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Science and Inquiry in Hajime Kawakami

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Abstract

Yoshihiko Uchida was a renowned scholar of Adam Smith and Karl Marx, but he was also a social scientist who struggled throughout his life with Hajime Kawakami (1879–1946), a unique thinker born in modern Japan. Kawakami is usually understood as a man who turned from humanitarian socialism to militant Marxism (Sect. 4.1). However, Uchida denies this conventional view and argues that Kawakami, while starting from a mixed ideology of nationalism and bourgeois rationalism (Sect. 4.2), understood that the absolutist view of the state unique to Japan had to change with the development of the division of labor and productive forces (Sect. 4.3). At the same time, Uchida found in Kawakami an idea that emphasized “the material metabolism between humans and nature” and “the conscious individual,” and also confirmed the importance of the issues of “selfishness and altruism” as well as of “economy and ethics.” Despite these matters of concern, Kawakami eventually approached Marxism, but his Marxism became a very specific one and was severely criticized by the dominant official Marxist view of the time (Sect. 4.4).

As Kawakami tried to relearn the “true” Marxism, he underwent a drastic transformation. At the dawn of this transformation, Kawakami came to the conclusion that he would no longer be a creator of “academic inquiry” by thinking for himself but would be a commentator and propagator of Capital as a “science” and “truth” established by Marx and existing objectively at the time. The creative spirit in Kawakami disappeared and he was transformed into a preacher of the official conclusions of “science.” Uchida describes this as “tragic,” and it was indeed a tragedy for the Japanese social science community (Sect. 4.5). Kawakami himself was eventually forced to spend time in prison amidst the rise of militarism in Japan, and in his later years, after his release from prison, he withdrew from social life and spent his time appreciating and creating poetry. In the process, Kawakami’s creative spirit blossomed again in the form of literature (Sect. 4.6). Despite all the twists and turns, Kawakami lived fundamentally not as a scientist armed with precise and advanced scientific tools who sought results in the domain of his specialty, but as an ordinary person who grappled and tried to solve problems by starting from the questions that ordinary people feel. Uchida concludes that he wants to learn from Kawakami. From Kawakami’s anguished sway, we must learn a delicate relationship between “science” and “inquiry.”

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Hanasaki (1981) and Yoshizawa (2001) are among the few exceptions to this rule, and they raise some excellent points.

  2. 2.

    As a general rule, all quotations from Yoshihiko Uchida are indicated with the volume and page number from the Collected Works of Yoshihiko Uchida [CW], 10 vols. (Uchida 19881989) alongside the monograph version and its page number.

  3. 3.

    In most cases, quotations from Hajime Kawakami are taken from the Editorial Society of Completed Works of Hajime Kawakami, ed. (1982–1986) Completed Works of Hajime Kawakami (CWHK hereafter), with the volume and page numbers indicated. Unless otherwise noted, all emphases are the author’s.

  4. 4.

    Uchida (1967: 183; CW 5: 151) cites Kawakami (1907b) as one of the most representative examples of “the old moral philosopher.” The passage concludes: “Ah, the very condition of the country is about to change. Bushido, the ideology of loyalty and patriotism, nationalism, and familism, which have been the most distinctive features of our history since ancient times, are now undergoing a drastic change, mainly due to the changing economic situation. Our people, who have been extremely forgetful of history, are now caught up in this situation of drastic change. If we make even one wrong move, we will be in danger of falling into a tiger pit. Oh, will the Japanese finally have to become Americans?” (Kawakami 1907b; CWHK 4: 322)

  5. 5.

    Uchida points out the Smithian perspective in Taguchi's famous book, A Short History of Civilization in Japan (Taguchi 18771882), as follows: “The basic thesis of A Short History of Civilization in Japan is that the main path of social development is the gradual development of society from an unnatural society, where self-interest must be checked by morality, toward a normal society, where the development of self-interest is good for society as a whole. With this in mind, Taguchi viewed modern Japan as being in a transitional period from an unnatural society to a natural and normal society” (Uchida and Sugihara 1979: 12; CW 5: 359–360).

  6. 6.

    At Kyoto Imperial University, Kawakami was associate professor in 1909, researcher overseas in 1913–1915, and professor in 1915. He resigned in 1928 under pressure from the government and university authorities.

  7. 7.

    The problematic of “ethics and economy” probably has something to do with the fact that, in the Taishō era, Kawakami approached socialist thought but did not immediately accept it. In the 1970s, Yoshihiko Uchida argued that we should learn the positive meaning of Kawakami’s incomplete approach to so-called “Marxism,” taking into consideration his interest in “freedom in socialism” and “humans as an autonomous being.” “Tracing Kawakami’s metamorphoses thereafter, we can learn the positive meaning of his incomplete acceptance of socialism or historical materialism, in spite of his approach to it. I feel that his struggles are now pressing upon us as our own problems to be addressed together, today when the problem of freedom in socialism has become a question” (Uchida 1977c; CW 5: 349, emphasis Uchida’s). “One of the reasons why Kawakami did not become an orthodox Marxist must be his deep-rooted Confucian education and his patriotic temperament. However, to put it more directly and taking the conclusion in advance … the intensity of his awareness of the ideal image of human beings as ‘autonomous beings,’ together with the perspective of the management of the country [the economy as a process of material metabolism], made him resist a full acceptance of Marxism. And this gave his understanding of Marx a distinctive character, so I think” (Uchida 1977b: 547. Cf. Uchida 1981: 316–317; CW 8: 260).

  8. 8.

