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  • Civilization and Enlightenment: The Early Thought of Fukuzawa Yukichi
  • Yasuko Sato
Civilization and Enlightenment: The Early Thought of Fukuzawa Yukichi. By Albert M. Craig. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009. 212 pp. $29.95 (cloth).

In this intellectual history, Albert M. Craig traces the evolution of Fukuzawa Yukichi's (1835–1901) liberal views up to 1875, when his landmark An Outline of Theories of Civilization (Bunmeiron no gairyaku) was published. Championing enlightenment thought, Fukuzawa is credited with choosing bunmei as the Japanese term for "civilization." In order to amplify the idea of civilization, he even coined the composite term "civilization and enlightenment" (bunmei kaika) when he published his translation of John Hill Burton's Political Economy in 1868. Such intriguing accounts are found in this volume. Subsequently, the compound expression developed into a slogan that propelled Japan's modernization, along with "enrich the country, strengthen the military" (fukoku kyōhei). Craig, one of the co-authors of The Heritage of World Civilizations, perceptively observes that the "Japanese Enlightenment," unlike its European counterpart, preceded the scientific and industrial revolutions (p. 144). Such was the magnitude of Fukuzawa's contribution to the rise of modern Japan. He was less concerned with technological advance than with a sociopolitical milieu that would make it possible. If his "intellectual" leadership was such a vast transforming force, what new insights has Craig provided into Japan's modernizing experience?

This work centers on how Fukuzawa applied the theory of stages to Japan under the impact of the Scottish Enlightenment and of American geography textbooks. Craig inquires into how Fukuzawa adhered to the notion of successive stages of development for the purpose of guiding Japan's future. In this regard, Craig lauds Fukuzawa for being exceptionally far-sighted in the non-Western world. Basically, however, [End Page 774] Craig does not go beyond portraying Fukuzawa as an efficient propagator of Western liberalism, with primary attention to his translation work.

In chapters 2–4, Craig offers meticulous comparisons between English originals and Japanese translations. This book, therefore, richly complements Douglas R. Howland's Translating the West: Language and Political Reason in Nineteenth-Century Japan (2002). Craig demonstrates that Fukuzawa was devoted to practical and scientific matters to the exclusion of art, literature, and music, and that his translations were sometimes highly selective and even purposefully grandiose. This is how Craig is concerned with patterns of what Fukuzawa fully translated, daringly omitted, and creatively added. Through the use of relatively unknown texts by Fukuzawa, such details are factually informative, but not substantially analytical.

Overall, with a heavy emphasis on the stages of society, Craig's treatment of Fukuzawa is rather schematic. This is immediately apparent in the chart indicating Scottish and American influences on Fukuzawa's early writings (p. 30). Readers may want to ask why he was particularly attracted to Scottish thinkers, such as Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, John Millar, and John Hill Burton. Such references need historically contextualized elaboration, as they are usually not given a prominent place in Fukuzawa's system. The stages of progress actually prevent Craig from giving adequate consideration to An Encouragement of Learning (Gakumon no susume), a phenomenally popular and influential series of essays published between 1872 and 1876. Unfortunately, the schema of stages seems too restrictive as an overarching framework. When freed from such constraints, Craig makes a more cogent, balanced argument on Fukuzawa, for example, in the afterword to the 2007 edition of The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa.

What is missing above all from Craig is the reason why Fukuzawa became such an ardent proponent of Westernization. He stood firm even when he knew the dangers of assassination. Craig's inability to grasp Fukuzawa as an original thinker is partly due to "the difficulty of figuring out the workings of Fukuzawa's heart" (p. 155). This may account for Craig's unimaginative book and chapter titles, which are too general to be enticing. He is even puzzled that Fukuzawa "was not content to sit back and enjoy the enormous increase in status that his bakufu job conferred" (p. 156). As the son of a lower-ranking samurai, Fukuzawa had enormous luck with the Tokugawa (1603–1868) bakufu when employed...


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