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The City as Subject

The City as Subject: Seki Hajime and the Reinvention of Modern Osaka

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The City as Subject
    Book Description:

    In exploring the career of Seki Hajime (1873-1935), who served as mayor of Japan's second-largest city, Osaka, Jeffrey E. Hanes traces the roots of social progressivism in prewar Japan. Seki, trained as a political economist in the late 1890s, when Japan was focused single-mindedly on "increasing industrial production," distinguished himself early on as a people-centered, rather than a state-centered, national economist. After three years of advanced study in Europe at the turn of the century, during which he engaged Marxism and later steeped himself in the exciting new field of social economics, Seki was transformed into a progressive. The social reformism of Seki and others had its roots in a transnational fellowship of progressives who shared the belief that civilized nations should be able to forge a middle path between capitalism and socialism. Hanes's sweeping study permits us not only to weave social progressivism into the modern Japanese historical narrative but also to reconceive it as a truly transnational movement whose impact was felt across the Pacific as well as the Atlantic.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92683-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. viii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Seki Hajime and Social Progressivism in Prewar Japan
    (pp. 1-9)

    On Nakanoshima, at the center of the city of Osaka, stands the weather-worn statue of Mayor Seki Hajime (1873–1935). Nestled in the trees across from Osaka’s Central Town Hall, a stone’s throw from the City Hall, Seki gazes benevolently over the city he served from 1914 to 1935. Suitably modern and dignified in crisply creased trousers, starched collar, cravat, vest, and morning coat, he truly looks the part of the cosmopolitan “scholar-mayor”(gakusha shichō)who each morning reputedly ate an international breakfast of miso soup and toast in his book-lined study. Seki’s fame was such that the city he...

  6. 1 A Portrait of the Economist as a Young Man
    (pp. 10-52)

    The studio portrait opposite (figure 1), which somberly memorializes an unspecified family anniversary, was never intended for public display. It was placed in the Seki family album more than a century ago and, by all accounts, remained there until 1982, when Seki Jun’ichi released his grandfather’s papers to the newly formed Seki Hajime Research Association (Seki Hajime Kenkyūkai). Together with a diary, letters, manuscripts, notebooks, photographs, and other miscellany, the portrait found its way into the Osaka City History Archive (Ōsaka-shi Shi Hensanjo) two years later. Not until 1989 did it complete its passage from the private to the public...

  7. 2 The People’s National Economy
    (pp. 53-96)

    On New Year’s Day 1900, admitting to a certain dreaminess, Seki Hajime exhorted his countrymen “to make ready” for “the approaching dawn of the Pacific Age [taiheiyō jidai]”:

    Considering the challenges we face from an economic vantage point, we should not get sidetracked by trifling issues such as how to cultivate industriousness or how to attract foreign capital. The real challenge is to cultivate the spirit of [capitalist] enterprise among the Japanese people . . . and to prepare for this great [new] age by effecting a transformation of the nation’s economic structure.¹

    Thus challenging the Meiji leaders to reassess...

  8. 3 Class and Nation
    (pp. 97-126)

    In the waning years of Meiji, as the laborer question reared its ugly head, Seki Hajime was compelled to acknowledge that the Japanese nation/subject was not an organismic community(Gemeinschaft)comprised of the “folk” but a complex society(Gesellschaft)internally divided among classes. Questioning the universalist argument made by Listian nationalists that the nation was a unitary collectivity whose health could be measured by its wealth and power, he also questioned the universalist argument made by Meiji Marxists that the nation was a constructed community whose seeming unity actually masked irreconcilable class differences among its constituents. Rather than rejecting one...

  9. 4 Toward a Modern Moral Economy
    (pp. 127-167)

    The story of Japanese industrial development in the Meiji Era is well documented. While historians continue to debate the importance of proto-industrialization, government-owned enterprise, and social capitalism, among other issues, they at least offer a broad consensus about the pace of change: it was fast and furious. Working itself up to speed in the 1870s and 1880s, Japanese industry took off in the 1890s.¹

    As James Abegglen, Sheldon Garon, and countless others have emphasized, the results of Japan’s industrial revolution were dramatic. This late-modernizing nation, whose working population had been overwhelmingly agricultural at the time of the Meiji Restoration in...

  10. 5 A New Urbanism
    (pp. 169-209)

    On New Year’s Day 1914, Seki Hajime resolved to confound the fates. Astrologically speaking, he faced the prospect of an “unlucky year”(yakudoshi), and this possibility put him in an introspective frame of mind. In his daily diary, where he normally recorded his comings and goings, Seki waxed unusually philosophical. He recalled Tokugawa Ieyasu’s defiance of the fates at the battle of Sekigahara, where the great lord had quelled the fears of a skeptical aide with the wise observation that “an unlucky day is also an unlucky day for one’s enemies.”¹ Truth be told, Seki had every reason to dread...

  11. 6 The Livable City
    (pp. 210-268)

    In the mid-1910s, Seki Hajime sketched the parameters of an urban plan conceived to bring sweeping social reform to Osaka. Speaking to a group of economists in Kobe, he noted that Osaka had been the fortunate beneficiary of a “grand [urban] plan”(endai no keikaku)in the seventeenth century but that its leadership had since allowed the “[outer] environs of the city” to lapse into “disorder.” Then he threw down the gauntlet.

    Seki noted that the Tokugawa leadership had effected a dramatic spatial overhaul of Osaka. Not only had they relocated the city’s temples to a designated temple district (Teramachi)...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 269-314)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-334)
  14. Index
    (pp. 335-348)