Reason and Number: African Reflections on Japan

  • Seifudein Adem
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


On balance, Africans in the colonial and post-colonial period underwent a cultural process of soft Westernisation, rapidly converting to Western religions and acquiring Western tastes in music, cuisine, dance and dress. We say “on balance” because “Africans” as a category represents a miracle of diversity, but it is one which, methodologically, should not necessarily preclude the use of evidence about Africans in one part of Africa to formulate Africa-wide hypotheses. That is precisely a task this chapter has set itself. It is in this sense that we could also say, in missionary and colonial schools, Africans learned much more about history, philosophy, literature, and even classical Greek and Latin than about technology and applied sciences. But the Japanese in the Meiji and Post-Meiji period underwent a process of hard modernisation, which is skill-intensive. In Japan, first, the overriding goal was defined as “Rich Country, Strong Army” [fukokukyohei]; then, “Reason and Number” [jitsugaku] was identified as the means for achieving it. Japan’s leaders subsequently pursued the skills of production and strategies of military defence under the guidance of “Western Techniques, Japanese Spirit” [wakonyōsai]. While Nigeria and the Congo have produced cardinals who were considered as candidates for the papacy in the Vatican, the Japanese continued to produce high value-added products. In this chapter, we argue that the primary explanation for this disparity lies in the divergent responses to the challenges of modernisation in Meiji Japan and post-colonial Africa.


Easternisation Ethiopia Hard modernisation Japan Soft Westernisation 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seifudein Adem
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Graduate School of Global StudiesDoshisha UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Ali Mazrui Center for Higher Education StudiesUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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