Jay Goulding. New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Editor: Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Volume 3. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2005.
Globalization is a far-ranging topic. It has as many perspectives as commentators. Western views of globalization often focus on economics and politics, while Eastern views often focus on philosophy and culture. Two Canadian scholars, Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis, seem to bridge both East and West in their studies.
Asian Views of Globalization
In the early 1960s the Canadian communications pioneer Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was one of the first scholars to seriously consider globalization. His perspective was shaped by a multicultural Canadian environment. From the inception, globalization was a concept intertwining both Eastern and Western civilizations. Impressed by another Canadian, the historian Harold Innis (1894-1952), McLuhan began a study of both Asian and Western societies that spanned the entirety of his academic career. Innis had recognized that technology was changing the face of modern nation-states. The direction was clearly set. Space was overcoming time. In making a case for the wisdom of the past, Innis embarked on a discussion of ancient cultures, including Greece, Egypt, and especially China. Decades later McLuhan followed this lead. At first Innis recognized that China had a time-biased civilization. It created mammoth temples and statues that stood the test of the ages. China later invented paper, ink, and books. The motivation was spatial. While temples and statues would last for millennia, their accessibility was restricted. Scrolls and books could be transported easily but were limited by physical structure and duration. They were space-biased. For thousands of years, China managed to reinvigorate its civilization through a finely tuned combination of temporal and spatial communications alongside oral and written traditions. The oral tradition assisted Buddhism in gaining popularity during its migration from India, while the written tradition helped solidify the reverence for Confucianism. Printing accommodated both: popular literature for Buddhists and classical texts for Confucians. These yin-yang polarities of writing and speaking had worldwide implications. As well the import of Chinese paper accelerated the influence of the Greeks, Persians, and Arabians throughout Europe. As such, Innis and McLuhan highlight positive functions of an archaic Chinese form of globalization.
While Chinese paper and goods encouraged the trade with the Western world, it also set the stage for a clash of civilizations and belief systems. The technological revolutions of the Western world with its infatuation for space and property ownership would eventually annihilate the East’s sacredness of time and its philosophical wisdom. As Innis writes, “The oral tradition implies the spirit but writing and printing are inherently materialistic” (p. 130). Taking a cue from China, Innis maintained that a harmony of time and space was necessary for a healthy society or a healthy world. Nevertheless, the West shunned religion and the oral tradition that it represented in favor of reason and the written tradition that legitimized it. When the equilibrium of time/space and oral/written fell out of kilter, the West colonized the very civilizations that initially helped fashion its communicative modes.
The Global Village
McLuhan went one step further than Innis. While the mechanical world extended bodies in space, the electric and electronic technologies “extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned” (1964, p. 19). Hence we have the expression “the global village.” But this village was not as harmonious as those ancient societies of time/space concordance. McLuhan maintains, “The global village is at once as wide as the planet and as small as the little town where everybody is maliciously engaged in poking his nose into everybody else’s business” (quoted in Benedetti and DeHart, p. 40). Globalization is a two-edged sword that extends Western knowledge everywhere but threatens the wisdoms of the Eastern world. According to McLuhan, the world needs a combination of both Western and Eastern knowledge. The West operates by way of visual space as a linear, quantitative mode of perception, while the East operates by way of acoustic space as a holistic, qualitative mode of perception. Because both worlds are constantly colliding, we need a mutual understanding in order to foster peace (see McLuhan and Powers).
McLuhan encapsulates Western visual space as a “mind’s eye” that connects abstract figures with definitive boundaries and is “homogenous (uniform everywhere), and static (qualitatively unchangeable)” (McLuhan and Powers, p. 45). Eastern acoustic space as a “mind’s ear” encompasses both preliterate and postliterate cultures. It is nonhomogenous and discontinuous. As McLuhan relates: “Its resonant and interpenetrating processes are simultaneously related with centers everywhere and boundaries nowhere. Like music … acoustic space requires neither proof nor explanation but is made manifest through its cultural content” (p. 45). Hence visual and acoustic spaces are “bicultural.” They are at the same time incompatible (like history and eternity) and compatible (like science and art). According to McLuhan, the East utilizes both visual and acoustic space. As he writes, “A Westerner, for example, arranges flowers in space; the Chinese and Japanese harmonize the space between the flowers” (pp. 62-63). Manipulating the discontinuous space, the Asians fill the void with imagination. In this sense, the overly logical Western world could learn from the East.