    Tamizō Kushida (1885–1934) was a favorite disciple of Hajime Kawakami at Kyoto Imperial University, and he recommended Kushida to become a researcher when he was unsure of what to do after graduation, and in 1912, Kawakami wrote a letter of recommendation on the occasion of Kushida’s entrance into the graduate school of Tokyo Imperial University. Kushida also admired and respected Kawakami, and, on March 1 of the same year, Kushida wrote in his diary as follows: “Professor Kawakami said, ‘All scholars are literary people, and great academic theory is like poetry’” (Kushida 1984: 377).

  9. 9.

    Uchida discusses the criticism of Kawakami by Tamizō Kushida (and Kazuo Fukumoto) as a problem of the difference in temperament between Kawakami, who tries to think in terms of the traditional spiritual climate of Japan, and Kushida and others, who try to judge Japan using the conclusions of “advanced” Marxism obtained from studying in the West. “Concerning the meaning of making the economic problem the first problem to be solved by academics, there is a very big difference between Kawakami and the next generation of economists. Kawakami was the ideological forerunner of Japanese thought since the Meiji era, who, without leaving the intellectual foundation of Japan, opened up the horizon of economics in the stream of moral thought and connected it to Marxist economics. On the contrary, the next generation of economists were led by Kawakami into the world of economics and tried to overcome the limitations of the old forerunner Kawakami academically and practically by rapidly and accurately accepting the theories of the advanced Marxist countries. Or, in other words, there is a huge difference between the two, that is, between Kawakami who arrived at Marxist economics through trial and error in Japan – as a Japanese person thinking on the ground in Japan – and those who departed from economics as a result of the social practices of the developed countries, and thereby became the political and ideological leaders of Japan” (Uchida 1981: 240–241; CW 8: 196–197, emphasis Uchida’s).

  10. 10.

    Fundamental Principles of Economics (1928) officially consists of two parts: ‘Part One: The Anatomy of Capitalist Society’ and ‘Part Two: The Development of Capitalist Economics.’ The second part is a “slight addition” to Kawakami’s previous book Historical Development of Capitalist Economics (1923). Thus, his Fundamental Principles is the sum total of economic theory and the history of economics. In the following, however, the name Fundamental Principles of Economics will refer exclusively to ‘Part One: The Anatomy of Capitalist Society.’ This book was based on Kawakami’s lecture notes on economic theory at Kyoto Imperial University, which were accumulated and revised, but, ironically, Kawakami resigned from the University in 1928, the year the book was completed.

  11. 11.

    However, Uchida expresses his regret about the entirety of Fundamental Principles as follows: “I feel the anguish and struggle of Kawakami, who was torn in two, in the fact that the first half (Part One) and the second half (Part Two) of his masterpiece, Fundamental Principles of Economics, were daringly put together in one book with completely different conceptions of the issues and contents” (Uchida 1966: 9–10; CW 4: 224).

  12. 12.

    See, for example, the following: “In this passage [in Lenin’s ‘The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism’], the connection between total dialectical materialism and historical materialism, as well as the claims of historical materialism itself, are expressed quite succinctly and accurately. As for my work, I am left only with the commentary” (Kawakami 1930; CWHK 18: 137).

  13. 13.

    Kawakami acknowledged the validity of Kushida’s criticism of him, and, as mentioned, he replied, “Fortunately, I have not yet hardened myself,” while making desperate efforts to shed his skin. Over the next several years, he ended up with Fundamental Principles of Economics and A Tale of Poverty Reconsidered. Reflecting on himself, Kawakami said, “In retrospect, my complete transition to Marxism was only slightly realized after many years of hesitation and eclecticism that deserved contempt. But instead of reaching this point after a long period of speculative research, I now feel that my academic convictions are unbending, even if I am burned in the fire” (Kawakami 1928; CWHK 15: 141). Was Kawakami’s “not-yet-hardened” thinking finally “hardened” here in the form of Fundamental Principles? Was the stance of Fundamental Principles the end-point of his academic itinerary, which did not move him even as he was “burned in the fire”?

  14. 14.

    He once said, “I am terribly afraid of reading what others have written, because I want to think for myself, and if I take for granted what others have already solved, I will lose the ability to think for myself” (Kawakami 1922; CWHK 11: 478). We cannot find this attitude in Kawakami after the “transformation.”

  15. 15.

    Hikaru Furuta also makes this point. “It may be … intended, by forgetting for a while the religious and ethical aspects or personal and subjective aspects of ‘practice,’ to grasp their social and objective aspects, i.e., ‘the dialectical unity of scientific cognition and political practice.’ Thus, from that time on, Kawakami’s writings lost all of their personal and subjective coloring. Instead, the objective (faithful, but officialist) introduction and explanation of Marxism covers the entire surface. However, this does not mean that Kawakami’s ‘seeking the way’ is abandoned or that he is at ease. It should be seen as one process of his ‘seeking the way’” (Furuta 1959: 150, emphasis Furuta’s).

  16. 16.

    However, Uchida says that Kawakami should be considered to have had a literary world not outside of economics but alongside economics. “The literary world of Kawakami should not be understood only as constituting some world of Kawakami’s personality outside of and unrelated to his academic studies. The literary world is structurally incorporated into his academic world and academic thinking themselves, and constitutes the essential part of his original inquiries, which would occupy a unique position in the history of Japanese social sciences by thinking ordinary matters in an ordinal way of thinking, so I think” (Uchida 1981: 213; CW 8: 176).

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Yamada, T. (2022). Science and Inquiry in Hajime Kawakami. In: Civil Society and Social Science in Yoshihiko Uchida. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-1138-5_4

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