Confronting Capital and Empire

Rethinking Kyoto School Philosophy


Confronting Capital and Empire inquires into the relationship between philosophy, politics and capitalism by rethinking Kyoto School philosophy in relation to history. The Kyoto School was an influential group of Japanese philosophers loosely related to Kyoto Imperial University’s philosophy department, including such diverse thinkers as Nishida Kitarō, Tanabe Hajime, Nakai Masakazu and Tosaka Jun.

Confronting Capital and Empire presents a new perspective on the Kyoto School by bringing the school into dialogue with Marx and the underlying questions of Marxist theory. The volume brings together essays that analyse Kyoto School thinkers through a Marxian and/or critical theoretical perspective, asking: in what ways did Kyoto School thinkers engage with their historical moment? What were the political possibilities immanent in their thought? And how does Kyoto School philosophy speak to the pressing historical and political questions of our own moment?
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Biographical Note

Viren Murthy, Ph.D. (2007), University of Chicago, is Associate Professor of Transnational Asian History in the History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has published essays on Chinese and Japanese intellectual history and is author of The Political Philosophy of Zhang Taiyan: The Resistance of Consciousness (Brill, 2011). He is currently working on a project tentatively entitled Pan-Asianism and the Conundrums of Postcolonial Modernity.

Fabian Schäfer, Ph.D. (2008), Leipzig University, is Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. He has published various articles and books, including Public Opinion, Propaganda, Ideology: Theories on the Press and its Social Function in Interwar Japan, 1918–1937 (Brill, 2012), and The Medium as Mediation: The Media and Media Theory in Japan (in German) (Springer, 2017).

Max Ward, Ph.D. (2011), New York University, is Assistant Professor of Japanese History at Middlebury College. He has published on a variety of topics related to Japan and social theory, and is currently completing a manuscript on the rehabilitation of political criminals in the interwar Japanese Empire.

Table of contents

Acknowledgments List of Contributors Introduction: Studying the Kyoto School: Philosophy, Intellectual History, and Marx’s Critique of ModernityViren Murthy, Fabian Schäfer and Max Ward

Part 1: The Kyoto School and the Problem of Philosophy, History, and Politics

1 Philosophy and Answerability: The Kyoto School and the Epiphanic Moment of World HistoryHarry Harootunian

Part 2: Rethinking Nishida Kitarō with Marx

2 The Labor Process and the Genesis of Historical Time: With Marx, With NishidaWilliam Haver 3 Commodity Fetishism and the Fetishism of Nothingness: On the Problem of Inversion in Marx and NishidaElena Louisa Lange 4 Nishida Kitarō and the Antinomies of Bourgeois PhilosophyChristian Uhl

Part 3: Tanabe Hajime, Imperialism, and Capitalism

5 Ethnicity and Species: On the Philosophy of the Multiethnic State and Japanese ImperialismNaoki Sakai 6 Aleatory DialecticTakeshi Kimoto 7 Tanabe Hajime as Storyteller: Or, Reading Philosophy as Metanoetics as NarrativeMax Ward

Part 4: The Legacies of the Kyoto School Philosophy

8 The Subjective Drive of Capital: Kakehashi Akihide’s Phenomenology of MatterGavin Walker 9 Umemoto Katsumi, Subjective Nothingness, and the Critique of Civil SocietyViren Murthy 10 The “Logic of Committee” and the Newspaper Doyōbi (Saturday): Nakai Masakazu’s Theory of Political PraxisAaron S. Moore 11 Yanagida Kenjūrō: A Religious Seeker of MarxismSatofumi Kawamura 12 A Secret History: Tosaka Jun and the Kyoto SchoolsKatsuhiko Endo Index


This book will be of interest to students and scholars of social theory, philosophy, Asian studies, postcolonial theory, East Asian History and Marxism.

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