For McLuhan, Rudyard Kipling’s famous expression “East is East, and West is West” was obsolete. It gave way to James Joyce: “The west shall shake the East awake … while ye have the night for morn” (quoted in McLuhan and Fiore, p. 143). Innis and McLuhan were two of the first thinkers in the West to recognize the importance of East Asia in the formation of concepts of globalization.
Definitions of Globalization: West and East
Globalization is itself an equivocal term. There are as many definitions of globalization as there are interpreters. Globalization is not as value laden as “cultural imperialism” or “orientalism.” The latter two terms are more prone to views of domination, especially by the West over the East. The following definitions are neutral. David Jary and Julia Jary define globalization in HarperCollins Dictionary of Sociology as: “a multifaceted process in which the world is becoming more and more interconnected and communication is becoming instantaneous” (p. 249). This includes: “(a) the transformation of the spatial arrangement and organization of social relations involving ‘action at a distance,’ a stretching of social relations and transactions (and power) …; (b) the increasing extensity, intensity, velocity and impact of global social relations …; (c) the creation of new networks and nodes—the ‘network society’ …; (d) a dialectic between the global and the local” (p. 249). Unlike imperialism or orientalism, globalization is rather open-ended. The “have” nations do not automatically overshadow the “have not” nations. Tim O’Sullivan and colleagues define globalization as “the growth and acceleration of economic and cultural networks which operate on a worldwide scale and basis. Globalization is strongly linked with debates about ‘world culture,’ and emerged as a critical concept in the late 1980s. The term refers to the whole complex of flows and processes which have increasingly transcended national boundaries in the last twenty years” (p. 130).
In China, there is a distinction between internationalization (guojihua) and globalization (quanqiuhua). Internationalization refers to trading with wealthy nations, such as the United States or Germany. This is generally considered good for China’s world development. Globalization refers literally to matters of change in the entire world, such as ecological considerations and appropriate responses. McLuhan’s term “global village” (quanqiucun) entered Chinese-English dictionaries in the early 1980s possibly because of China’s keen interest in friendly relations with Canada and Canadian thinkers. By contrast, in Japan, internationalization (kokusaika) is a heavily laden term that is either extremely good or bad, depending on one’s national allegiance; globalization (gurobarizeshon or gurobaruka) is a term that conjures up fears of falling behind, especially as Japan seems to recede into an economic sunset in the wake of China’s emergence as a world force. On the one hand, globalization for Japan means that the goddess Amaterasu is backing into her cave, a time in Shinto legend when the world falls into darkness. On the other hand, globalization for China means the awakening of a sleeping dragon or a time of renewal, revitalization, and resurrection.
Globalization in Classical China
While the term globalization is relatively new in China, its concept is not. China has participated in globalization for thousands of years. For the most part, the history of China involves open-ended relations with the world. As a Middle Kingdom (zhongguo), China reached across the globe in exploration with the express purpose of exchanging ideas, technology, and goods. In the preface to a book on Eastern and Western cultures, Jeff Yang writes, “America was Asian before it was American; the ancestors of the continent’s original inhabitants were Siberians who made the long, cold journey across the Bering Strait some 11,000 years ago” (Yang et al., introduction). Yang goes on to state that “the Chinese have their own pre-Columbus discovery myth: they claim that Hui Shen, a Buddhist monk living in the fifth century C.E., sailed to Mexico, lived there for 40 years, and returned to tell the tale.” While these examples are legendary, they do point to Zheng He, a Yunnan Muslim explorer from the Ming dynasty who traveled to India and Africa on seven voyages between 1405 and 1433. With hundreds of vessels and thousands of sailors, the expeditions were not “colonizing.” Rather, they were “diplomatic.” As John Fairbank relates, “They exchanged gifts, enrolled tributaries, and brought back geographic information and scientific curiosities” (p. 138). Jacques Gernet argues that the expeditions followed well-established trade routes of the eleventh century that continued uninterrupted for several hundred years. In explaining the differences between Mongol military conquest and Ming explorations, Gernet writes that “it was no longer a question of undertaking mere conquests for the sake of economic exploitation but of securing the recognition of the power and prestige of the Ming empire in South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean” (p. 401).
