Why this book?
This book has helped me think through the relationship between capitalism, modernity, and romantic anti-capitalist movements both in East Asia and beyond. The book deals with intellectual currents in interwar Japan, (the 1920s to 1945) and shows how conservative philosophers developed a theory to “overcome modernity.” These authors, many from the so-called Kyoto School, targeted the rampant consumer culture, the overturning of ethical relations, and other structural changes. However, Harootunian contends that such critiques did not grasp the fundamental dynamic of capitalism and its relation to such cultural shifts and consequently, such philosophers were “overcome by modernity.” This means that such critics of modernity were incorporated into the Japanese fascist military complex, which itself claimed to confront capitalist modernity. At a time, when we see right-wing attempts to confront modernity around the world (Trump, Le Pen, Modi) this book remains extremely relevant.
Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan
Why should I read it?
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What is this book about?
In the decades between the two World Wars, Japan made a dramatic entry into the modern age, expanding its capital industries and urbanizing so quickly as to rival many long-standing Western industrial societies. How the Japanese made sense of the sudden transformation and the subsequent rise of mass culture is the focus of Harry Harootunian's fascinating inquiry into the problems of modernity. Here he examines the work of a generation of Japanese intellectuals who, like their European counterparts, saw modernity as a spectacle of ceaseless change that uprooted the dominant historical culture from its fixed values and substituted a culture…