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Driving the Modern Dream: Contemporary Japanese Modernity in Theoretical Perspective

Matanle, Peter (2001) Driving the Modern Dream: Contemporary Japanese Modernity in Theoretical Perspective. Hosei Riron: The Journal of Law and Politics, 33 (4). pp. 103-150. ISSN 0286-1577

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Abstract

Modernity is as much a state of mind as it is a material condition. As such its quality can most clearly be described as a transformative ethic that has as its engine pushing it forwards and outwards the positivistic and economistic rationalism that is capitalism. That is to say, with capitalism as its mechanism and its fuel, modernity seeks a progressive and linear transformation of the human experience into a rationally and reflexively ordered lifescape that can be pro-actively controlled and manipulated for the purposes of providing an ever more comfortable, fulfilling, liberating, challenging, and complex life for its human architects. Mediating the mental and the material aspects of modernity are the institutions and organisations which individuals and groups construct in order that they might express their consciousness through the process of creative adaptation. In other words, institutions and organisations are the social mechanisms by which people not only create their environment out of the mental images they have developed but also are the method by which people accommodate themselves to the circumstances of their lives. For at the heart of modernity is the individual’s moral responsibility to discover his or her authentic inner consciousness and substantiate it in lived experience. Moreover, because capitalism requires expansion if it is not to implode under the weight of its own internal contradictions, so capitalist modernity compulsively expands out from its centre in the West . In so doing, it becomes both a globalising and a totalitarian phenomenon. Globalising in the sense that it ceaselessly and ineluctably extends into previously untouched areas of the world and totalitarian in the sense that as it enters into and interacts with ever deeper and wider realms of the human consciousness it becomes a seductive and beguiling yet enforced and problematic liberation from traditionalism. Like a giant seismic sea wave it colonises and envelops the future as well as the present and the past in its steady irresistible advance across and around the earth. Yet, just as the advancing wave, by dint of the underwater terrain it encounters, must possess within it cross- and counter-currents, so modernity, as it spreads out from its epicentre, contains the capacity to mutate according to the character of the domains it confronts. Consequently, through the process of the globalisation of capitalism, modernity becomes not a singular phenomenon but evolves to develop and exhibit a variety of forms according to the circumstances of its initial appearance and subsequent development in any particular region of the world. Nevertheless, an epiphenomenon of the globalising tendency of capitalist modernity is that of the collision and convergence of different versions of the modern. Specifically, the inherently compulsive expansion of capitalism eventually and inevitably leads to the collision and perhaps even convergence of different versions of itself. Accordingly, the ongoing transformative process of the destruction, reconstruction, and mutation of ever more complex versions may also have within it the capacity for capitalism to evolve itself into a singular global phenomenon. Thus, with capitalism as its engine, is it not possible that different versions of modernity might also collide and converge to form a globalised singularity?

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: This article is a post-review corrected version, and is the final version prior to publisher proofing. Readers are advised to refer to the published article for accurate citation and referencing. If you are unable to access the published version, then please contact the author at: p.matanle@sheffield.ac.uk.
Keywords: modernity; varieties of capitalism; Japan
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of East Asian Studies (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Peter Matanle
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2012 13:14
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:36
Status: Published
Publisher: Faculty of Law, Niigata University
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/43589

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