The Ming voyages were curtailed in 1433 and their records destroyed in 1479. Nevertheless, China was far out front of any other nation in the age of exploration. It was a half century ahead of the Portuguese traveling to the Gold Coast of Africa or of Columbus arriving in the West Indies. Although highly speculative, Gavin Menzies even proposes that Zheng He made a voyage to North America in 1421 in gigantic junks almost five hundred feet long.
As early as the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.E.), China utilized the Silk Roads to India as two-way streets of communications, commerce, and culture. Along the trade routes, goods such as tea and silk came from China, while hundreds of Buddhist religions came from India. The Silk Roads stretched from Chang’an, the capital of the Western Han dynasty through Dunhuang, the Tarim Basin, Kashgar, and the Pamir Mountains all the way to Antioch on the Mediterranean Sea. Other routes moved to Hanoi in Vietnam through to Indonesia, the Malay Peninsula, and the Indian Ocean, which facilitated sea commerce to the Roman Orient. In 139 B.C.E. Emperor Han Wudi sent his envoy Zhang Qian to the edges of the Hellenistic world in Bactria, from whence Zhang Qian returned with information on the distant Roman world. Bringing silk and bamboo to the West, he came back with pearls, linen, and horses from central Asia. In 104, 102, and 42 B.C.E. Chinese armies defeated the Turkic nomad Xiongnu alongside captive Roman soldiers in the former Greek kingdom of Sogdiana. Describing further Roman contact, Ann Paludan writes, “In A.D. 122 jugglers from Da Qin (Rome) arrived [in China] from the south and were followed in 166 by a group of merchants claiming to be ambassadors from the Roman emperor Antun (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus)” (p. 56). Attesting to the early interaction between Eastern and Western civilizations, anyone visiting the Confucian homes in China’s Anhui Province notices similarities with Roman houses, especially the open courtyard designs, entrances, and interior chambers.
Globalization in Modern China
According to Liu Kang, China in the early twenty-first century has a multifaceted view of globalization that stands in between two significant historical events: the disintegration of Soviet-led communism and a rapidly expanding transnational capitalism. For China, the challenge of globalization is to withstand the wholesale commodification of Western-style capitalism while still entering the world system as a prominent player with its own unique socialist values. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries China has engaged in debates in “nationalism, postmodernism, and neo-humanism, and a ‘discursive hybridity’ that blends neo-conservatism and radicalism” (Liu, p. 165). The results are necessarily fragmented and unevenly displayed. Yet they seem to congeal into a new global Chinese intellectual strategy.
Part of China’s response to the overwhelming compulsion toward Western modernity is to embrace its own past, much of which was suspended during a century of hot and cold wars. In this sense, China once again becomes a “cloud water” (yunshui) or a shape shifter that metamorphoses to fit the times. The “cloud water” is a Buddhist term of old that referred to young, novice monks who gathered around a master like wandering clouds; alternatively it is like a vagabond Daoist priest, changing his shape like water.
In October 1994 China celebrated both the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the 2,545th anniversary of Confucius’s birth. This celebration was remarkable for its unique assembly of both scholarly and political figures. Participants included Gu Mu, a former politburo member and vice premier who was acknowledged as the engineer of Deng Xiaoping’s economic modernization program. Others included Li Ruihuan, chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress; Zhou Nan, an important Beijing representative in Hong Kong; Lee Kuan Yew, former founding prime minister of Singapore; and Jiang Zemin, president of China. Li’s inaugural speech praised the ancient Confucian philosopher Mencius for his advice to rulers to listen to the people. Gu Mu’s talk was especially important for outlining China’s philosophy in a global age, both at home and abroad. The essence of this strategy was to transform China’s culture by adapting to Western style on the outside while retaining Eastern essence on the inside. Gu Mu relates, “Culture serves both as the emblem of the level of civilization of a nation or a country and the guidance for its political and economic life” (quoted in de Bary and Tu, p. xii). In adhering to Confucian ideals of “harmony-making for prosperity” and “harmony above all,” China would attempt to merge Eastern and Western views of nation, patriotism, science, and democracy.
