S-Space Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원) Institute for Japanese Studies(일본연구소) Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies vol.3 no.1(2017)
Body and Politic in Modern Japan:
- Kim, Taejin
- Issue Date
- Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol.3 No.1, pp. 81-102
- Organicism has long been considered as a subcategory of social Darwinism. However, acknowledging that organicism is intimately connected with social Darwinism does not mean that there is any necessary connection between organicism and authoritarian or totalitarian discourse. These misunderstandings are mainly based on the belief that organicism cannot be compatible with individualism. This alleged incompatibility, however, rests on the confusion between various viewpoints of the body. Cell theory, on which Herbert Spencers thought is based, can illustrate that independent units constitute the body in cooperation with other units without the centralization of control and the subjugation of the parts to the interests of the whole. In this view, the reception of the meaning of organism in Japan also cannot be irrelevant to the conception of the body in Japan. Consequently, organism and its Japanese translation yūkitai cannot have the same meaning and usage. When Spencers social organism was translated in modern Japan, the Japanese translator agreed with Spencer that the same logic exists between the biological and social body. Nonetheless, Spencers organicism, rather than his individualism, was appropriated to support the introduction of the parliamentary system. What Japanese politicians wanted to see through Spencers organicism was the urgent need to introduce the representative system in Japan. However, strictly speaking, this is not the gist of Spencers cell-oriented organicism. Decoupling the political thought from biology in Meiji Japan, where the meaning of cell theory was not accepted, brings out this discrepancy.