics) = modern productive forces, that is, an important facet of civil society.

  4. 4.

    Concerning theories of Ōtsuka, Taketani and Ōkōchi, see Nozawa (2016), especially its Part I, Chapter 4.

  5. 5.

    Modernization or establishment of civil society “from below,” not “from above,” would become the standpoint from which Uchida’s thought would be formed and deepened. This means that his main purpose consists in the criticism of, not “the modern in general,” but “the negative aspects of modernization from above.” (cf. Murakami 2004).

  6. 6.

    One of the core chapters in Birth (Part I, Chapter 4) is available in English translation as Uchida (2017).

  7. 7.

    According to Yagi (2017), civil-society theory in postwar Japan confronted “not a pre-modern Japan, but rather a postwar political and economic system that mobilized resources for economic recovery and growth” (ibid. 107).

  8. 8.

    According to Reading and Social Science (Uchida 1985), the acquirement of academic words is, in a sense, easier than that of technical words in various fields of activity, insofar as one makes an effort according to defined promises and procedures. In fact, the establishment of empirical science in modern society facilitates this kind of objective transmission of sciences (ibid. 98; CW 9: 74). However, at the same time, academic language, which should be a common language, has descended into jargon and has become language for scholars. Uchida severely criticizes this decadence. “By its nature, academic language should break down the jargon-like character between languages of various social groups, create a common platform for conversation, and become a common language which has the task of enhancing various precious experiences of isolated people and making them common experiences. In reality, however, academic language has become jargon, and scholars of various schools are fighting one another over the validity of their own jargon” (ibid. 95; CW 9: 71).

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Yamada, T. (2022). The Origin and Development of Uchida’s Social Science. In: Civil Society and Social Science in Yoshihiko Uchida. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-1138-5_2

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