Philosophy Returns to China
Since this mandate, China’s attitude to globalization relies on the primacy of cultural exchanges with the rest of the world alongside a reemergence and reappraisal of both classical Eastern and Western philosophy. Mutual topics of exchange include the self and society, rights and rites in Confucian ritual, and Chinese law and human rights in global perspective.
The Twelfth International Conference on Chinese Philosophy met in July 2001 in Beijing, where nearly four hundred leading world scholars gathered to debate issues around globalization in terms of the practicality of ancient and contemporary theories. As a significant moment in Chinese history, it announced the return home of Chinese philosophy. China once again became the center of its own philosophy that had been marginalized during the twentieth century. The conference was hosted by the Chinese government under the supervision of Fang Keli, director of the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and president of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP). The ISCP, founded in 1975 by Cheng Chung-Ying, is one of the best examples of China’s program for globalization based on an international community of inquirers who engage in the comparison of Eastern and Western philosophy, religion, and culture. In 1993 the ISCP was the first international conference of top-ranking scholars of Chinese philosophy acknowledged and accepted by the Beijing government. Not only does Chinese philosophy play a leading role in the revitalization of traditions and the renewal of Chinese civilization, but it also adapts to and learns from Western thought. Hence it is the cornerstone of global strategies. As Cheng writes, “Chinese philosophy can contribute to a global ethics of virtue and right, a global metaphysics of the dao and God, a global epistemology of naturalization and transcendence, a global political philosophy of justice and harmony, a global aesthetics of genius and refinement, a global logic of communication and understanding, and a global science of human well-being and liberation” (p. 404).
In an attempt to rediscover core human values in this global context, the works of Jürgen Habermas (1929-), Jacques Derrida (1930-), Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002), and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) have come to the forefront in China as well as the three ancient teachings of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism.
Habermas and Derrida in China
In April 2001 Habermas toured China, speaking on various topics, including globalization and communicative rationality. China is intrigued with his Weberian-inspired views on value rationality and instrumental (purposive) rationality, that is, in the relationship between the ends themselves and the means to ends in both economic and social actions. What distinguishes Habermas from Max Weber is a focus on the universality of communicative action within internationally sensitive lifeworlds. In debate with Habermas, Tong Shijun, a leading philosopher, characterizes China’s discourse on modernity as composed of several stages: (1) the early twentieth century creation of science and democracy, (2) the later twentieth century socialist model, and (3) the early-twenty-first century discussion on market economies and legal systems (p. 82). Tong utilizes an ancient Chinese polarity of ti (substance, body, ground) and yong (function, use, manifestation) to compare with Habermas: ti as value rationality and yong as instrumental rationality. The relation between an object and its movement, the nature of a thing and its expression, a moral principle and its application is the connection of ti and yong. Closely related to these pairings are dao (way) andqi (instrument). In the nineteenth century Qing bureaucrats referred to the slogan “Chinese learning as ti or substance and Western learning as yong or function” (Tong, p. 82). These pairings might neatly compare with Gu Mu’s dictum for Chinese views of globalization: Eastern on the inside and Western on the outside. In dialogue with Western thinkers such as Habermas, the Chinese pairings help grapple with everyday interactive decisions of the lifeworld over and against the global compulsions of economic, political, social, and philosophical systems.
