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The rational-choice paradigm has been attractive to many area specialists in their efforts to arrive at explanations of social and political behavior in various parts of the world. This model of explanation is simple yet powerful; we attempt to explain a pattern of social behavior or an enduring social arrangement as the aggregate outcome of the goal-directed choices of large numbers of rational agents. Why did the Nian rebellion occur? It was the result of the individual-level survival strategies of north China peasants (Perry 1980). Why did the central places of late imperial Sichuan conform to the hexagonal arrays predicted by central-place theory? Because participants—consumers, merchants, and officials—made rational decisions based on considerations of transport cost (Skinner 1964–65). Why was late imperial Chinese agriculture stagnant? Because none of the actors within the agricultural system had both the incentive and the capacity to invest in agricultural innovation (Lippit 1987).
Why are histories of colonialism and religious transformation in Southeast Asia so often told as inextricably interrelated? Why were Buddhist movements identified as both the locus for resistance to colonialism and the central means of constructing colonial modernity? Part of the reason lies in how religion served as both a European technique of colonial governmentality and a local repository of techniques for comprehending and responding to change. More than this, religion seems to have offered a multivalent medium for a variety of innovations. Pali examinations were central to Buddhist reform in colonial Burma at the turn of the twentieth century but also fomented conflicts between the colonial state and monastic factions over the purpose of language study. However, beyond such conflicts, Pali examinations proved fertile grounds for Buddhist laypeople to experiment with multiple interpretations of what Buddhist modernity might mean in Burma.
Review Symposium: Thomas A. Metzger's Escape from Predicament
As Harry Harootunian has noted, Metzger's Escape from Predicament represents an attempt to transpose the Weberian project onto the Chinese scene, even though its announced aim is to challenge and provide an alternative to Weber's interpretation of Chinese religion. This project may be viewed as uniquely Weberian in terms of its specific formulation of the problematik of modernity and modernization, but it is not exclusively Weberian in terms of its belief in the centrality of a divided consciousness as the agent of change. Long before Weber postulated the thesis that Confucian China was stagnant because Confucianism was characterized by a complete absence of “tension … between ethical demand and human shortcoming” (The Religion of China, H. H. Gerth, trans. [New York: Macmillan, 1964], p. 235), Hegel had already concluded that China lay “still outside the World's History”; for, Hegel stated, “as the contrast between objective existence and subjective freedom of movement in it is still wanting, every change is excluded and the fixedness of a character which recurs perpetually takes the place of what we should call the truly historical” (The Philosophy of History, J. Sibree, trans. [New York: Dover, 1965], p. 116) In a sense, therefore, Metzger's work on “Neo-Confucianism and China's Evolving Political Culture” marks the latest phase in a continuing discourse on social evolution, which presupposes “uniformity” in the “fundamental causes” of change (Robert A. Nisbet, Social Change and History [New York: Oxford University Press, 1969], p. 182), and of which Hegel is a spokesman.
Problems of Political Power in Modern Japan: A Symposium
With the formal abolition of the Tokugawa Shogunate on January 3, 1868, there was created in Japan a governmental void which was not filled finally and satisfactorily until 1889. The search of Japanese leaders for a satisfactory government structure for the new state was thus one of long duration. It did not begin seriously until the successful outcome of the military struggle with the Tokugawa forces in the early months of 1868 seemed assured.
This paper explores the context in which skilled artisans introduced innovations in India around 1900 and suggests that such steps carried the potential for conflicts between the innovator and those affected by his actions. Conflicts could arise over the protection of knowledge, over the right to make a change, in the form of resistance, or as a choice between maintaining and diluting quality. Conflicts were absent when the mediation of social and political leaders was available and when skilled artisans emerged from unconventional backgrounds. By stressing the capacity of artisans to innovate and by suggesting that individuals were the agents of innovation, this paper refocuses attention on the skilled individual within a historiography that has been rather neglectful of both craftsmanship and the craftsman.
Focusing on intersections of Asian area studies and U.S. ethnic studies, this article probes overlapping but hitherto neglected trajectories of Japanese colonialism and transpacific migrant experience and of modern Japanese history and Japanese American history. Constructed during the 1930s, expansionist orthodoxy of imperial Japan justified and idealized the agricultural colonization of Manchuria on the basis of historical precedence found in a contrived chronicle of Japanese “overseas development” in the American frontier. This study documents how Japanese intelligentsia, popular culture, and the state concertedly co-opted U.S. Japanese immigrant history in service of the policies of imperial expansion and national mobilization in Asia before the Pacific War. While involving conflicting agendas and interests between the colonial metropolis in imperial Japan and the expatriate society in the American West, the example of transnational history making elucidates borderless dimensions of prewar Japanese colonialism, which influenced, and was concurrently influenced by, the presence and practices of Japanese emigrants across the Pacific.