Fachgruppensitzung Geschichte 2018

Rethinking Postwar Japan’s History Problem at the Crossroads of  International History and International Relations Theory (Hitomi KOYAMA, Leiden University)

How might we understand the persistence of Japan’s ‚history problem‘ without reducing the matter into cultural essentialism, or what Seraphim calls the „new form of Orientalism“ that once again sets the German model as the model par excellence and Japan as the irrational Other (2008), or the cliché argument that victor writes the history? In this paper I argue that to understand the persistence we must account for the palimpsest state of history in postwar Japan (Koyama 2018). The ‚history problem‘ persists because the question over how to become a subject that could be held accountable is pulled towards two divergent directions: amidst the global movement to decolonize history-writing on the one hand, and the liberal view of state that re-centers the state as an agent-actor in history, on the other. I argue this by placing Japanese literary critic Norihiro Kato’s work, After Defeat (1995) into conversation with John Hobson’s work on the place of state in International Relations theory.

Unclaimed Prize: Japanese Oil Explorations in Manchuria before the Pacific War (Daqing YANG, George Washington University & Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)

Partly thanks to Daniel Yergin’s award-winning book The Prize, it is now widely recognized that the U.S. oil embargo against to Japan was a major factor behind Tokyo’s decision to start the Pacific War in December 1941. What remains relatively unknown, at least outside East Asia, is Japan’s decade-long search for oil in Manchuria, a vast region of China rich in natural resources and a key part of Japan’s wartime empire after 1931. Unclaimed Prize refers to the large oil deposits in Manchuria that Japan failed to locate prior to its fateful decision to advance southward to occupy the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. My presentation shall examine the Japanese oil explorations as well as their significance in the production of geological knowledge.

The Theoretical Scope of Fujita Shōzō’s Concept of Contemporary Totalitarianism (Takamichi SAKURAI, University of Heidelberg)

My presentation aims to describe the Japanese intellectual historian Fujita Shōzō’s later concept of ‚contemporary totalitarianism‘ (gendai zentaishugi) and its theoretical scope within the discipline of intellectual history by focusing on his two socio-political notions of ‚totalitarianism towards unruffled ease‘ (anraku e no zentaishugi) and ‚totalitarianism as market economy‘ (shijō keizai zentaishugi). Fujita’s later scholarly activities are characterised particularly by referring to the political concept of totalitarianism, the idea of which is derived from Fascist Italy. It should be noted, however, that his usage of the concept is quite specific in the sense of its semantic scope, distinct from that of general one which simply signifies dictatorial, violent politics controlling a society with the effective use of ideology and terror, such as Nazism, Stalinism and communism in the Cold War context, that stresses totalitarian aspects of a contemporary way of life and market mechanism despite the inclusion of that general signification. On this view, essentially Fujita’s conception of totalitarianism divides its semantic meaning into three levels: ‚totalitarianism in war‘ (sensō no zentaishugi), ‚political totalitarianism‘ (seijiteki zentaishugi) and ‚contemporary totalitarianism‘. Furthermore, the last one is divided into ‚totalitarianism towards unruffled ease‘ and ‚totalitarianism market economy‘ as noted above. As expected by the names of these concepts, they focus on adverse aspects of contemporary society based on the principles of free market economy. From this perspective, Fujita tried to link contemporary market society to totalitarianism through seeking totalitarian orientations in seemingly peaceful, everyday life and democratic practice, thereby diagnosing and criticising the core disease of its spiritual structure. Finally, I argue that Fujita’s concept of contemporary totalitarianism reveals totalitarian orientations in a contemporary way of life under the dialectical social conditions between the rationalised system of market economy causing alienation and the strong narcissistic impulse to satisfy unruffled ease, and that it leads us to critically understand contemporary social and political phenomena, thereby bringing us self-criticism and self-reflection.