In September 2001 Derrida completed a similar tour. Chinese intellectuals discussed his “specters of Marx” theory that still holds transformational possibilities. Although Chinese Marxist scholars primarily view globalization as an economic moment in the continuing internationalization of capitalist modes of production, they are also concerned with cultural consequences. Derrida’s multicultural approach to law, language, and society might help the Chinese form a New International that addresses the homogenization of global economics by way of a participatory response of cultural difference and diversity. China can be in globalization without completely being of globalization. Chinese scholars look for universal value in globalization beyond obvious hegemonic implications. Derrida agrees that there are many confusing debates around globalization because of “a certain transparence and with the appearance of liberal exchange” (Zhang Ning, p. 160), while forms of monopoly march forward. China’s awareness of these trends and continued participation in the discourse on globalization can profit from European philosophers (including postmodernists) as a complement to North American thinkers.
Gadamer in China
In June 2002 the Gadamer translator Richard Palmer explained hermeneutics to China in his lecture tour. As a close associate and student of Gadamer, Palmer offered the first comprehensive outline on hermeneutics for a North American audience and did the same for China three decades later. In recovering its ancient world, China wishes to employ exegetical strategies for regenerating universal claims from both Eastern and Western classics in a search for new humanist values to suit a global age. Palmer argues that, like Confucius, Gadamer was an educator who valued the virtues of classical traditions, poetry, and art. Like Confucius, he pursued harmony through a “fusion of horizons.” Drawing upon the corpus of Heidegger’s work, Gadamer’s “truth” and “method” were aimed at disclosing the ontological experiences of everyday life along the way to things as they are. Somewhat following Heidegger, Gadamer’s Zeitlichkeit (timeliness) speaks to the power of language in revealing the universal truth of a text. The essence of ancient time can be recovered in the simultaneity or contemporaneity of today. Gadamer’s emphasis on phronesis (the Greek term for practical wisdom) as an ethical judgment implies a facility for selecting the virtuous. This is similar to Confucius, who emphasizes the care of doing what is right. Part of the understanding of both thinkers involves applicatio (application) as the proper fit of understanding and daily use. Gadamer’s hermeneutics can be collected into one major concept, that of wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewusstsein (consciousness in which history is always working). This is similar to Heidegger’s hermeneutic circle, where one must already understand in order to understand. Gadamer’s emphasis on openness in Gespräch (conversation) and respect for interlocutors is a crucial platform for China’s global dialogues, as he demonstrated in an Auseinandersetzung (debate) with Habermas, Derrida, and others in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century.
Heidegger in China
While Gadamer’s rhythmic style of thinking parallels Confucius in many ways, Heidegger’s reclusive mountain life parallels the Daoist and Buddhist perspectives that he revered. In lectures at Beidaihe, Beijing, Shanghai, and Wuhu in Anhui Province in the summers of 2001 and 2002, Jay Goulding, accompanying Cheng Chung-Ying and Palmer, explained the interactions between Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology and ancient Chinese philosophy (see Goulding, forthcoming). Not only are the Chinese embracing a hermeneutics of disclosure but they are also concerned with the phenomenological shaping of appearances in a global lifeworld. The Chinese word for phenomenology is xianxiangxue. It means literally the study of the manifestation of appearance or that which shines forth through the present. Those appearances are philosophical, cultural, religious, economic, political, and psychological all wrapped together. As the number one Western philosopher in China in the early twenty-first century, Heidegger’s shift from rational, logical prose styles of writing to poetry seems to follow the shift from Confucian logic to Daoist and Buddhist philosophy and meditation. An early translator of Daoist and Buddhist classics in North America, Chang Chung-yuan, writes, “It was after Heidegger’s Being and Time, however, that he made a complete change from complexity to simplicity, from an analytical approach to a direct, intuitive one, from highly technical, philosophical expressions to common, simple language, from book-form presentation to plain, simple dialogue, such as in his ‘Conversation of a Country Path’“ (p. 246). This shift continues forward from Dichtung (poetry) to Lichtung (the clearing). The clearing is an imaginative opening for the simultaneous revelation and concealment of being. It is a place for the renewal of society and thought. For Heidegger, wood paths can lead either to a clearing or to a dead end. The Chinese word for Lichtung is chengming (the clearing); it captures both Heidegger’s luminosity and the Daoist cultivation of clarity and stillness.
