RITSUMEIKAN LAW REVIEW No.17 March 2000


The study of Alexis de Tocqueville in Japan
 
 

Takeshi NAKATANI







1. The Study of Tocqueville in Japan

@@@Studies of Alexis de Tocqueville in Japan started in the early years of modern Japan. Japan had already adopted aspects of European though and scienti c technology including medical science through Dutch merchants from the middle of the Edo Period. However, European thought and literature was not known to the general public because of the isolation policy that continued until the Maiji Period (1868-1912). Many foreign books were translated and introduced to Japan in the early Meiji period as Japan was in a hurry to modernize by introducing European thought. In the case of Tocqueville,h De la DeL mocratie en AmeL rique (published in 1835) was translated into Japanese from the English version and it is said that Yukichi Fukuzawa, the prominent social philosopher, was greatly influenced by this book.
@@@Nevertheless, the academic study of his books started about six years after the end of the Second World War (August 1945) when democracy was revitalized in Japan.h The Modern Nation and Social Liberty (Hosaku Igarashi. 1951) andh The Democracy of Tocqueville (Hasshaku Takagi, 1956) are known as the major works of this period. Takagi evaluated Tocquevillefs thought from the view of liberal-democracy and it is of great signi cance that his thought was studied in the context of the growing tendency towardh postwar democratization .
@@@When the issue ofh mass society became the center of interest in journalistic and academic circles-from the end of the 1950s to the 1960s- ,h Tocquevillefs Theory of Mass Society (Koichi Ogawa,h Shiso , 1956) was published. It presented the problem of liberty without servility from the viewpoint of the theory of mass society. In 1970, Haruo Tanaka de ned Tocqueville as one of the school ofh philosophy of liberty following B. Constant and F. Guizot in hish The Generation and Development of French Liberalism . He elucidated the form and function of French liberalism through the analysis of the thought of three scholars. In the meantime, Takeshi Nakatani publishedh Tocqueville and Democracy (1974) to study the track of his thought and action in historical context. Moreover, Koichi Ogawa wroteh Tocquevillefs Political Thought to shed light on his life story.
@@@In the 1980s Tsutomu Oyama published a series of treatises which analyzed Tocquevillefs political thought as the comparative study of civilizations (e.g.h The Politics of eesprit libref of Tocqueville , 1-5, 1982-83). Moreover, inh The Political Thought of French Civil Society . (Takeshi Nakatani, 1981), Tocquevillefs thought was analyzed in relation to the issuse of his day and presented as an explanation of the contradictions of civil society. One further point to mention is thath Shiso , a major academic magazine in Japan, put together a special issue entitledh Reading Tocqueville to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication ofh Democracy in America (July, 1985). While his thought had been slighted in the ideological climate influenced by the Marxism, the political situation changed, and his thought gradually came to the forefront. The distinguishing characteristic of 1990s scholarship is that succeeding scholars have published their works using Tocquevillefs books and manuscripts. The rst result of this wash The Study of Tocqueville (Reiji Matsumoto, 1991) which approached Tocquevillefs works consideringh family religion ,h nation andh democracy . Furthermore,h Living in Democracy (Shigeki Uno, 1998) which mainly studied Tocquevillefs political view was published. Now,h Ancien reL gime et la ReL volution andh Souvenirs have also been translated and published along with his primary work and they are contributing toward disseminating Tocquevillefs thought.
@@@In the meantime, studies which compare J. S. Mill and Tocqueville have also been developed. For instance,h The Intellectual Exchange Between Mill and Tocqueville (Masashi Sekiguchi) which described the relation of their thought by analyzing their letters was published. Furthermore,h Going to America with Tocqueville (Naoyuki Agawa) which actually traced Tocquevillefs journey through America while reading his travel journal was also published. 

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2. Tocqueville as a postmodern thinker

@@@Here I present a post-modern interpretation of Tocquevillefs thought. He was a thinker who lived in a rapidly changing Europe after the French Revolution. The following sentences inh Democracy in America , Vol. 2, reveal the degree to which he profoundly felt the change.
@@@Working back through the centuries to the remotest antiquity, I see nothing at all similar to what is taking place before our eyes. The past throws no light on the future, and the spirit of man walks through the night.
@@@He saw the new world as entailing tremendous change that was unprecedented. This very view is in common with those of Postmodernists. While Tocqueville thought that the cause of this series of changes lied in democratic impulses, at the same time he used the wordh democracy to express the various influences and phenomena caused by the changes. This made his writings, especiallyh Democracy in America , Vol. 2, dif cult to understand for many readers. All of his thought was, so to speak, constructed around theh democracy . Buth democracy was used to denote both the cause and the effect of these changes.
@@@Furthermore, while he saw thefluidity in democracy, he also sought to clarify the stable foundation of politics and society on which a free and common human life could be established. In his words, he aimed to buildh institutions libres .
@@@It is clear that he assumed an Anglo-Saxon institutional model. This is because he thought it to be an effective means of dealing with the abuses of democratic society (e.g. individualism, centralized administration of government, democratic despotism). At the same time, he understood democracy, the greatest cause of the changes in society and politics, as an irresistible revolution. The conflict between his cool understanding of history and his hope of building free institutions privided the energy of his thinking. He always felt uneasy about the abuses caused by democracy, or, in other words, equity (e.g. the danger of excessive care for material welfare).
@@@In any event, he drew a fresh image of the new politics engendered by democracy. This is exempli ed in the famous sentence about the despotism in democratic society,h The Nation is no more than aflock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd . Of particular interest in this connection is that the metaphors that compare people to sheep and their government to a shepherd have common ground with M. Foucaultfs theory of power,h pouvoir pastoral .
@@@It is well known that Foucault carried out an acute analysis of the relationship between Subject and Power and his functional approach to analyzing the origin, nature, phenomenon and existence of power greatly appeals to many scholars. Moreover, his observations regarding the ways of using power are also extremely interesting. At the center of his theory of power lies theh pouvoir pastoral , the nature of which Tocqueville was afraid. Yet it can be understood more easily through Foucaultfs method of analysis. Tocqueville had predicted that a new despotism would emerge in democratic society in hish Democracy in America , and he referred to the role of its power as ah temper . It clearly differs from Montesquieufs view of despotism which gives a more severe, oppressive impression. By predicting the new despotism which intervenes not only in peoplefs material life but also in their spiritual life, he accurately foresaw the controlled society of our day. Regarding this interpretation of Tocquevillefs thought, see my treatise,h Reading Tocqueville (Ritumeikan Zinbunkagakukenkyusyo, Kiyou, no. 72) .