Progress for National Autonomy: An Outline of a Theory of Civilization (Bunmeiron no gairyaku)

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


This chapter focuses on Fukuzawa’s masterpiece, An Outline of a Theory of Civilization. Keeping a more academic audience in mind, Fukuzawa tried in this work to theorize his understanding of “progress” and the difference between “barbarism” and “civilization.” In addition to introducing the idea of progress, which did not yet exist in East Asia, Fukuzawa identified ideal progress with his liberal vision of the completion of individual autonomy. The work left an enduring impact on early Meiji politics by attacking the prevailing belief in retaining the “Japanese spirit” while selectively accepting the technological novelties of Western civilization, represented by the slogan “Japanese spirit, Western practice.” Fukuzawa, instead, suggested that Japan should accept liberalism as the foundation of modernization and retain the practical side of the Japanese tradition.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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