What China gains from the above thinkers, especially Gadamer and Heidegger, is the idea of an authentic person comporting himself or herself toward the truth. This form of authenticity is similar to the Confucian junzi (a gentle and upright scholar) and the Daoist zhenren (a true and sincere person). In all three, there is an ability to change with the times while retaining principles, a valuable talent in a global age.
Globalization in Classical Japan
Japan holds a different view of globalization than China. Its position, however, is inextricably interwoven with China’s fate. Much of the early history of Japan was peppered with samurai clan warfare. Consequently it was occupied with an inward-looking gaze, while China enjoyed an outward-looking gaze. By the Tang dynasty (618-907 C.E.), periods of disunity in China came to a close and the spread of Chinese culture throughout Asia flourished. By the sixth century Confucianism and Buddhism flooded into Japan through Korea. The effect of Chinese models of government, culture, and philosophy influenced Japan for more than a millennium throughout the Nara, Heian, Kamakura, and Ashikaga periods. In the sixteenth century Portuguese and Dutch traders appeared in Japan with muskets and Bibles. This changed the course of Japanese history in terms of warfare, religion, and relationships with the newly developing global trade networks. At the end of the Muromachi Bakufu, another period of fierce clan “provincial” warfare, a triumvirate of unifiers emerged: Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616). These three daimyo (great names) were open to Western influences as far as it could advance their cause. Oda, for instance, supported the Jesuits in an attempt to disrupt Buddhist alliances against him. Likewise Toyotomi encouraged Jesuit trade while sending out his own commercial ships (vermilion seal ships) to ports in the Philippines and Siam. In 1570 Omura Sumitada, a prominent daimymo (samurai lord) who converted to Christianity, opened Nagasaki to Portuguese trade, later yielding it to the Jesuits as a territorial possession.
After the deaths of Oda and Toyotomi, Tokugawa ended another century of conflict at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600 that marked the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Lasting until 1868, the Tokugawa peace undertook a policy of sakoku (closed country) or national seclusion that officially saw the banning of Christianity, the revival of Shinto, and the suspicion of foreign philosophies, including China’s. However, Japan was not as secluded as it pretended. Although frowned upon by the shogunate, the newly developed town cultures of Edo, Osaka, and Kyoto continued to see an influx of Western and Asian traders. This culture was known as the ukiyo (the Floating World) that included tea houses, baths, brothels, and theaters. As a compendium of Eastern and Western cultural trends, the Floating World left a lasting mark on both sides of the Pacific. Popular among the townsfolk were paintings, poetry, literature, puppet plays, and kabuki theater that were in turn exported to Europe. Unofficially Chinese junks continued to arrive at a welcoming Nagasaki port. Marius Jansen reports on Tokugawa’s false image of isolation and its true indebtedness to China:
Chinese influence rose to a peak in the Tokugawa years. The rising tide of literacy meant that more Japanese could read and write Chinese. The production of poetry in Chinese, something expected of every educated person, was so great that it may have exceeded the amount of verse composed in Japanese. (p. 4)
Various Chinatowns populated the coast from the Kii Peninsula to Kyushu and in Yamaguchi, Matsuyama, Kawagoe, and Odawara. In 1853 U.S. admiral Matthew Perry’s “black ships” arrived in Japan from the United States, followed in 1856 by Townsend Harris, the first American consul. The resulting trade treaties effectively ended Tokugawa’s seclusion policy as it entered a new global age. While the Meiji Restoration (1868-1911) oscillated between cries of expelling the barbarians and returning to ancient wisdom, it witnessed a wave of scholars and youth leaving for North America. On the home front, Tokyo and Yokohama saw the introduction of railroads, telegraph, steamships, and other Western inventions that continued up until World War I.
