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5 - Deparochializing Political Theory from the Far Eastern Province

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2020

Melissa S. Williams
Affiliation:
University of Toronto
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Summary

Instead of beginning from intellectual traditions or bodies of thought as the units of analysis in comparative political theory, in this chapter Ken Tsutsumibayashi focuses on the ways in which the meaning of concepts derives from their practical use in particular historical moments. The distinction between “East” and “West,” which still frames so many debates in comparative political theory, dissolves under this contextualizing gaze: from the perspective of Japan as the “far eastern province,” “the West” signified China before it signified Europe. Yet the flow of ideas between Japan and other societies has not always been from West to East. In the late nineteenth century, Japanese thinkers engaged European ideas, and their innovative use of these ideas shaped, in turn, the terms of political discourse in China and Korea, shifting them toward institutions and subjectivities that could be rendered congruent with modernity. The chapter traces the remarkable efflorescence in Japan of innovative constructions of Min (“the people”) in Meiji-period thought, which played a key role in the production of new and “multiple modernities.” Tsutsumibayashi argues that we should relinquish cultural “ownership claims” over ideas; the history of ideas can serve as a common pool resource that can enrich practical reason.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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