Social Background: Fukuzawa Yukichi and the Transformation of Japan

  • Minhyuk HwangEmail author
Part of the Critical Political Theory and Radical Practice book series (CPTRP)


Fukuzawa famously said that he lived “two lives with one body,” and this reflected the character of Japan’s social transformation in his time. In addition to outlining how Japan transformed itself in Fukuzawa’s time, Hwang introduces the two primary enemies that Fukuzawa faced in his enlightenment project: first, Confucian scholars who promoted “Eastern Ethics, Western Practice,” and second, reactionary samurais who were willing to die for the “Japanese spirit” (yamato damashii). The former offered a conservative argument that accepted Western technologies but wanted to hold onto Confucianism and Japan’s class system, while the latter was a direct ideological predecessor of the Japanese totalitarianism that led to the Pacific War. Fukuzawa courageously criticized both as harmful to Japan’s modernization and the expansion of the freedom of the Japanese people.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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