Many Japanese scholars who have visited Scotland have found to their surprise that the man in the street is not well acquainted with Adam Smith. Indeed ‘Adam Smith, who?’ is their response almost without fail. But such scholars soon learn that this is not so odd as they had tended to believe, for it is also an experience shared by many Japanese historians of economic thought asked by their British colleagues why Adam Smith has been so popular a subject of study in Japan, a country so detached from him not only geographically but also historically. It is indeed true that Smith was for so long more popular here than in his native country, so much so that his name even appears in the textbooks used in secondary schools in Japan, though nowadays it might no longer possibly be the case, at least among British historians of economic or other thought. The answer to this question is complicated. One possible answer may be that the phrase ‘civil society’ used by Adam Smith and his contemporary or preceding writers sounded somehow peculiarly significant to prewar and even postwar Japanese social thinkers. To them it seemed to mean, rightly or wrongly, something that had never existed in their country, that is to say, a civilized, unmilitaristic and secular or religion-free society with no remnants of feudalism in human and social relations, hence an ideal state of things that had to be attained somehow and at some time.
KeywordsCivil Society Political Economy Free Trade Economic Freedom Sixth Edition
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