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Globalization in Asia

Western Thinkers In Japan

Concerning the reception of Western philosophers of global issues, Japan's reaction is somewhat more guarded than China's. Heidegger is an exception. His work is still read with excitement because of the early contact with renowned Japanese scholars such as Kuki Shuzo and Nishitani Keiji. Heidegger's compassion for mutual understanding of Eastern and Western life in a global context is foremost in these thinkers. Attesting to his popularity, Japan has attempted more translations of Heidegger's 1927 magnum opus, Sein und Zeit (English trans. Being and Time, 1962), and probably published more secondary sources than any other nation.

Habermas and Derrida have received varied responses. Since Japanese discussion of premodern and modern societies began in the nineteenth century, much of Habermas's debates with postmodern thinkers such as Jean-François Lyotard are considered outdated. Naoki Sakai sees Habermas's position on global communicative rationality as obsolete. Habermas's "Occidental rationalism" juxtaposes Western reason to Eastern myth in a naive way. While the West might need the East as a "mirror" for its own clarification, "Habermas obviously does not ask if the mirror may be extremely obscure" (p. 96). Instead, Sakai echoes Iwabuchi in arguing that "it is understandable that the discursive object called Japan has presented a heterogeneous instance that could not be easily integrated into the global configuration organized according to the pairing of the modern and the premodern" (p. 97).

In regard to Derrida, the Japanese have maintained that their society has no structure, and therefore deconstruction is not possible. Japan is so much a product of globalization's hyper-accelerated consumption that the very space of such academic talk is already swallowed up. Hence, the transcriptions of Derrida's conversations would be consumed (and forgotten) in one week. From a Japanese perspective, Japan is caught in something like a McLuhanesque series of conundrums between the negativities of mass consumption and the liberating powers of media knowledge.


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Jay Goulding

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Gastrula to Glow dischargeGlobalization in Asia - Asian Views Of Globalization, The Global Village, Definitions Of Globalization: West And East, Globalization In Classical China