Globalization in Modern Japan
Following World War II, Japan’s inventive role in communication technologies enhanced global perspectives on Japan itself. The exportation of cultural artifacts from Tokugawa’s era sees a parallel in the technological products of computers, VCRs, and videocassette tapes in the early twenty-first century. Not only these technologies but their contents are part of Japan’s changing role in globalization. Koichi Iwabuchi describes Japan’s ironic return to Asia after a long hiatus following defeat in World War II:
Japan and Asia tend to be discussed and perceived within Japan as two separate geographies, whose inherent contradiction is unquestioned. Japan is unequivocally located in a geography called ‘Asia,’ but it no less unambiguously exists outside a cultural imaginary of ‘Asia’ in Japanese mental maps. (p. 7)
Iwabuchi maintains that “the West” became a positive role model for Japanese culture, while “Asia” receded into a negative mystical hallucination. He writes: “In prewar Japan, Japanization was articulated in the term kominka, which means ‘the assimilation of ethnic others (such as Ainu, Okinawans, Taiwanese, and Koreans) into a Japanese imperial citizenship under the Emperor’s benevolence.’ Japanization also referred to the indigenization and domestication of foreign (Western) culture. The famous slogan ‘wakon yosai’ (Japanese spirit, Western technologies) exemplifies the latter usage” (Iwabuchi, p. 9). In a global context, Japanization involves the adaptation of both American and Asian products, customs, and idea systems to a Japanese cultural landscape. With the end of the Cold War and the emergence of economy and culture under a revitalized Chinese aegis, Japan once again searches for an identity within Asia.
Japanese popular culture illustrates a response to American influences. With an inundation of American cultural icons, Japan responds defensively with the global going local or the global in the local. A typical case of this is the Japaneseanime (animated cartoons) of Miyazaki Hayao. Although overwhelmed with the Western-style action of sword and sorcery on the surface, Miyazaki plummets to the depth of Chinese and ancient Japanese philosophy, religion, and folklore. Princess Mononoke (Mononoke hime) is an epic-style film of individual dueling and massive battle scenes that appeals to Western audiences. Yet it also explores relationships between Shinto, Buddhism, and Confucianism against a backdrop of Nihonshoki (Chronicle of Japan) and Kojiki (Record of ancient matters) that are Japanese equivalents of Greek and Roman myths. Similarly Spirited Away (Sen to chihiro no kamikakushi) is an American dreamscape of a child’s day at an amusement park. Yet it also explores relationships between Shinto and Confucian interpretations of a Buddhist hell. Rather than be overrun by Western sensibilities alone, Japan recycles them into the themes of the ancient Asian world. Looking for the roots of Japanese philosophy and culture in the Chinese world is a trend of scholarship encouraged by the Japanese government in the last decade.
Western Thinkers in Japan
Concerning the reception of Western philosophers of global issues, Japan’s reaction is somewhat more guarded than China’s. Heidegger is an exception. His work is still read with excitement because of the early contact with renowned Japanese scholars such as Kuki Shuzo and Nishitani Keiji. Heidegger’s compassion for mutual understanding of Eastern and Western life in a global context is foremost in these thinkers. Attesting to his popularity, Japan has attempted more translations of Heidegger’s 1927 magnum opus, Sein und Zeit (English trans. Being and Time, 1962), and probably published more secondary sources than any other nation.
Habermas and Derrida have received varied responses. Since Japanese discussion of premodern and modern societies began in the nineteenth century, much of Habermas’s debates with postmodern thinkers such as Jean-François Lyotard are considered outdated. Naoki Sakai sees Habermas’s position on global communicative rationality as obsolete. Habermas’s “Occidental rationalism” juxtaposes Western reason to Eastern myth in a naive way. While the West might need the East as a “mirror” for its own clarification, “Habermas obviously does not ask if the mirror may be extremely obscure” (p. 96). Instead, Sakai echoes Iwabuchi in arguing that “it is understandable that the discursive object called Japan has presented a heterogeneous instance that could not be easily integrated into the global configuration organized according to the pairing of the modern and the premodern” (p. 97).
In regard to Derrida, the Japanese have maintained that their society has no structure, and therefore deconstruction is not possible. Japan is so much a product of globalization’s hyper-accelerated consumption that the very space of such academic talk is already swallowed up. Hence, the transcriptions of Derrida’s conversations would be consumed (and forgotten) in one week. From a Japanese perspective, Japan is caught in something like a McLuhanesque series of conundrums between the negativities of mass consumption and the liberating powers of media knowledge.