What it Means to Take Japan Seriously
There was a time when sociologists believed in progress. They were not fearful that any suggestion on their part that today might be better than the yesterdays of earlier decades and centuries would be taken as an endorsement of the contemporary structure of society. But a lot of things have happened since the days when Spencer and Comte and Mill, and sometimes even Marx, could write under the confident assumption that they lived in the best days there had ever been, and that there were better days to come. It is not just that sociology has been established as a university subject and sociologists have discovered the attractions of taking on the role of vanguard of the intellectual proletariat, too preoccupied with critical analysis of the evils of the present to be much concerned with trends in the past and how they might be extrapolated into the future. It is not just that. Other factors have affected the credibility of the doctrine of progress. The two world wars of this century, the scale of the carnage in the first and the programme of coldblooded genocide which developed in Germany in the second, gave a hollow ring to the self-assured pronouncements of Victorian philosophers about the moral evolution of mankind, supposedly a concomitant of the increasing differentiation and rationalization of social structures, the development of new bases for social solidarity, and the steady expansion of internalized moral control over behaviour with the increasing perfection of education systems. By the mid-twentieth century...
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