[I-House Press] Maruyama Masao and the Fate of Liberalism in Twentieth-Century Japan

Maruyama Masao and the Fate of Liberalism in Twentieth-Century Japan
By Karube Tadashi (Professor, University of Tokyo)

Translated by David Noble
2008 / 222 pages / cloth
ISBN 978-4-903452-10-4
Originally published in Japanese in 2006 by Iwanami Shoten as Maruyama Masao—Riberarisuto no shozo.
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Maruyama Masao (1914-96) has been widely regarded as an archetype of the twentieth-century Japanese intellectual. Immensely influential for his scholarly work in intellectual history and political science, Maruyama also reached a wider public through extensive writing and commentary in the leading opinion journals of the postwar period, where he emerged as an outspoken advocate of liberalism and democracy.

In this intellectual biography, Karube Tadashi traces Maruyama’s childhood and youth in prewar and wartime Japan, vividly depicting a number of the key experiences that deepened his commitment to democratic ideals and motivated his quest to ground them in the autonomy and integrity of the individual. This was the perspective that informed Maruyama’s postwar investigation of the problems of mass society and his efforts to reinterpet the Japanese tradition by dissecting its pathologies and tracing the alternative paths to modernity latent within it.

While demonstrating the significance of Maruyama’s life and thought to the modern Japanese experience, this book is not an idealized portrait of a great man. Maruyama’s ambivalence about his own political activity is clearly evident, as is the pathos of his later years, when, under attack by both the neo-nationalist right and the radical student left, he found himself isolated and in failing health and largely withdrew from public life, including his professorship at the University of Tokyo.

In this way, Karube offers a nuanced portrait of an era and a society through the lens of Maruyama and his thought, bringing into focus the concerns, trials, victories, and defeats of this representative twentieth-century thinker and the fate of the liberal intellectual tradition to which he committed his life.