How to Transform One’s Time: Japanese Marxist Intellectuals’ Discussions on Utopia during the Mid-Twentieth Century

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Over the course of the modern period, utopian thinking has played a crucial role in intellectual history. Since the end of the Cold War, utopia has often been dismissed as an abstract fantasy or even a nightmare that leads to totalitarianism. Still, after the official end of the ideological rivalry with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the absence of a clear alternative system made the idea of utopia an object of scholarly investment. In this context, revisiting historical discourses on utopian thought and measuring their potential has become an important task for contemporary scholarship.

    This research project will contribute to this effort by examining Japanese intellectuals’ discussions of utopia in the mid-twentieth century and exploring utopia’s transformative potential for global academic discourse. The proposed research will focus on the works of two Japanese Marxist intellectuals, Hani Gorō (1901–1983) and Hanada Kiyoteru (1909–1974). Both worked actively as leading intellectuals in mid-twentieth-century Japan and shared some important features such as a revolutionary stance, mastery of contemporary theory in humanities/social science, and historical interest in Japanese modernity and the European Renaissance. Through the interwar and wartime periods, both wrote texts that provided critical perspectives on past utopian literature and utopian projects. It was not unusual for Marxists to criticize utopianism, as Engels was critical of utopian socialism, but what was perhaps most important was that Hani and Hanada did not completely repudiate utopian thought, instead examining its potential by exploring alternative social spaces in reality or focusing on utopian “desire” itself.

    Recent utopian studies tend to direct our attention to a utopian “impulse” or “desire” that seems omnipresent in everyday life and culture, an impulse that is deemed irreducible to a deliberate utopian program. Based on such insights, my project will reveal the alternative desire-driven visions of utopia offered by Hani and Hanada. By revealing a new example of dialogue between Marxism and utopianism from Japan, this research will enrich the existing literature in utopian studies and global intellectual history. Furthermore, the project will carefully situate Hani’s and Hanada’s discussions within the historical development of utopian thought in Japan as well as ongoing utopian/transformative movements. In so doing, this project will also confirm the role and significance of Hani’s and Hanada’s work on utopia in Japanese social and cultural history.
    Effective start/end date1/07/2231/12/23


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